Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

September 9, 2013

Plateau Gardening: Winding down at summer’s end  

By C. Rae Hozer
Chronicle correspondent

CROSSVILLE — September is the best time to start from seed a new cool season lawn or to refurbish turf of this type. Turfgrass demonstration plots have been planted near the old weather station within Discovery Gardens on the grounds of the University of Tennessee Plateau Research and Education Center, 320 Experiment Station Rd., Crossville. These allow residents to compare various grass colors and textures side by side.

The gardens are open for self-guided tours during daylight hours seven days per week. To attend a September Plateau Discovery Gardens education session — Salsa: From Garden to Table with Chef Dean on Saturday, Sept. 14 ($5 fee at registration) or Wine Making with Fay Wheeler of Stonehaus Winery Monday, Sept. 23 — pre-register by calling 484-0034 or email Glenda at gwisdom@utk.edu.

A soil pH test is an accurate way to determine whether your soil is too acid for grass or plants you wish to grow. Lime is used to increase soil alkalinity when the pH is too low. Contact your county University of Tennessee Extension office in person or by telephone if you have questions about gathering the sample and to learn what the current fee is for each one. Soil samples are sent to the laboratory by mail, but those who wish to get the results quickly can choose to receive the test report by email. Recommendations for the amount of fertilizer to be used and the intervals at which it should be applied will be included in the report.

Buy spring flowering bulbs, trees and shrubs now while a good selection is available then hold them for transplanting later. Install woody plants after they have entered dormancy. Trees and shrubs signal this by dropping their leaves.

The first weeks of September are a good time to assess what went right and what went wrong in your yard this season. If the age-old "right plant in the right place" formula was spot on in your case, routine yard maintenance and clean up may be the most important items on your garden to-do list this fall. If things are less than perfect, you may try remedies or replace problem plants with different ones better suited to your situation or to the location.

As I expected, photos on the University of Tennessee Soil, Plant and Pest Center Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/SoilPlantPestCenter) show I’m not the only gardener in the state dealing with problems like powdery mildew. Plant diseases can be extremely bad in rainy years like 2013 because fungal spores thrive in moist conditions. My neighbor is still hoping to win the fight against powdery mildew on honeysuckle vines planted at the base of the wooden surround for his propane tank. Homemade baking-soda sprays haven’t helped. Since the tank is on northern side where the house blocks sunlight and airflow is poor, I don’t think the odds are in his favor but I do admire his tenacity. I have decided to dig and discard tall phlox seedlings whose leaves show signs of mildew. Do not leave diseased plant materials around. Do not add them to the mix of chopped leaves and grass clippings when making compost.

Gardeners who have houseplants outdoors for the summer need to treat them to eliminate insect pests then bringing them back indoors this winter. Two applications of soapy-water spray or insecticidal soap does it. I usually bring in pots of tender herbs like basil and thyme to live under grow lights in the lower level over the winter.

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Plateau Gardening is written by Master Gardeners for gardeners in Tennessee’s Upper Cumberland Region.  Contact UT Extension Cumberland County at P.O. Box 483, Crossville, TN 38557 (484-6743) for answers to horticulture questions, free publications and how to become a Master Gardener. Send email comments or yard and garden inquiries to Master Gardener Rae, MGardenerRae@frontiernet.net.