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Time to start preparing for cooler months

September, betwixt and between ...

September can be a month of contrasts contingent on the weather; temperatures tend to lose their intensity as we near the end of summer, hurricanes become a possibility yet growth is still abundant as hopefully is some rain. It is a good time to start preparing for the cooler weather and new plantings in addition to 'tidying up' where needed excessive summer's growth.

Seedlings or annuals should start to appear in the nurseries as they gear up for cooler weather and the return to a more accommodating planting season. Seedlings are found in a wide range of varieties, colour and habit, from tall to low growing and spreading. Your location should to a great degree dictate the type of seedlings to use; exposed areas should concentrate on low growing types whilst protected areas can use a wide range from tall to low growing types. Herbs prefer cooler weather to become established, protection from winds and salt spray being important for success. In very protected areas one can mix flowering annuals with herbs to create contrast and fragrance, all in one area!

Planting can also continue contingent on weather conditions taking advantage of the temperatures encouraging growth, which will develop a good root system for future development. Preparation is the key to successful growth, from plant selection to installation and aftercare. Always check a potential purchase for pest and disease problems, a good branch structure not too leggy and a sound root system, ensure roots are not pot bound and strangling themselves within the pot. Giving plants 'their space' to grow is important; I often see plantings far too close together to the detriment of future growth, which relates to a waste of time, money and an unattractive plant mix. When choosing a plant and thereafter installing it relate each plant to its potential size and how will it impact on neighbouring plants. Over-planting only increases the need for pruning; if plants are too close to their neighbour consider lifting them and open up the spacing in the beds; poor looking plants can be culled to make extra room for such an exercise. To create interest in 'new' plantings areas consider using in-fill material as a stop gap until the foundation planting starts to mature, thereafter remove the in-fill material as required; much of which may be coming to the end of its useful life.

Summer growth can deplete plant nutrients if a fertiliser programme has not been implemented and even compounded more if excessive rain has fallen one lives in hope as leaching will have occurred especially on sandy soils. Fertile soil is a rare commodity in Bermuda unless amendments are constantly added; growth may occur but with amendments more vibrancy will develop growth and flower potential. Before buying soil try and find out its source as invariably 'topsoil' is not easily found and most soil is from excavations usually mixed with other 'materials' of unknown origins. If in doubt at least look at the soil prior to purchase and note what growth i.e. weeds are found on the soil heap, if weed growth is abundant with a mix of weeds at least growth is occurring. If little or no growth or more specifically only one weed is growing e.g. thistle, it is doubtful whether the soil has any 'growing capacity' and should not be purchased. Incorporating well composted organic matter into the soil will revitalise not only soil activity but also growth, especially if done on a regular basis.

Plant pots/containers for outdoor use of varying shapes and sizes are now in abundance in the local nurseries; they certainly add a new dimension to any garden if located in a thoughtful manner. Plants in these pots/containers of course also create activity but take care to select the 'right' type of plant for the container; tall narrow pots should be planted with squat or hanging material to lessen the perpendicular appearance whereas squat wide pots/containers can accommodate taller or fuller material. Having said that, take into consideration that there are occasions where such pieces of 'art' can stand alone if placed in the 'right' area. Plants can be either seasonal of permanent, but with the latter one should consider the shape of the pot/container before planting as root systems will follow the contour of the pot thus making it difficult to remove it without damaging the root system or breaking an expensive container!

One can also use pots as a statement within a flower bed or shrubbery again with or without plants contingent on size and shape.

If used in this manner highlight container and plant by locating same in an area of low planting with surrounding plantings framing the container.

Lawns have been hard hit by the drought with little active growth, and yet I still see dust clouds emanating from gardens. I would suggest letting lawns get through the summer as best they can and hopefully give them some attention in late September as conditions hopefully change for the better.

griffm@northrock.bm

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Published September 06, 2011 at 9:00 am (Updated September 06, 2011 at 9:56 am)

Time to start preparing for cooler months

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