Start work on your fall vegetable garden. Sow seeds of radishes, spinach, lettuce, mustard greens, kale, and other leafy crops that like autumn’s cool weather. For a head start, set out small plants of vegetables from the garden center. Now is also the time to assemble containers of ornamentals for the crisp days that we pray lie ahead. Combine annuals such as pansies, violas, and ornamental cabbage and kale with fancy-leaved hardy perennials like heuchera, golden Japanese sweet flag, rue, variegated ivy, and ‘Tricolor’ common sage.
Fall is the most important time to feed cool-season lawns (Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, and perennial ryegrass) that stay green all winter. Choose a lawn fertilizer (not a weed-and-feed product) labeled for your type of grass.
September is a dry month in much of the South, so trees and shrubs need your help. Proof of this is last fall’s record drought in the Southeast that killed a lot of plants we had assumed were drought resistant. In dry weather, soak the roots of trees and shrubs—especially newly planted ones—at least once a week using a hose, not a sprinkler system designed to water grass. If a tree or shrub looks wilted in early morning, it needs watering immediately.
Notice large webs encasing the ends of branches on pecan, hickory, walnut, birch, sourwood, and fruit trees? These are nests created by fall webworm caterpillars, which devour the foliage inside. Unless it’s a small tree, the damage is more cosmetic than serious. You can cut out the infested branches or spray them with spinosad.
PLANT OF THE MONTH
“Loitering” has a negative connotation, as if the loiterer is an empty-headed numbskull of questionable motives who just likes hanging around. But if you encounter a ginger lily (Hedychium coronarium) blooming in the weeks ahead, prepare to do some loitering. There’s no quick escape from the intoxicating scent released by the showy, pure-white blossoms crowning its bold foliage. The flowers resemble butterflies—giving this perennial its other common name, “butterfly ginger.” Hardy in USDA Zones 7 through 11, it likes moist soil and spreads into large clumps. Plant now in full sun to part shade. Divide in the spring to get more flowers.