Sunday, September 5, 2010

September Groundwork

If there is a season for everything, then why in this season of planting have I not yet felt the inclination to plant! Oh yes, it's still 110 degrees outside! That aside, my September to-do list is quite similar to my August to-do list, so what you didn't do last month you should plan to do now. Late September is the beginning of the fall sowing season and as temperatures in our low desert begin to drop it is the prime time to plant. If you are still too meek to venture out and sow your seeds, you may also wait for the nursery transplants to arrive later this month.

September To-Do List

  • Organic matter is used up as it feeds organisms and is changed into humus. Refresh garden beds and boxes with 4 to 6 inches of a combination of compost, well-aged manure or organic matter. Turn into soil to a depth of 12 to 14 inches. Use a spading fork rather than a shovel, it breaks up clumps and aerates the soil.

  • Sow seeds for snap beans, beets, bok choy, cucumbers, green onion, kale, leaf lettuce radish and turnips (see planting calender for complete list).
  • Save bags of grass clippings, leaves from fall foliage, shredded newspaper and spent summer annuals for use in your compost bins. Stop by your neighborhood coffee shop and ask for their coffee grounds.
  • Trim back tomato and pepper plants that made it through the summer to encourage another crop.

  • If you did not fertilize citrus in August, feed with the final application of nitrogen for the year.

  • Lightly trim roses as soon as new growth begins to about one-third. Work in alfalfa meal, blood meal or fish emulsion for added nitrogen. For phosphorus add bone meal, or rock phosphate. Water to a depth of two feet.
  • Set out strawberry plants. A garden just isn't complete without a strawberry patch. Strawberries grow well in lower desert regions of Arizona. If you want a good crop of strawberries later in the year, September is the best time to plant. This ensures that the plant has time to become well-established with a strong root system by January. This is when the strawberry plants flower and set fruit. For a nice strawberry patch you will need an area about 4ft x 4ft, plant about 4 inches apart, giving plenty of room for runners to fill in the bed. Use lots of organic compost and make sure the drainage is good. Sprinkle a little bone meal over soil monthly and water in. Set your plants in the ground at the same level they were growing in the nursery container. Raised beds are perfect for a strawberry patch. Choose a location that receives at least six to eight hours of sun. In case of a frost this winter, cover with clear plastic for a greenhouse effect. In the summer keep shaded from the direct sun. Layer straw under the strawberries to keep soil moist and to discourage slugs and pill bugs from munching on your ripe berries. Mulch to maintain consistent soil moisture. Varieties that are well-adapted to our low desert climate are, Chandler, Sequoia, Tioga, Shasta and Camarosa. Strawberries are easy to grow and always provide a pleasant surprise when you find your first red berry at the peak of ripeness!