By David Nagel and Lelia Kelly
Extension Horticulture Specialists
Distributed by Lisa Stewart, Webster County Director
The good news about the rains is a full soil moisture profile for fall planting.
Normally gardeners need to irrigate to keep transplants alive and get seeds to germinate, but this year the water is there if it ever dries out enough to get them in.
There is still time for another crop of warm-season vegetables for all but the far northeastern corner of the state. This is a good time of year to grow tomatoes in containers. If a sudden early frost is predicted, you can pull the contained plant into a sheltered area like a garage or car port over night and return the plant to a sunny location when the temperatures rise.
You can use the same trellis you grew cucumbers or pole beans on to grow scarlet runner beans. These climbing vines grow attractive red flowers that attract bees and hummingbirds. The pods are edible as green beans, but they tend to be tougher than most common bean pods. The seeds can be shelled green just like butter beans or southern peas, or can be allowed to dry.
The bad news about the rains is the constant high humidity and rain are allowing diseases to damage many vegetables. Alternaria fungus normally attacks tomato leaves and causes the brown spots and yellowing we call early blight. Black or dark brown areas around the stem of tomato fruit are probably due to the same organism growing in the water that collects there. Daily rains make fungicide applications less effective.
Southern peas are normally not troubled by fungal leaf diseases, but there have been recent reports of yellow spots appearing. One simple way to help prevent the disease from spreading is to stay out of the peas while they are wet.
Now is the time to be lining up seed potatoes for a fall crop. Finding seed potatoes during August is one of the more difficult chores. The best source may be the potatoes you dug in June and stored in the cellar , under the bed, or whichever cool, dry, dark spot you chose. Keep an eye on the eyes and select those showing signs of sprouting for seed stock for the Fall garden. It is probably time to go through them to discard the soft or spoiled ones anyway.
Shorter days have triggered the food storage cycle of warm season grasses. This is the time when the energy for next Spring’s growth is created and moved to the crown and root system. Timely mowing is particularly important now .
Color in the Fall Garden
We are still enjoying long days but fall and cooler temperatures are on the way and it is not too soon to begin to plan for fall color. Visit your local nursery and garden center to see what choices you have.
Cool-season annuals to look for include pansies, ornamental cabbage and kale. Also, look for mums and marigolds, and don’t forget to seed a few packets of colorful leaf lettuces or burgundy mustard in your ornamental beds or containers for a crisp, tasty splash of color. Nasturtiums and calendula can be seeded now for late fall bloom.
On the perennial aisle look for “Autumn Joy” sedum, verbena, Mexican bush sage, gaillardia, bog sage, ornamental grasses, Mexican mint marigold, gaura, catmint, garlic chives and asters.
Colorful shrubs, either with blooms or showy fall foliage, include butterfly bushes, caryopteris, burning bush, oakleaf hydrangea, forsythia and blueberries. Don’t forget the shrubs with colorful fruit or seed cones like hibiscus, American beautyberry, holly and shrub althea.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to liven up your landscape or home with fall color. Pick a few focal points, such as, right by the front door, entrance to your driveway or right outside a window that you look out of often and concentrate on those areas. Using a few large well-placed containers or combinations of containers can be enough to get you and your landscape in the mood for fall!