Working hard in the fall
By Joyce Lavene
Spring and fall are probably a gardener’s hardest working times of the year. We may find things to do during the heat of summer and the cold of winter but the two short seasons are also the times when more needs to be done.
Right now, my yard is crying out for a good pruning. Everything from shaggy plants to broken limbs and yellow tomato plants needs attention. My greenhouse has stood open through the hot months, attracting more spiders than I care to think about as well as a few stray cats that have taken to sleeping there.
The cooler weather reminds us of all the things that need to be done to get ready for winter. It shows us the problems left behind by the days it was too hot to go outside. Spring is the opposite, warm breezes telling us it’s time to get ready for summer and its intense heat.
So I came up with a list of things for my yard that might apply to yours too. Don’t be ashamed if you’ve slacked off, especially the last few weeks when it has been so hot. Get your pruning shears, rakes and gloves out and let’s go to work.
First thing on my list is to stop fertilizing outdoor plants. it’s time for many of them to be cut back or cut down. No need to help them grow anymore.
• Bring in houseplants that have been enjoying a vacation outside. It may seem like you could wait a while but it’s better to do it before the plants begin to feel the outdoor cycle getting cooler. Check carefully for insects!
• Clean up starts with the flower beds. Cut back anything that has finished blooming. Take cuttings and seeds for new plants.
• Divide and move any perennials you’d like to move. This is a good time to start new beds. Be sure to mulch. Dig and store bulbs and tubers as needed for dahlias, tulips or begonias.
• Choose and plant spring bulbs.
• Harvest your remaining vegetables, including green tomatoes. Let them ripen indoors in a dark space. I like paper bags for this but you can also use newspaper and those special ripening bags.
• Clean up fruit that fell on the ground from apple, peach and pear trees. Also figs. I’m really bad with the figs because they get ripe when it’s so hot and you have to fight the bees to get to them.
• Plant trees and shrubs. Keep well watered and add plenty of mulch for the winter. Trim up tree limbs that have broken and suckers growing on crape myrtles and other trees.
• Sow lettuce, onions, radishes for cool season picking.
Obviously this is an ambitious list and not something you (or I) can accomplish in a day or even a weekend. It’s a list to work on through the coming shorter, cooler days leading up to the first frost. Let me know when you finish and we’ll compare notes!