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Bill Starr: September garden chores

Wow; September is here and students will be getting report cards soon. Football games are on Friday nights. Fairs are getting ready to kick off. But it’s time to get that garden and landscape into shape. The heat of the summer tends to keep us in the shade. Now it is a little cooler so we need to get busy.
In the vegetable garden continue to harvest in a timely manner. If you still have plants growing, they will produce longer as you keep the harvest going. You can also plant beets, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, mustards, green onions, spinach, turnips, collards, etc. They can all be planted in September.
You can still prune your shrubs for shape now. Don’t do any drastic cutting, just those few limbs here and there that need cutting. My knock out roses really need pruning; they have really grown over the summer. Watch plants for late season infestations of aphids and scale insects.
Liriope, daylilies, ornamental grasses and such can be dug and divided now and replanted. Be sure the soil is damp; shouldn’t be too much of a concern for now but it can dry out quickly. It makes the digging easier and it keeps the plant’s roots healthier.
You should apply some fertilizer to your roses and azaleas. This is the last fertilization for both until spring. Remember that we are trying to eliminate those yellow and red older leaves on azaleas that develop due to low levels of nitrogen. Follow soil test recommendations for proper amount of fertilizer. If you didn’t soil test then use 10-10-10 at the rate of 4 tablespoons per 10 square feet of shrub bed area.
If you like starting plants from seed you can begin some pansies, snapdragons and sweet alyssum now. Remember to keep a close watch on the soil moisture. It is very easy to get busy and forget the little seedlings. They can’t take much dryness once they start growing.
If you have had your houseplants out for the summer start planning their move inside. I realize that frost is a long way off but you don’t want to wait until the last minute to move them indoors. They need to adjust to lower light levels before they are moved indoors. You can move them from high light areas to a little lower lighted area, gradually getting them ready for the move indoors. Drastic changes in light levels, soil moisture levels and humidity levels can cause leaf discoloration and leaf drop.
Not much to do with fruit trees and plants right now. Just check them for broken limbs and remove those that are.
Soon the leaves will be falling and that is a good time to start composting. So, you could plan that compost pile now. It is not hard to do and it is a valuable resource for your garden.
All the organic material you throw away after pruning or shelling peas and beans can be composted and used as a soil builder. All those leaves that perhaps you have been burning can be composted and made into good mulch.
All you need to compost is something to hold all the leaves and limbs and peels and such. A 10-12 foot piece of wire like chicken wire or the wire with 2 inch by 4 inch mesh will work fine. Just connect the two ends, stand it up and you’ve got a compost bin.
Fill it with pruned limbs, raked leaves,and banana peels, anything that is or was a part of a plant. Let it rot and you’ve got compost. It’s a little more involved than that but not much. If you are interested in starting a compost pile, get in touch and I can give you more details.

Bill Starr is Sumter County Extension coordinator, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Contact him at 229-924-4476.