By Mary Glazer
In our Gulf Coast states there is no great need to extend the growing season. Mother Nature has taken care of that. Here in my north Florida home, September temperatures linger in the low 90s. Air conditioners run full blast. My summer-blooming flowers keep going strong, and do so until the first hard frost, usually in November or December.
For me this time of year presents three gardening chores: deadheading, weeding, and adding more mulch to the landscape beds. Extending the season in a warm climate is about planning ahead for next spring.
Deadheading many composite-type flowers during the growing season now shifts to saving those spent flower heads for their seeds. With plants such as Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia), I allow the flowers to go completely to seed and dry out on the stalk. Then I snip them off on a sunny afternoon and store the dry seed heads in a brown paper bag. (Plastic holds in moisture and causes rotting.) I label the bag with the name, date, and location of the parent plant—in case a cool mutation shows up and I want to collect more seeds from that specific plant—and place it on a shelf until spring.
Weeding is my most annoying chore this time of year. After a six-month season of sun and rain, weeds have flourished. Pulling them out by the roots and mulching in late summer is the best method to assure some control for the next growing season.
Apply mulch, whether leaves raked from the yard or purchased pine bark, to a depth of 3 in. But never apply it against the main stem or trunk, where mulch could trap moisture, encouraging fungal infections.
Although I enjoy our Gulf Coast’s longer growing season, I most definitely look forward to some cooler daytime and evening temperatures. Like the refrain of the northern gardener in the dead of winter—“Will spring ever come?”—warm-climate gardeners often lament, “Will fall ever come?” In the meantime I weed, mulch, and collect seeds.
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