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September 2018, Week 1, September Morn.....

Hopefully this is the week that the weather turns the page and brings us sweet, sweet relief in the form of rainfall and cooler temperatures. So, Neil Diamond's "September Morn" seems an appropriate way to start the week. How lovely it is to wake up on a September morning and to realize that the worst of the summer weather is behind us now, and autumn approaches.

September Morn by Neil Diamond

After today, the forecast highs in our area are only in the 80s instead of the 90s. I know this won't last---September down here just doesn't cool off that quickly, but we'll enjoy those temperatures while we've got them.

Many of us have a chance of rain in the forecast daily, so hopefully we all get rain this week. Here's the 7-Day QPF with its prediction for how much rain will fall:

7-Day QPF

The rainfall totals on the QPF look even better today than they did yesterday, so let's hope they are correct. Sometimes we get at least as much rain as the QPF forecasts and sometimes we get much less....or, occasionally. much more. Remember that it updates multiple times a day and can change quickly as weather conditions warrant.

Curious about which areas need great September rainfall to end the Water Year (it runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30th of each year) in good condition? Here's the Map that shows rainfall deficits or surpluses for the current water year through Sept. 1st.

Water Year Departure-From-Norm Map

Right now it is prime caterpillar time in the garden, with lots of swallowtail cats, Monarch cats and others eating away at our plants. Since so many of us garden for the butterflies and enjoy seeing them, this is a delightful time of the year. Do keep an eye out for the damaging type of moth caterpillars that we don't want in our gardens---like fall armyworms, for example. Bt 'kurstaki' (or hungry chickens) are great for the control of unwanted caterpillars. If the recent rainfall in some areas has brought you a large mosquito population, Bt 'israelensis' is available in mosquito dunks and mosquito dunks to help with mosquito control. It does nothing to the adults, but when used following label directions, this product keeps the larva from developing into adults. Remember that it is something of a misconception that mosquitoes go away in winter. Their population falls, but some species survive most Oklahoma winters quite easily so they never really go away completely.

Another annoying autumn pest? The Asian ladybugs that prefer to overwinter indoors. September is a good time to check the exterior of your home, repairing caulking and replacing weatherstripping where needed to help keep them from making entry into your home to overwinter. You often will see Asian lady beetles gathering on the sunny sides of buildings in autumn as cool to cold nights approach, especially just before the first really cold nights arrive. We see them gather a lot on our western garage wall as well as around all the house's exterior doors once the weather cools. It is better to go ahead and try to fill all the gaps now that might let them in so you aren't frantically doing it on the last warm day before the first freeze. I love ladybugs in the yard and garden, but not in the house. If they infiltrate your home and make it indoors, it is relatively easy to vacuum them up and release them back outdoors (preferably not too close to the house).

The grasshopper population continues inflicting massive damage on gardens in some areas. Normally the population peaks in late July and begins falling, and that probably has happened this year too, but there's just so many of them still around that lots of damage continues to be done.

The proper time for planting garlic in OK is the autumn, so keep an eye on your seed garlic. I like to wait until later in fall to plant it, after the weather has cooled down and the pest population has dropped, but anything in autumn will work. If you don't have seed garlic waiting to be planted, it is not too late to order some. Many online retailers are not yet sold out.

I've noticed that autumn bulbs (the kind we plant in the fall for late winter and early spring blooms) are arriving in stores now. I like to buy them in September and put them in the extra refrigerator in the garage for a couple of months to ensure they get enough chilling hours to bloom well in the spring time. Tulips really need this chilling period because sometimes Oklahoma winters are not cold enough long enough for them to meet their chilling hours requirements. Daffodils don't need the cold period quite as much, but I like to chill them anyway just in case the winter remains really warm.

In the garden, the same-old-same-old flowers remain in bloom: zinnias, verbena bonariensis, hardy hibiscus (though the leaves are just totally destroyed by the grasshoppers), Russian sage, meadow sage, mealy cup sage, black and bloom sage, autumn sage, lantana, Purple Homestead verbena, marigolds, Laura Bush petunias, moss rose, bat-faced cuphea, morning glories and cypress vines, daturas, some of the celosias (others have succumbed to the drought and low moisture since I stopped watering), globe amaranth, and red yucca. The sunflowers are long gone and the birds are visiting the flowerheads and helping themselves to the seeds. The cotton flowers all have formed cotton, and the okra still is in bloom.

Fall tomatoes have green tomatoes on them, though not a lot yet since it has been too hot for fruit to set here but I remain ever hopeful there will be more. The SunGold plant that I planted in March continues to produce, winning the prize for most productive variety of the year. The lima bean plants continue to produce loads of beans, as do the Big Boy southern peas. We're still getting lots of okra and peppers. That's the report from our drought-decimated garden, which will look a lot better after I pull out all the zinnias that have died over the last month. Luckily I plant far too many of them every year, just to ensure the butterflies have enough, so even with a lot of plants lost to the drought, there's still plenty in the garden. Oh, and the other bloomer that has been looking good for a couple of weeks now is the garlic chives. We have a very large clump in full bloom and the beneficial insects love them.

You can continue planting cool-season veggies and herbs now if you are so inclined. It still is awfully warm down in southern OK and the drought continues, so I haven't planted any. I doubt I will. It is the drought more than the heat at this point, since I'm feeling hopefully that we have left the 100s behind us now (I want to be right about this) and maybe won't be seeing too much of the 90s any more. While it isn't really cool enough yet for pumpkins, cups of hot cocoa, falling leaves and sweaters, at least we're moving in the right direction. The weather needs to cool off more before cool-season flowers like violas and pansies can be planted. Those cool-season bedding plants haven't even arrived in the stores down here yet (which is a good thing) but some of you further north may be seeing them soon if they aren't in the stores there already.

Oh, I am seeing yellow leaves on a lot of the elm trees in our local area right now, but I don't think they are changing color for autumn---it is far too early for that---in our case they are just stressed from the ongoing drought conditions.

Some autumn wildflowers are in bloom---several forms of golden daisies including helenium, some goldenrod and the ubiquitous snow-on-the-mountain and snow-on-the-prairie. We don't have a lot of autumn wildflowers due to the drought, but at least we have some. If good rain falls this week, we might have more burst into bloom fairly quickly.

That's all the garden news from here this week. And now, on a personal note, Tim and I are celebrating 35 years of happily-ever-after today. I'm not sure where the time has gone as it just flies by, but it's been a wonderful life together so far. It is funny, you know, because we thought we were so grown up and mature when we got married and now, looking back, I can say we were just babies when we said 'I do' back in 1983. (grin) It is such a privilege to get to spend your life with your best friend.


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