Coastal and Tropical South

September, 2011
Regional Report

Plant Now

Along the southern coasts, September is our first chance to plant fall beets and carrots. While a well-drained soil is a must for both, they can also be grown in containers. Whether yours grow in beds or pots, go for varieties with track records in our zone. Plant Detroit Red, Early Wonder, and Golden beets. For carrots, choose shorter varieties where the soil is heavy, such as Nantes and Chantenay. In sandy soils, go for the long carrots like Imperator. Wait until October to plant these root crops in the Tropics.

Clear Brush

In areas of drought, it is always a wise idea to keep dry brush cleared around structures and dwellings to prevent wildfires. But it is equally important to cut back browned weeds and desirable plants, too, no matter where you live or what the weather pattern brings. Dry brush can spread fires and can also harbor insects and diseases, even those you have banished from the cultivated plants. In dry times, this task is firewise. Any other time, it is just good garden sanitation and should be done whenever annuals die back, perennials finish their season, or to spruce up a weedy patch that cannot be mowed regularly.

Clean Sooty Mold

Fall puts outdoor furniture to the test as we emerge from the broiling heat of summer to spend more time on the deck and in the backyard. Every grill is going strong, and there are just enough cool evenings and breezes to keep us outside for more of the day. This is when we notice the dark, soot-like film on outdoor furniture and discover it is sticky, too. This is sooty mold, which forms when plant sap-sucking insects such as aphids and whiteflies feed on your plants and excrete a sugary substance that hosts the fungus. To get rid of it, you need to control the pests, but right now you can clean up the furniture and other surfaces. Mix up liquid soap with warm water in a pump up sprayer or a hose end sprayer and coat the surfaces well. Scrub with a plastic brush and rinse well with clean water.

Prepare to Transplant

Plan ahead for the trees and shrubs you want to move when the weather cools. Give them a chance to begin growing roots that will be part of the transplant process in a few weeks. Sharpen a sharp shooter, a shovel with a long narrow blade. Cut a circle around the plant by plunging the shovel blade deeply into the soil to delineate a root ball as big as you intend to move. The roots will react by branching where they were cut and starting to grow inward. Prepare soil in the plant's new location in advance of transplant time to make the job easier on you and the plants.

Propagate Coleus

Now that coleus plants are back in fashion, you may be tempted to dig them up or move their pots indoors for winter. It's tempting, since their wildly patterned leaves can brighten up a room and you will be sure to have favorites ready to move outside next spring. However, big old coleus plants can be hard to keep hydrated and may become pest magnets indoors, beset by cottony mealy bugs and more. Instead, root coleus cuttings to hold over younger plants that will more easily adapt to indoor conditions. Even where they are hardy, coleus need to be rejuvenated from time to time. Take 4 inch tip cuttings, root them in water and as soon as the roots are an inch long, pot them up and grow them indoors while you enjoy their big sisters outside.

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