Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

September Potpourri

 

The month of September begins the season of county fairs, local festivals, football games and rodeos, where people are no longer at the lake or at the beach for long swathes of time. I have friends with homes in Highlands who have been gone since May and will be returning in September. Normal routines and schedules return for us all, and that should include the care and maintenance of the garden. Fall also means lots of leaves drifting to the ground and extra work raking, blowing, mulching or bagging the dead foliage. At my farm, I put nature to work for me. I have all the leaves and grass clippings thrown in a pile behind my smoke house which will become fresh rich organic soil in a couple of months. Incidentally, I predict an early winter because my Catalpa trees have already exfoliated.

Speaking of grass and lawns, some of you may have large areas in your lawns which have died due to pests or weeds. Many have contracts with companies to fertilize and apply chemicals to kill weeds only to find that after the weeds have been eliminated, 50% of the yard is now brown dirt. Before you get into this situation, ask the company what percentage of the lawn is weeds. You may want to eliminate the weeds a little at the time. The homeowner is in shock, but the company's contract is ironclad regarding any liability. In fact, I have heard cases in small claims court over this same issue. And you may want to get rid of the weeds at all costs. If you can afford to sod the bare areas, great; however it is very expensive and outside many of our budgets. Sprigging the bare areas is a good idea, but this is the time of year many of the grasses go dormant. Sowing seed is the next best solution to the problem. First find out the type of grass which exists so the new grass will blend in when it germinates and matures. Get professional advise as a lot of money can be spent and could come to naught if the type of grass you choose should not be sown this time of year. If you choose to do nothing, you should mulch the bare areas to deter erosion of the top soil.

Being a nut over hydrangeas, I try to add new varieties to my garden when they are available. All types, big and small, catch my attention. There is one that takes center stage producing almost dinner plate size lace cap blooms. These bloom the following year on the current year's growth and also on old wood which ensures a vast number a flowers the next year. The variety is named "Let's Dance Diva" and bloom blue and pink. Now, I must admit I have not seen this next hydrangea yet, but have been reading rave reviews of its performance. A dwarf, and suitable for pots or small patio gardens, " Little Quick Fire" is sure to please. The fluffy cream colored spikes turn pink with red highlights and have red stems. They would look great in pots and get between three to five feet tall. If your pot garden has as many pots as mine, adding this dwarf hydrangea to several pots could save money and even pay for itself in a couple of years.

PLANT OF THE MONTH

COCKSCOMB--CELOSIA CRISTATA

A showy annual which hails from the tropics actually has two very different types of unique blooms and seem entirely unrelated. One is the cristata which has a crested or brain like rolled appearance. And as the name suggests, looks much like a rooster comb. The other, C. argentea plumosa, has a bloom that is feathery and flame shaped. Both come in bright colors, tall and dwarf varieties, and have long bloom times-late spring until frost. Their requirements include full sun, well drained soil with a Ph of six to eight, and can tolerate poor dry soil. I have seen trays of these plants in nurseries and garden centers recently, so add them now to your beds for Fall color. Since they are not cold hardy, they die in winter, but do well when sown into the soil after the threat of frost is over. Incidentally, both varieties make great cut flowers and hold their color when dried.

GOOD GARDENING

 

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