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I am what many people would call a “planner”.  I absolutely love to plan things ahead of time…..trips, schedules and my garden.  As the month of August begins to wane, it is time to start planning my fall vegetable garden.

As a child, I would enjoy sitting down with my dad’s newest Burpee catalog, looking at the newest vegetable and flower seed offerings.  Now times have changed and instead of looking through a paper catalog, I was looking at a ‘virtual’ online catalog of numerous seed company sites.  One that I especially liked was Botanical Interests.   They offer high quality flower and vegetable seed at reasonable prices.  Even if you do not purchase seeds from them, they offer extremely helpful growing tips for each type of seed that they sell.  I have seen them for sale at some local nurseries and they are also available online as well.

Okay, back to my planning.  I have cleaned out much of my vegetable garden, which leaves a tomato plant (which weathered the summer heat very well under shade cloth), a pumpkin plant that is growing mostly outside of the garden and a few basil plants.  The landscape designer in me loves nothing better than a mostly blank palette 🙂  Tuesday evening, found me at Double S Farms having our weekly dinner with family and my mother (Pastor Farmer) brought out a wooden chest full of seeds.  She had more than she needed and offered to let me have some.  *I am often blessed by the generosity of the residents (my mother, sister and her family) of Double S Farms.

Needless to say, I was in heaven.  The different seeds were stored in tiny plastic bags and then placed inside of little Gerber baby food containers.  I opened the broccoli container and was so happy to find 4 different types of varieties to choose from.
I filled up my share of Ziploc bags with all different types of seeds.  Have you heard the phrase “My eyes were bigger then my stomach?”  Well, in this case I believe that my eyes were bigger than my vegetable garden.  I know that I do not have room to grow everything that I would like, but I have some definite favorites that I will plant.
  The time to plant many vegetables and flowers begins in September in the lower deserts and I hope to find room to plant the following…..
Broccoli
Garlic
Scallions
Carrots
Lettuce
I am not sure that I have room for the following, but they can also be planted in September in our area:
Beets
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Celery
Eggplant
Peas
&
Radishes
I have also decided to plant some companion plants to help attract beneficial insects and deter damaging insects to my vegetable garden.
 Bachelor’s Button / Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)
I plan on planting Bachelor’s Button, Nasturtiums and Marigolds.  Each of these flowers can be directly sown by seed.
Bachelor’s Button can be planted September through November from seed and attracts many different pollinators to my garden.
Nasturtium is a powerhouse in the vegetable garden.  They repel damaging insects such as aphids, whiteflies as well as some beetles.  Another benefit is that insects that eat scale are also attracted by nasturtiums.  *A lesser known benefit is that both the flowers and leaves of nasturtium are edible.  The leaves taste great with mixed salad greens and the flowers make a pretty garnish.

Marigolds are well known for their ability to repel damaging insects in the garden such as aphids, whiteflies, crickets and grasshoppers.  French Marigolds (Tagetes patula), also help to repel nematodes in the soil.  The bright flowers of all Marigolds attract butterflies and other pollinators.

Here are a few other great companion plants you may consider growing in and around your vegetable garden….

Alyssum (attracts pollinators, beneficial insects)
Basil (attracts pollinators, repels damaging insects)
Chives (repels damaging insects)
Coriander (attracts pollinators, repels damaging insects, attracts beneficial insects)
Lavender (attracts butterflies & bees, repels damaging insects)
Petunias (repels aphids)
Rosemary (flowers attract pollinators, repels damaging insects)
Thyme (attracts beneficial insects while repelling damaging insects)

Bagged Compost

 I plan on preparing the soil in my raised vegetable garden by adding a mixture of compost and aged steer manure.  *If you are like me and do not compost (I really should), or have cows in your backyard (I really don’t want any), you can buy both at your local big box store or local nursery.  I apply compost and manure twice a year – in in late summer and late winter.


Other types of manure that are recommended for vegetable gardens are chicken and horse.  Just make sure that they are aged and not fresh – fresh manure will burn your plants.

Nothing says “I love you” quite like a man who shovels manure for his wife’s vegetable garden.
I am so blessed 🙂 

**Many professional and amateur vegetable gardeners have their own special garden soil recipe and they all have great results using different ratios and types of compost, manure and other amendments.  What this really means to the backyard gardener is that there is no one ‘right’ recipe.  Rather, there are many.  The one overriding ingredient is compost.  Even if compost is all you use for your garden soil, you will grow great vegetables.


I tend to go organic when I work in my vegetable garden in terms of fertilizer, but I have been known to apply a slow-release synthetic fertilizer in the past.  If you decide to use a slow-release synthetic fertilizer, the labeling will tell you how long the fertilizer should last once applied.  However, in our warm climate, it will not last that long….cut the length of time in half to determine how long it will really last.  

 Big box stores are now carrying a wide variety of organic fertilizers.  I saw an organic fertilizer blend there just the other day that combined both bone meal, blood meal, micro-organisms as well as myccorhizae, which would work just great in my garden.  *Mycorrhizae is a fungus that forms an extremely beneficial symbiotic relationship with plants via their roots.


And so, this weekend will find me adding my semi-annual application of compost/manure and organic fertilizer to my vegetable garden and allowing it to rest for a week or so before planting my seeds, which will actually help the soil. 


I can almost taste my fresh grown vegetables…..


For more information about vegetable gardening including what and when to plant, you can check out this link.

In the Desert Southwest, we are fortunate to be able to grow citrus.  In early fall, your citrus tree probably looks like the one pictured, with green fruit that is getting ready to ripen in this winter.

 
It is time for the third fertilizer application to your citrus trees if you have not already done so.  Mature citrus trees require three applications of fertilizer – around Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day.
 
Citrus trees require nitrogen more than any other nutrient.  I recommend using a granular fertilizer specially formulated for citrus because, in addition to nitrogen, they also contain micronutrients, (iron, zinc, manganese), that are vital to the health of your citrus tree.  Citrus fertilizer spikes are also an option.
 
If you choose to use only organic fertilizer for your citrus, there are some natural products available, or you can use composted cow manure, working it into the top few inches of soil and watering it in afterward.
 
GENERAL GUIDELINES:
 
– Fertilizer should not be applied to newly planted trees – wait until they have been in the ground for one year.
 
– Water the soil around the tree before and after you apply fertilizer.
 
– Follow the directions on the fertilizer bag.  Be sure that you divide by three the annual amount of fertilizer needed by your tree – do not apply all at once!
 
– When in doubt, apply slightly less fertilizer then you think you need.  You don’t want to over-fertilize and end up with fertilizer burn.  Smaller trees require less fertilizer than larger trees.
 
– Apply granular fertilizer around the perimeter of the tree, extending just past the drip line.  Work into the top few inches of soil.
 
– Do not apply a foliar fertilizer when air temperatures are 85 degrees F or above because there is a danger of burning the foliage.
 
– For mature Grapefruit trees, (over six years old), apply only 1/2 the amount of fertilizer recommended on the fertilizer label because high amounts of nitrogen promote a thick rind (peel).
 
Get ready to enjoy the fruits of your labors this winter and get ready for March when we will discuss the correct way to prune and plant citrus.
‘Double Delight’

In the Desert Southwest, we are blessed with two different blooming seasons – spring and again in fall.  

While two bloom seasons is generally one more than many regions experience, roses don’t enjoy the heat of summer and go into summer dormancy.  That means that they just exist and don’t grow or bloom significantly. Their leaves may show signs of sunburn.

 
‘Medallion’

However, once September arrives and the days begin to grow shorter and temperatures begin to cool, it is time to lightly prune your rose bushes, which will stimulate new growth. 

Begin by pruning back 1/4 of the top growth, removing sunburned foliage and any flowers present.  

As always, prune back to an outward facing bud at an angle of 45 degrees.  Seal any pruning cuts larger than the diameter of a pencil with Elmer’s glue to prevent borers.

Fall is also time to fertilize roses in preparation for their fall bloom season.  Apply an organic fertilizer formulated for roses.  Afterward, be sure to water in well.

 
‘Abraham Darby’

**For those that want to go the extra step, I would recommend soil amendments such as compost and manure in addition to rose fertilizer, which results in greater growth, lush foliage and blooms over the long term.  

To do this, first make 4 – 5, six-inch deep holes around each rose, placing them at least 1 ft. from the center (I use the end of a broom handle for this).  Then apply a mixture of aged steer manure and alfalfa pellets (rabbit food) and pour into each hole.  Water in well.  

The aged manure improves the soil structure and slowly releases nutrients.  The alfalfa pellets release a type of alcohol as they break down that roses just love.

By lightly pruning and fertilizing in early fall, you’ll enjoy a fall filled with beautiful roses.