By Jolene Renfro
If you have been gardening for a few years, you probably have the most basic tools in your garden shed already. This collection of tools includes hand trowel, hand cultivator, shovel, spade, rake, hoe, by-pass hand pruner, pruning shears, loppers, gloves, garden hose with a wand nozzle having adjustable streams, and a wheelbarrow or garden cart. If you are really hooked on this hobby, you are probably ready to purchase tools that give you greater help with your gardening chores. Here is a list of tools that are light in weight, but are sturdy enough to get the job done:
-Small walk-behind garden tiller---gasoline engine with key start
-Battery-powered electric hedge trimmer- buy a large, substantial model
-Battery-powered electric weed trimmer with automatic line feed
-Drip irrigation hose on a timer system
-Plant tags- ceramic or metal, which go into the ground next to the plant
-“Y” spigot or 4 spigot manifold fitting for multiple hose connections
-Barrel type composting bin that rotates and a rain barrel for catching and holding water
- Pull-behind cart for your riding lawn mower- for hauling yard equipment or yard debris
-Electric chainsaw on a telescoping pole for removing those hard-to-reach tree limbs
! Remember to wear protective eye goggles when using power equipment!
September in Texas brings the best weather for gardening. Some vegetables planted in earlier months feel the zip of cooler mornings and produce again (think tomatoes). Flowers revive themselves and put on their best show before a frost takes them, and the bugs that have feasted on both your vegetables and flowers all summer, begin to retreat. Gardeners are once again driven to get outside and work in their gardens.
Now is the time to plant sets of marigolds, petunias, alyssum, stock, dianthus, calendulas, snapdragons, dusty miller, ornamental cabbage and kale for a great fall show. In shady spots, plant primroses, and cyclamen.
September is the time to plant grandma’s favorite--- sweet pea seeds. Soak the seeds overnight and plant by a fence or trellis. They won’t do much this fall, but when spring comes, jump back! They will outgrow their neighboring plants and be among the first to give you bountiful blooms in the spring.
Prepare all flower beds for receiving transplants or seeds by working some compost into the soil prior to planting. After planting, fertilize plants with a dilute fertilizer, and water in well.
If you have been invaded by fall army worms, and web worms, stop hungry caterpillars in their tracks with an application of Bacillus thuringiensis (or BT) on the tender young plants. Older, established plants will probably recover from losing a few leaves to other caterpillars without your applying any types of sprays and you will be rewarded with butterflies.
It is time to plant wildflower seeds for a beautiful spring show. First, chose a site with great drainage and scalp the existing vegetation by mowing as close to the ground as possible. Mix your seeds with masonry sand, perlite, or potting soil to aid in distribution of the seeds. (4 parts inert material to 1 part seed.) Or make seeds less likely to be eaten by insects or birds by rolling the seeds in clay to make small balls and tossing the seed balls in the dirt. Roll bluebonnet seeds between two bricks to scarify them to facilitate their spouting. Distribute ½ of the seeds in a north-south direction and the other ½ in an east-west direction in order to get even distribution of the seeds. Walk over the newly planted area to press the seeds into the ground; you do not want to disturb the soil too much by raking in the seeds, because you will only be planting the seeds of the surrounding plants. Keep the area moist for the first 2 to 3 weeks until the seedlings become established. To order wildflower seeds in small or in large amounts go to Wildseed Farms at www.wildseedfarms.com.
Trim and feed your roses to get a glorious fall bloom. It has been said that an untrimmed rose is a neglected rose. Even Earth Kind Roses, which need so little care, will reward your efforts to tame their overgrown branches by producing bouquets of flowers.
With the return of the yellow school bus, and a cooler, rainier weather pattern, gardeners shift into planting mode in their vegetable garden. By now the garden has been denuded of its old, spent bean vines, dried corn stalks, and any other vegetation no longer producing fruit, and this material has been relegated to the compost bin. The soil has been prepared by working in an inch or more of compost and is ready for planting the fall vegetable garden.
Transplant the following as small plants: broccoli, collard, kohlrabi, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
Sow the following seeds: beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, Swiss chard, garlic, spinach, lettuce and bunching onion sets.
English, snap, and snow peas are underplanted in Texas; give them a try this year and plant a lot as they are not heavy producers. English peas (Wando, Little Marvel, Maestro) are grown for shelling and should be left on the vine until plump. Snow peas (Dwarf Grey) are harvested while the seeds are flat and are used whole in stir-fry cooking. Sugar snaps (Sugar Ann and Super Sugar Snap) can be used raw when young, cooked whole when growth is medium, and when fully developed, shelled, cooked and eaten as just the pea without the pod.
If you start out early enough in September, you can probably get in another crop of tomatoes, beans and squash. Being able to have two complete crop cycles in a year is what gave Texas settlers an edge in helping their families avoid starvation in the winter.
Mirroring the migration of hummingbirds, the month of September also begins the annual migration of the monarch butterflies. Texas is a major pathway for these insects on their way to winter grounds in Mexico and they have been designated as the State Insect by the Texas Legislature. To help these travelers along their way plant mint, aster, goldenrod, verbena, frost weed, Mexican bush sage, buddleia, pentas, lantana, zinnia, and Mexican sunflower, as nectar-rich sources for the adult monarchs. Mexican milkweed is a host plant for the larvae, which consume the poisonous sap in the milkweed leaves making them unappetizing to most birds. Planting the above named plants, makes your garden a cafeteria for these “flying flowers”, causing them to hang around until the first cold front pushes the monarchs on to the place where they overwinter, and we await their return to Texas in the spring.