As summer heat starts to subside, there are many home and garden tasks ahead and less daylight to get it done. If you allocate one hour per day preparing your outdoor and indoor plants for winter, there will be fewer problems to deal with in the spring.
Turf and landscape plants
-- As days grow shorter and average temperatures decrease, reduce irrigation frequency and amount and stop fertilizer applications to warm season turf and woody landscape plants.
-- Check warm season turf for signs of disease such as yellowing areas. For information on off season turf management check Clemson University's Hot Topic for September 2016: Preparing & Managing Warm Season Grasses During the Offseason online at clemson.edu/extension/hgic/hot_topics/2016/09%20preparing_managing_warm_season_grasses_during_the_offseason.html.
-- Collect soil samples and submit to the extension office now while the volume of samples are lower and turnaround time is less. With results in hand, necessary lime can be applied during the fall and the appropriate type and amount of fertilizers can be applied in May after warm season turf greens up. If you have cool season turf such as fescue or over seeded ryegrass, recommended materials can be used this fall and next spring.
Vegetable gardens and flower beds
-- Weeds and diseased plants tend to be the major issues at this time. Some warm season vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, okra and others are still setting fruit, but heavily insect or disease damaged plants can be removed and put into the garbage to reduce disease carryover into next season.
-- Crabgrass and other weeds should be pulled up and removed before significant seed heads are produced and dispersed onsite for next year's germination.
-- As leaves begin to fall, use them to mulch remaining vegetable plants and add to the compost pile or save to work into the garden soil this fall or next spring.
-- After removing weeds and dead or diseased plants from flowerbeds, add a new layer of mulch or compost to protect them during the winter.
-- For continuously blooming roses, deadhead spent flowers so one more set of blooms can be encouraged before frost happens.
Hanging baskets and container plants
-- Many of us move indoor plants to shaded outdoor porches or decks during the summer. Don't wait until frost is eminent to prepare plants for their move back inside for winter. Check plants closely for sucking insects and prune any dead or damaged leaves. Apply insecticidal soap if aphids or other small sucking insects are present. Repeat again in a couple of weeks.
-- If there is not adequate space inside for them or they are in poor condition, offer the good ones to a friend and cull those in poor condition.
-- Pinch spent blooms one more time on hanging baskets and containers of annual flowers to enjoy them as long as possible.
James Hodges is a Clemson Extension agent in Greenwood County. He can be reached at 864-223-3264.