The winds of change
September, a month of the unknown with hot humid weather and the unpredictable winds of chance be they gentle breezes or possible hurricanes.
Hot summer days, with little respite during the evening hours, thrown in with periods of rain create good soft growth which does not harden off for several months.
Prevention is oft better than the cure; with this in mind take a walk about the garden to look for excessive growth, and pest and disease problems.
Pests and diseases are ever present but control during periods of hot, dry weather can be a problem, causing stress if not carried out correctly.
It is not advisable to apply chemicals during very hot, dry conditions.
Either manually soak around the drip tip of the root zone or, if possible, wait for a good soaking rain before applying.
In cases of severe infestations, monitor plants regularly as a second application may be required.
If excessive growth is apparent, now is a good time to thin out branches in anticipation of late hurricanes which can devastate plants with “heavy” soft growth to the point of almost blowing them out of the ground. Thinning out allows wind to filter through the branches thus reducing the likelihood of severe damage or, in cases of severe weather, the loss of plants.
If plants show distress at this time of year and it is not a pest and disease problem, then it is more than likely a problem of water deficiency around the root zone which could well be exacerbated by poor installation when planting.
Bermuda properties in general do not have a great depth of soil; many areas being scant at best.
In such cases, the size of the planting hole is very important to the success or demise of the plant.
It is always advisable to check soil depth prior to planting as this will dictate, to a degree, the size of the planting hole in relation to the container size.
In areas of “harder” rock, the planting hole size should be increased as root movement will be greatly restricted when it “hits” the walls of the rock. This is especially so in cases of trees which need an extensive deep root structure to necessitate water intake and ensure a good depth of root ball so water can be “chased” after by the feeder roots.
Soil depth encourages roots to go deep and chase moisture, which acts as an anchor in windy conditions whereas roots forming in shallow soil depth will dry out rapidly and are more prone to be blown over in windy conditions. Remember, weeds in beds will utilise valuable soil water to the detriment of the garden plants.
Container plants brighten up many an outdoor area but are, unfortunately, often neglected with insufficient watering/fertilising or by not potting in larger containers when necessary.
As top growth becomes evident, root growth is not but continues unseen until the point of becoming pot-bound and thereafter, strangulation is reached.
In such cases, remove the plant with the root ball intact; water the container first. Have the new container prepared for planting with fresh potting compost that contains plant nutrients.
The container size should be such that there is approximately a 3-4” gap between the root ball — when placed in the centre of the container — and the wall of container.
Gently separate outer roots from the root ball to allow a quicker contact with compost when finished. I prefer straight-sided containers as they are easier to remove plants whilst having a larger mass than tapered containers.
If using clay containers, soak them before planting as this will fill the air spaces of clay.
If this is not done before planting then much of the water will be removed from the compost into the clay, leaving a void between surfaces.