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September is great time for little light gardening

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IT HAPPENS so very slowly that I am not aware of it. As I was looking out of my living room window last weekend, it occurred to me that the days are getting shorter. No more working outside at 9:00pm with sufficient sunlight to see.
Ever so slowly and by one minute or so on one day and two minutes or so on another day, daylight has become shorter in length since June 20, the official start of summer. Now I will look forward to December 21, when the cycle reverses and day length ever so slowly starts to increase.
Ahhh, but September has at last arrived. Weather-wise, the 2015 summer season has been hot and, until recently, on the dry side. The 15-inch-deep crack in a grassy area of our master gardener demonstration garden at AgriLife Extension Service has closed up and is no longer visible.
Kids are back in school and the hope of cooler days is becoming more of a reality. Although it might not seem like it, September marks the beginning of a new season in our area. The change is subtle, to be sure, but the weeks of warm summer days are coming to an end and the fall growing season is here.
One good thing about our Texas Gulf Coast summers is that we get to anticipate and to better appreciate the cooler temperatures of the fall season, so here’s your gardening checklist for September:
Master gardener horticulture demonstration garden tour: The county’s master gardeners will conduct a Garden With The Masters program tomorrow, Thursday, September 3, at Carbide Park, 4102B Main Street in La Marque.
A guided tour of vegetable beds as well as the fruit orchard and Asian garden will start at 9:00am. Gardeners are also welcome to casually tour the garden and orchard until 11:30am.
Fruit splitting on citrus trees: Soon after our area received plentiful rainfall that ended the extended dry spell, I started receiving inquiries about the cause of citrus-fruit splitting.
This type of damage typically occurs when citrus trees rapidly take up water from rain or irrigation after a long dry period. The fruit expands and bursts the peel in a crack across the bottom, or blossom, end of the fruit.
The buildup of excess fluids produces sufficient internal pressure to cause the fruit’s skin to burst. Young trees have the highest incidence of splitting. Navel oranges are most susceptible, followed by tangelos, some tight-skinned types of mandarin and other oranges. In contrast, grapefruit is rarely affected by the problem.
Maintaining adequate and even soil moisture levels by regular irrigation during extended periods of dry weather is the best defense against fruit splitting.
Pruning shrubs and bushes: September is a good time to trim unruly shrubs and bushes. Pruning too late in the season can encourage tender new growth that could be susceptible to cold weather. Be careful not to prune plants like gardenias, camellias and azaleas at this time as they have already formed next spring’s floral buds. Pruning them now will result in fewer flowers next year.
Divide perennials: Late September is time to divide spring-flowering perennials such as irises, shasta daisies, gaillardias, cannas, day lilies, violets, liriope and ajuga. Reset divisions into well-prepared soil with generous amounts of organic material worked into the top eight to 10 inches.
Fall vegetables: Vegetables to plant at the beginning of September include corn, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, lima beans, pepper, squash and tomato.
Toward the end of the month, this list can be expanded to include broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collard, endive, lettuce, mustard, onion, radish and turnips.
Annual ornamentals, perennials and fall vegetables sale: The 2015 plant sale is an “absolute must” for gardeners in our area. This is an early notification so you can pencil in this popular event on your gardening calendar for Saturday, October 10. A diverse variety of fall vegetable transplants will be available at this year’s sale. More information about this and other activities at Carbide Park will be provided in upcoming columns.

At a glance

WHAT: Square-foot gardening
WHEN: Tuesday, September 15, 6:30-8:30pm

WHAT: Growing onions and garlic
WHEN: Saturday, September 19, 9:00-11:00am

WHAT: Kitchen gardening
WHEN: Saturday, September 19, 1:00-3:30pm

LOCATION: All programs conducted at the Galveston County AgriLife Extension office in Carbide Park, 4102B Main Street, La Marque. Pre-register by e-mail at GALV3@wt.net or by phone at 281-534-3413, ext 5065.

Citrus rind splitting                                               William Johnson

Many home citrus growers have reported that the rinds of maturing citrus fruit started splitting soon after plentiful rainfall occurred after the summer drought. This type of damage typically occurs when citrus trees rapidly take up water from rain or irrigation after an extended period of dry weather.

William Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston County office of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Visit his website at aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/index.htm

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