Sept. 22 is the autumnal equinox which marks the first day of fall. Days begin to get shorter, crispness is in the air, and pumpkin spice is on overload. I actually read an article that identified several of the craziest pumpkin spice items. The list included pumpkin spice chewing gum, Oreo’s, milk, pasta, potato chips, peanuts, M&M’s, marshmallows, body wash, nail polish, cereal, peanut butter, and pizza. If you are a pumpkin spice fan, fall is definitely your time of year.
The exact time for autumnal equinox this year is 10:21 a.m. The equinox is the moment that the sun aligns exactly on the equator of the earth. There are two equinoxes per year, autumnal which marks the beginning of fall and vernal which marks the beginning of spring. Supposedly at equinox, the time of day and night are exactly equal in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres; each receiving 12 hours of each. However, due to the angular size of the sun and refraction of the earth’s atmosphere, day and night are never equal, and one hemisphere will receive several more minutes of sunlight, causing the day to be longer.
The equinox is important for the agricultural industry, gardeners, and homeowners, because it is directly related to the changes in the seasons of the year. Many cultures have celebrated the autumnal equinox as a harvest time for their agriculture endeavors. Ancient Grecians, Australian Aborigines, Chinese, Japanese, Aztec, and Native Americans held celebrations during this time to celebrate the abundance of the summer’s harvest.
Another astrological phenomenon associated with the autumnal equinox is the Harvest Moon. The term “Harvest Moon” refers to the full moon that falls nearest to the autumnal equinox. This year’s Harvest Moon will occur at 2:40 p.m. on Oct. 5. The Harvest Moon rises over the horizon during twilight hours and sets just before sunrise. Its travel path during this time is closer to the horizon, which gives the illusion of a bigger, brighter, more orange moon. In early agriculture times, the light of the Harvest Moon helped farmers to gather their crops, despite the diminishing daylight hours. As the sun’s light faded in the west, the moon would soon rise in the east to illuminate the fields throughout the night.
During the autumnal equinox and harvest moon, many farmers, gardeners and homeowners could use some extra time for the many tasks at hand. Soil tests should be taken, lime should be applied, and leaves, limbs, and garden beds should be cleaned and debris disposed of or burned. Greens such as lettuce, turnips, and cabbage should be planted in the garden and bulbs, pansies, mums, shrubs and trees can be planted in beds.
You can overseed bermudagrass with annual ryegrass, but do not over-seed St. Augustine grass or Centipede grass. Fertilize lawns with Potassium such as 0-0-50 or 0-0-60 at a rate of 1-lb per 1,000 square feet. If you haven’t applied your winter weed pre-emergent herbicide, get it out before the end of September to control henbit, chickweed, Carolina geranium, annual bluegrass and other winter weeds. Use products with active ingredients of benefin, pendimehtalin, dithiopyr, and prodiamine. As always, read the labels and follow all recommended application rates and safety requirements when applying pesticides. A second application may be needed in December.
Do you want to learn more about horticulture related topics? If so, the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Service is offering the “Friends of Horticulture” program once a month. The next class will be on Thursday, Sept. 21 at 6 p.m. The topic of this discussion will be calibrating hand spreaders and hand sprayers. The location of the class is Sampson Extension Center, 93 Agriculture Place, Clinton. Registration is $5. Secure your spot in this class by calling 910-592-7161. Good luck navigating through all the pumpkin spice products.
The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this publication does not imply endorsement by North Carolina State University nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned.
Brad Hardison is an Agricultural Extension Agent specializing in horticulture. Contact Brad by calling the Sampson County Extension Center at (910) 592-7161 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.