Late summer stories

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It was not your imagination. In August, the National Weather Service recorded 21 days of light rain and 11 days of thunderstorms. We sweltered in heat that averaged 1.5 degrees above normal, but our maximum highs were 2 degrees above normal.  We may be worn to a frazzle, but outside, the plants are growing like gangbusters. Even the new croton leaves are gigantic as a result.

Golden mokara.

Rainbows of mokaras are sparkling throughout

Rosey mokara.

my garden, pleased as punch with the rain and heat. (This manmade genus of orchid blends Vanda, Ascocentrum and Arachnis genera and the combination grows beautifully with minimal care.)

Perhaps fewer plants could be happier with the rain, heat and humidity than the aroids. Anthurium watermaliense, Anthurium x Marie, Anthurium faustomirandae and

Anthurium faustomirandae.

Anthurium schottii are assuming significant tropical stature.  The Anthurium faustomiorandae is an adolescent, with the newest leaf measuring 36 inches in length. It may have leaves that reach 6 feet – if hurricanes and cold don’t interfere. Beneath a bird’s-nest anthurium, a dwarf ginger called Globba winitii has added several new stalks of leaves and

Globba winitii.

flower spikes – it is a volunteer, and in years past, one new stem has been its maximum output.  Even the Alocasia macrorrhizos 'Borneo Giant,' which was leveled in the cold, is growing with such vigor it’s scary. The upcoming show and sale put on by the International Aroid Society on Sept. 18 and 19 should have some remarkable plants on display.

Which brings me to the rainy days of September. Aside from weeding during every spare moment, continued snail patrol is the order of the day – or night, if you prefer to stalk them with a flashlight as they work. Snails love rainy weather even more than aroids, and they seem to find new leaves of aroids especially appetizing.

On the to-do list: It’s time to cut back the poinsettias and bougainvilleas. Shorter days mean these, and other day-length sensitive plants, such as the Christmas cactus, soon will set buds. Start now keeping the Christmas cactus drier.

Keep the fans running in the orchid house because this is prime fungus weather. Rot on Phalaenopsis orchids calls for a dose of cinnamon. Physan 20 (1 tablespoon to a gallon of water) is a good disinfectant that you can spray on your collection to help prevent disease.

Plan your vegetable garden
and prepare for planting.

Think vegetables: there’s still time to solarize your raised bed by covering with clear 6 mil plastic in order to kill any weed seeds. Leave the plastic in place for 4 to 6 weeks. Then add compost and give the microorganisms a week or so to kick in before planting. I like to plant vegetables in October when it’s a little cooler, but you may want to start now.

September a good time to correct nutrient deficiencies so plants are at their best when winter arrives. What do deficiencies look like?  What you most often will see are the following signs:

Nitrogen: pale yellow leaves, often yellowing from the edges inward.

Potassium: drying edges of leaves and leaf tips; orange checkered appearance on older palm fronds.

Magnesium: old leaves show mottled yellow between veins.

Iron: yellowing between veins of new leaves. Eventually, even the veins can turn yellow.

Manganese: new leaves show yellow blotches, mottling and yellowing. On palms, look for brown, frizzled new fronds, eventually shrinking in size.

Micronutrient foliar sprays will help you correct problems before cold weather really complicates the picture.