Master Gardener’s website column September 2021
As the weather cools in mid to late September we can begin planting seeds and transplants of cool-season crops, flowering spring annuals and spring-blooming bulbs as well as transplanting trees and bushes. But choices of what to plant must be made in the expectation of another warm, dry winter followed by another summer with severe heat spikes that will entail continued water conservation.
All new perennial transplants including drought-tolerant plants require regular deep watering for two to three years after planting. Flowering annuals and vegetables require regular irrigation during their growing seasons. Fruit and nut trees need consistently moist soil at a depth of 8 to 12 inches in order to produce and hold crops.Existing shade trees need regular monthly deep irrigation during the hot months and into the fall months when their roots need to store water during dormancy.We are facing very difficult decisions on water usage.
Food vs. flowers.Many gardeners are switching to planting vegetables, herbs and leafy greens instead of annual flowering plants as a water saving measure and also as a form of mental and physical therapy during this pandemic. Nurseries and garden centers will begin to stock cool-season transplants in late September and early October, but stock sold out quickly last year.Starting vegetables, herbs and leafy winter greens from seed offers a greater selection. Unfortunately, seeds are also selling out quickly this year.As of mid-August a check of four well-known seed company websites showed that supplies of seeds and available selections for cool-season flowers and vegetables have only increased by about 20% since last year at the same time.
Many gardeners a discovering that seeds that have been saved for two to three years are no longer viable. It’s advised to store seeds in a cool, dry place.Cool places are becoming even harder to find as our climate gets hotter every year.Hot storage conditions cause the seed leaves that encase the seed itself to dry out and toughen, preventing germination or stunting leaf development. Those of us who have always stored our seeds in the garden shed have needed to move them inside.It will be a bit of a challenge to find places indoors to store dahlia tubers and fall-blooming bulbs over the winter.
Whether you’re planting from seed, planting your own homegrown transplants or nursery transplants, begin to amend the soil in planting beds this month with water conservation in mind.
Compost is the magic ingredient for increasing your soil’s ability to absorb and retain water.Kitchen-waste compost, worm compost and leaf compost are easily made in the garden itself and all are chock full of fresh micro-nutrients, micro-organisms and beneficial fungi.Many of the bagged composts and humus available at nurseries and garden centers have been stored outdoors in the heat and sun which kills the beneficial micro organisms.
Turn at least 4 inches of compost into planting bed soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches and till that composted soil as little as possible until repeating the process during our next planting season in late January.