Week 32 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

sunflower-arrangement

A lovely sunflower and gomphrena arrangement in our little guest cottage that we call “The Nest”. Photo by Natalie Lacy Lange

Last night Sally and I came home to every Texan’s worst August nightmare; our air conditioner was out!  Thank goodness for our little guest house!  While watching the news from the air conditioned comfort of our little cottage I caught the forecast for next week.  They are saying it is going to be 105 and 106 on Monday and Tuesday.  That should motivate you to get out there this weekend and get your garden ready for the fall planting (since it is only going to be 101 on Saturday and Sunday).  You will want to get as much done as possible while it is still cool!

cucumber-seeds

It is time to order your seeds for the Fall garden. Check out Patty’s Variety List and Seed Sources on the sidebar.

Vegetables

  • Order seeds now – With only two or three weeks left before the Fall planting season begins, you need to place your seed orders ASAP. Patty Leander has created two great guides that will tell you the best varieties for Central Texas and where to find them.  Click on the links below to read her Vegetable Variety Guide and her list of her favorite seed sources.

Patty Leander’s Vegetable Varieties for Central Texas

Patty Leander’s On-Line Seed Sources

  • Take advantage of the heat – We are right smack dab in the middle of the hottest part of the year. Solarization is a great, cheap and organic way to solve some serious weed problems.  Patty talks about this in her latest post on Nematode control and I did a post a while back (called Weed Free Organically)that is worth revisiting.  Check them both out.  Solarization is very easy to do and very effective.
  • Water and turn your compost – Your compost pile has to stay moist to work properly. Water and turn regularly
purple-fountain-grass-sweet-potato-vine

One of my beds with three of my favorite heat loving ornamentals-puple fountain grass, sweet potato vine and zinnias

Ornamentals

  • Dead head – Last night my wife made a very attractive bouquet of sunflowers and dark purple gomphrena. All of our summer blooming flowers need to be deadheaded to encourages rebloom.  Also, water your flowers more often in this heat.  Right now I am applying about an inch of water every third day to my cut flower garden
  • Order seeds for fall blooming flowers – When you order your vegetable seeds pick up a few packets of flower seeds. It will soon be time to put out spring bloomers like larkspur and poppies.   Order now to ensure the best selection

Trees and Lawns

  • Watch out for sod webworms – August is the month for this pest. The worms are the larval form of a very small, gray moth.  The larvae will strip your grass down to the stolons.  Infestion clues are yellowing grass and/or lots of birds on the lawn.  The birds are eating the caterpillars.  These pests can do a lot of damage in a hurry.  Unfortunately there is no good organic control.  Spray Bayers “Power Force” on day one and Bayer’s “Bayer’s Complete” on day two.
  • Trim shrubs and hedges now – The high heat of August slows the growth of woody perennials. Since they grow less now, your shaping efforts will ensure they look good much longer than they did after their Spring pruning

 

I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Prepare Beds Now for Spring

 Yesterday, I noticed that my narcissus were beginning to poke up.  This is a reminder to me that spring is on its way.  December is typically a slow time in the yupneck’s garden.  However, this year, I actually have a lot to do to get ready for spring.  Because I built the picket fence I now have the opportunity to put in a lot of new beds.  Since I do things organically, now is the perfect time for me to start preparing these future beds. 

Weeds are a real problem for me.  Through much experience I have developed an integrated approach to weed control (you can read all about this in an article I have written for the upcoming March issue of Texas Gardener magazine).  The first step in this program is preparation.  Now preparation means a lot of different things to different people.  To me, it means defining where the bed is going to be and then killing everything that is growing in that area.  I kill my weeds in two ways; smothering or solarizing.

Here I am using a sheet of plywood to smother my weeds. the plywood is secured with hadite tiles. this photo was taken by Ramez Antoun.

Smothering is the process of placing an opaque material over vegetaion.  It works by depriving the plants of the water and light they need to survive.  Since smothering involves using a heavy material (that wont blow away) like plywood or Hardie plank, I only use it in relatively small areas.  If I want to kill a bigger swath of weeds, I use solarization.

Solarizing involves wetting the soil, covering it with a translucent material and securing the edges of that material so no heat escapes.  I use 6 mil poly.  Solarizing  allows the sun’s heat to raise the temperature in the air gap to a level that “cooks” the weeds to death.  Since it is winter, and not as many hot days are available, I put out my poly about a month ago.  This will give the sun four months to kill my weeds before I create the beds in the spring.  If you solarize in the summer, you can get by with a two month solarization window. 

Solarizing a bed on the back side of the picket fence. Photo bt Ramez Antoun.

Both of these methods have been very effective for me.  So, if you are going to put in a new bed in the Spring, and you are looking for an organic way to get control of your weeds early, now is the time to get started.  A little work now will make your weeds much less of a headache in the future.