Gardening This Weekend: September 22, 2016

Things really start to roll into fall now that we’re past the middle of September. Here are your main items now.


• Dig and divide spring-flowering perennials, including iris, daylilies, St. Joseph lilies (hardy amaryllis), coneflowers, gloriosa daisies, thrift, pinks and others.
• Pot up fall color for the patio using crotons, firebush, purple fountaingrass, mums and whatever else looks good to your eye. Nurseries are chock full of options.
• Ryegrass if you’re interested in overseeding your lawn for green turf all winter. “Perennial” rye is by far better option for home lawns. Perennial rye seed is more expensive than annual, but germination is better, it’s finer-textured and much more easily maintained. Like annual rye, perennial will die out in April and May as your permanent grass greens up.
• Trees and shrubs. This is the ideal planting time for them, giving them eight months before hot, dry weather returns. Only exception would be in waiting to plant types of shrubs that you know are winter-tender in your area. Common sense will tell you that you shouldn’t plant very many of those anyway, and spring is the safer time to do so.
• Wildflower seeds as soon as possible. They need fall’s warm, moist conditions to germinate and start developing strong roots.


• Mow lawn at same height right up to first frost. Tall grass is not hardier in winter.
• Save major pruning of shrubs for late winter, but do selective pruning now as needed to restore good shape. Try to avoid labor-intensive formal shaping.
• Last call for root-pruning trees and shrubs you intend to move this winter. Use sharpshooter spade to cut a slit approximately where you will be digging the root ball. Cut only 8 or 10 inches deep, and do not remove soil. All you’re doing is severing the roots to cause them to form denser rooting within the soil ball. Transplanting should be done in January.


• Depending on soil test results, apply all-nitrogen or high-nitrogen plant food to lawn and all landscape plants. Half of more of that nitrogen should be in an encapsulated or coated form for sustained release. This is the most important feeding you will give these plants this year.
• Houseplants that have been spending the growing season outdoors with a water-soluble, high-nitrogen plant food one more time before you slow things down and bring them inside. They will need little or no supplemental feeding in darker indoor conditions this winter.


• Armyworms are rampant across Texas right now turning green bermuda lawns into brown, winter-like straw. See Question of the Week.
• Fall webworms are showing up in Texas pecans, walnuts, persimmons, mulberries and other trees. Prune them out with a long-handled pole pruner before the webs become large. Spraying is not effective.
• Many of our trees are dropping leaves unusually early. In many cases it’s because of the effects of powdery mildew and other funguses left over from the spring rains. In other cases there have been fungal leaf spots that attacked the plants in spring and early summer. In no cases can you justify spraying this late in the growing season.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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