detail-of-red-swiss-chard-leaves-in-garden-picture-id616880624.jpg

detail of red swiss chard leaves growing in garden

Sunny days still bring the heat, but cooler nights hint of things to come.

Tip of the Month

Swiss chard ( Beta vulgaris) is a Sicilian native.

It is a member of the beet family, but does not produce a bulbous root. It is a cool season, leafy green vegetable that tolerates hot and dry temperatures. Its taste is mild, with leaves similar to spinach and stalks that compare to bok choy. It can be a colorful addition for both edible landscaping and ornamental plantings. When choosing varieties to add to your garden, consider both stalk and leaf color. You’ll find cultivars with a variety of hues, textures, height and some have shorter days to maturity. Leaves vary from soft and tender to thick and “leathery.” Stems can be thick and robust or thin and delicate. Leaf appearance includes the degree of leaf “savoyness” (or wrinkling). This fast-growing veggie thrives in moist, humus-rich soil with plenty of sun. To harvest, cut leaves at the base of the plant so new leaves will grow quickly. Young leaves are tasty in salads.

Plant

Plant citrus while the weather is still warm. Choose varieties that are better adapted to desert conditions. Plant strawberry varieties that perform in low-desert conditions.

Choose a location that has protection from afternoon sun.

Plant fall herbs such as chives, thyme, catmint, cilantro, cumin, dill, fennel and parsley.

Transplant herbs such as lemongrass, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme.

Prepare

Dig compost into vegetable beds.

Move container plants to sunnier locations.

Chill tulip, crocus, daffodil and hyacinth bulbs in the refrigerator for eight weeks prior to planting.

Prune

Cut back tomatoes and peppers that made it through the summer to promote a new bloom before frost.

Trim roses and remove dead twigs to promote a second bloom.

Prune shrubs such as oleander, privet, xylosma,Texas ranger and Arizona rosewood that have become overgrown.

Water

Cut back on water for deciduous fruit trees, grape vines and citrus to slow growth and get ready for cooler temperatures.

Water citrus deeply out to the plant’s canopy every two weeks.

Maintain

Hose off dusty plants to control spider mites.

Divide iris this month. Dig up large clumps and cut rhizomes into small pieces.

Pull and compost the last of the summer annuals.

Incorporate four to six inches of organic matter.

Fertilize

Fertilize with nitrogen in early September to provide nutrients to summer-stressed plants.Water the day before and after applications to prevent burn.

Feed roses with a slow-release fertilizer that will last through fall.

Fertilize citrus with the final application of nitrogen for the year.

Add organic nitrogen sources to the soil, including alfalfa meal, blood meal, coffee grounds, cottonseed meal, fish emulsion and guano.