What's going on in our area?
Houston we are seeing the cool light at the end of a very, very hot tunnel! In the Northern Hemisphere, September brings us the Fall Equinox. It falls (no pun intended) on September 22nd. The equinox is the astronomical start to fall. Essentially, this is the day light and dark come into balance. From here on out the days will get shorter and the nights will get longer. For us in Houston, the average day decreases by 1 minute, 46 seconds. The weekly average decrease of daylight is 12 minutes, 21 seconds. This decrease in daylight will maximize on December 21st on the Winter solstice, the longest night of the year.
You can read more about the fall equinox here.
The Houston area lies in the USDA hardiness zones 9a and 8b. The line between these zones passes through Harris county. These hardiness zones mean that we’re hot. . . very hot, with a very mild winter. In fact, the growing season for Houston averages 300 days a year. Most plants typically can survive year round here.
So . . what should you be doing in your garden?
September is a perfect time to get some fall veggies in the ground! Planting them now allows them to establish before any freak freezes in the area arrive. In addition, gardening now is just nice. It’s a wonderful time to be outside working in the garden. It’s one of the few times we have all year to be outside without melting away! Houstonians, ya know we gotta take advantage of any nice weather when we have it.
The temperature changes September brings is not only nice for us, it is also nice for the plants! In Houston we get too much sun and heat for some plants to survive the summer. They just get fried. It’s very ugly and a sad thing to watch. September is the time to get those babies in so that we can enjoy them.
Some beautiful flowers that bloom in fall time Houston are: chrysanthemum, petunia, dianthus, and lantana.
Wonderful fall veggies to plant in September include: Cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, lettuce, carrots, cucumber, spinach, and squash
Useful herbs to get in the ground now are: Parsley, and cilantro,
What is the MOST important thing to do in September?
Mulch your beds in September!!
Mulch. Just mulch your garden beds! This was the last thing I added to my yearly gardening routine and it has made a WORLD of difference. Why did it take so long? I don’t know, I guess it just sounded boring. Oh my naivety! Mulch just rocks. There are so many benefits!
First off, mulch retains moisture in the soil. This means two things. You will water less, and you will attract earthworms. Both of these things are worth mulching alone. Earthworms aerate your soil. Aeration loosens soil allowing water, and nutrients to sink further into the ground. This in turn leads to root systems growing deeper. This creates a healthier, happier plant. In addition, earthworms poop in your garden. Plants love poop and earthworms provide first class fertilizer FOR FREE!
Secondly mulch evens out soil temperature. It provides cooler soil temperatures in the summer and warmer soil temperatures in winter. In the fall this can keep our plants from suffering the shock of sudden temperature changes. Temperature affects how the plants absorb nutrients. Efficient absorption of nutrients leads to hardier plants.
The third kick ass aspect of mulch is that it is made of organic matter. This means that over time it will rot back into the soil. This releases nutrients into the soil. Dust to dust after all. Nitrogen is one of the nutrients mulch adds back into the soil. Nitrogen is the primary nutrient used in plant growth. It is also one of the first nutrients leached from our soil during the spring and summer growing seasons. To keep happy and healthy plants we have to put it back in. Mulch goes a long way in helping this happen.
Nature Loves a Full Circle
Mulching is one of the primary things to do in your gardens for the fall. Ya know what you can find laying on the ground now? Leaves! One of the best choices for mulch is leaf mold. Leaf mold is. . . degraded leaves. You can collect leaves for free to create leaf mold. I have neighbors that don’t mind if I take their leaf yard waste before the city comes to pick it up. A word of warning, if you don’t talk to them beforehand they tend to look at you like you’re a weirdo. I personally don’t care. My neighbors probably think that's the LEAST weird thing I do. Here is a good article on how to get leaf mold going. CLICK HERE FOR LEAF MOLD HOW TO.
It does take time for the leaves to degrade to become useful. Rumor has it if you urinate on the leaf mold pile it will make it degrade faster and yield results sooner. I leave that up to you. What you do or don’t do in your yard is your business!
There are a few things to keep in mind in regards to mulch. Don’t let mulch touch your plants. Leave a 2-3 inch space around the base of the plant. There are certain pests that use mulch as a bridge to your pretty plant leaves. Also leaving that space around the base of the plant prevents rot on the stem. In the same manner, leave a space between structures on your property and mulch. Think houses, garages, gazebos, and such. The evil termite has been known to use mulch to get into these structures. Don’t do anything that makes being a termite easier!