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  Garden Tips

Late summer and going into fall may be considered a time of renewal in the garden. Warm season summer crops may be growing well or just ending their season while the fall and winter crops are just starting.


From August on is a poor time to establish a permanent turf grass from seed and this process should be postponed until the following spring. However, solid sod or over-seeding with a high quality lawn ryegrass may be done to control erosion. Consider October-mid November when planting lawn ryegrass in south Louisiana. Little or no nitrogen should be applied to the warm season grasses because the nitrogen may encourage new growth which may be damaged by frost. These warm season grasses may benefit from a little extra potassium to strengthen the plant for the winter.

Fall is an excellent time to plant shrubs and trees. This allows time for the root systems to become established in the cool soil before the flush of growth next spring. This means that the root system is growing in the winter while the top is going through a period of relatively inactive growth.

For the fall ornamental garden, the gardener may start one of two ways depending upon the plants desired. In most cases the gardener may start with seeds or transplants, normally in some type of cell pack. Seeds suitable for direct seeding which are available for the fall garden include, but are not limited to alyssum, Johnny-jump-up, calendula, annual phlox, and nasturtium. Nasturtium may also be purchased as transplants; however be careful when transplanting so as not to disturb the root system in the transplant process. Other direct seeded items may include larkspur, and sweet peas which are grown for flowers and fragrance. Many other cool season crops may be grown in the flower garden. Additional plants found in the winter garden are statice, delphinium, hollyhock, some poppies, sweet William, ornamental kale and cabbage, blue bonnet, snapdragon, stock, lobelia pansey, viola and even petunias. In south Louisiana petunias do very well in the cooler periods of the year, whereas in hot dry climates petunias may be found growing in the hot part of the year. Last but not least we should not overlook the ever diverse chrysanthemum.

Rose growers should have all roses that need pruning pruned by no later than Labor Day. Remember to take out dead and diseased canes as well as removing the very thin weak growth. This weak growth never develops into anything of value. Look for insect infestation and continue to spray for black spot, an ever present disease which plagues roses and if left unchecked can cause serious damage. Late September should be the cut off date in south Louisiana to apply fertilizer to roses. This should be a light fertilizer application because growers do not want or need excessive grow on the bushes going into winter. Because of the cooler day conditions, and especially of the cooler nights, beautiful roses may be produced in the fall. Some growers consider the fall flowers to be better than the spring flowers.

Spring flowering bulbs should be purchased in the fall and in some cases need to be chilled. Tulips need a chilling period of 8 -10 weeks before planting. Generally, with regards to the selection of bulbs, the bigger the better. The larger the bulb the more stored food it has and the more flowers it has or is capable of producing. Pick large and firm bulbs which do not have cuts or bruises. Many of the bulbs may be planted in October and November, however tulips may also be planted in December and even into early January. Most bulbs will do well the first year because the bulb is full of food and in some cases buds, so a grower ends up forcing the bulb. Re-blooming of many of the bulb crops may be questionable. One notable exception would be narcissus and some of the daffodils that not only grow here, but thrive.

Fruits and Nuts

Poor pecan nut quality may be the result of one or several problems. No nuts on the tree may be the result of poor pollination in the spring. Poor pollination may be an environmental problem, such as too much rain, or too low humidity. Big pecans and no meat might be the result of poor nutrition or the lack of moisture in the latter stages of nut development. On the other hand, if the pecans are small (and they should be of a large size) and are filled out with meat then one possible problem might be poor nutrition or the lack of moisture in the early stages of development. A home owner who has a few trees may easily provide adequate water to the few trees. As a general rule, during the growing season, one inch of water once a week is adequate to produce a respectable crop. One inch of water is easily determined by placing the sprinkler under the tree and placing two or three cans (the types which have commercially processed vegetables) on the ground in the area where the irrigation is being applied. When the cans have one inch of water in each then the gardener has applied one inch of irrigation. Severe insect and/or disease damage may stress the tree and this may influence the size of the nut or the quality of kernel inside.

When pecans start to fall it is best to pick the nuts from the ground as quickly as possible and allow them to dry. The longer the pecan stays on the ground the more moisture it absorbs, which may cause discoloring. Adequate drying in a protected area normally takes place in about two weeks. To determine if the nuts are dry, take a few, crack and remove the kernel. Take the kernel and bend. If it is soft and continues to bend then it is probably too moist and should be dried more. However, if it snaps, it is probably dry enough to store. Cool to freezing extends the shelf life of the meat. If stored in the refrigerator or freezer, place in an air-tight container because the meat will absorb odors in the refrigerator or freezer.

Pears should be harvested before they are ripe and a little on the green side to avoid insect, bird, squirrel and other damage. Another reason to harvest slightly green and allow to soften is to avoid or reduce the numbers of "stone" cells, the cells which develop into small sand-like structures.

It's strawberry time -- that is time to plant the plants. Strawberry plants should be set in November in south Louisiana for the following spring production. There are a few annual berry plants which may be purchased and planted in the spring, but best results are achieved when perennial plants are set in the fall.


Those who like the wonderful crops of fall and winter may be planting a range of items. Look to plant beet seeds as well as broccoli seeds or plants. Brussels sprouts, a little more challenging to grow may be started along with the wonderful cultivars of Chinese cabbage, cauliflower and collards. Garlic and onions may be considered at this time. Gardeners should not overlook turnips, spinach, rutabaga, radishes and even snap beans. Lettuce may be planted and normally the leaf lettuce types do better in south Louisiana. Most other cool season crops may also be planted at this time. When planting leafy items like lettuce and greens, consider planting at 2-3 week intervals to have an extended harvest period. It is not recommended to over-plant; however if leafy plants are too thick consider using these tender leafy plants in a green salad, don't let them go to waste. Beets are easily over-seeded because the seed a gardener plants is actually a dried fruit which may contain 3-5 seeds. This means each time you plant one beet "seed" it contains 3-5 seeds. As a result, when the seeds sprout the resultant plants are often too close together which prompts the need of thinning. Again, these tiny tender plants may be used in salads. Also, broccoli leaves may be cooked or eaten raw just as the flower buds are consumed.

Snow peas (edible pod types) and English peas may be planted now to avoid the hottest time of the summer and the cold periods of winter. The goal is to get pod set after summer and before cold weather.

Gardeners who planted Winter Squash and Pumpkins earlier should be harvesting now. Harvest these when a good typical color develops and the rind becomes hard. Cut from the vine and store off the ground in a cool, dry place. These fruits normally last for months in a usable condition.

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Ira Nelson Horticulture Center    P.O. Drawer 43702 Lafayette, LA  70504
Location    2206 Johnston Street Lafayette, LA  70503
Phone: (337) 482-5339   Email: