Is it fall or is it summer? I’m having a tough time deciding. On Monday morning, I was ready to haul out my snuggies. By Tuesday afternoon, I was back into shorts and T-shirt.
Many gardeners face the same quandary. Is it time to wrap up the gardening season or keep going? The answer is ... the envelope, please ... both.
Numerous plants, whether in the flower garden or vegetable garden, are in their ratty phase as a result of pests, disease or just having run their course. These should be pulled up or pruned back. Their season is over. Yet, other plants are in their prime at this time of year, e.g. anemones, asters and chrysanthemums in the flower garden, and cold hardy vegetables, such as root crops, leafy greens, and Brussels sprouts in the vegetable garden. These will continue to need your attention as far as grooming and pest management.
On a related issue, years ago I would hustle about gathering old bed sheets and tarps every time there was a threat of frost, so that I could cover tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and other tender crops. Then I read some research reports stating that tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables of tropical or sub-tropical origin can be damaged by chilly temperatures above freezing. In fact, it’s already been cold enough to stop fruit set and significantly slow fruit ripening on peppers, eggplant and tomatoes. That’s one reason why I don’t bother to protect these plants from frost. Instead, I harvest what fruit is on the plants once night time temperatures dip below 40 degrees.
Dip into these deeds this weekend:
n Inspect houseplants carefully and frequently, especially if they spent the summer outdoors. House plants brought indoors often experience a sudden explosion in the population of spider mites, aphids and mealy bug (Sounds like a subject for a movie: "Bugs gone wild!"). In such situations, spray plants with insecticidal soap, but check the product label first, since some plants are sensitive to soaps. Also, keep plants with insecticidal soap out of direct sunlight for a few days.
n Harvest shell beans for drying when the plants and pods are completely brown. If wet weather is imminent and pods are not fully dry, cut the plant stems off at ground level; that way you don’t have to fuss with soil-laden roots. Tie plants in small bundles and hang them in a dry airy location. If your regular green or bush beans have become too old to eat fresh, just let them go and treat them as you would any dry shell bean. These beans will be perfectly good to use as dry beans in any recipe. A bean is a bean.
n Make a sketch of the vegetable garden. It doesn’t have to be a van Gogh since all you want to do is record where specific crops were planted this year. Next year, each crop should be planted in a different location. This is called crop rotation, and its purpose is to prevent the buildup of certain plant disease and pest problems.
n Rent a core aerator to improve the condition of compacted soils in well-traveled lawn areas. Core aerators, as opposed to spike-type aerators, remove plugs of soil creating holes for the penetration of air and water which help relieve soil compaction. Spike-type aerators can actually make soil compaction worse, so avoid using them.
n Stop watering amaryllis. Store the plants in a dry, cool (40-50 degrees F) location for about two months. Cut back the leaves when they turn brown.
It will be fall when the annual Harvest Festival is held at the Berkshire Botanical Garden on Oct. 5 and 6. In exchange for a few hours of volunteer time, you get free admission to the weekend festival. To sign up as a volunteer, call the Botanical Garden, (413) 298-3926.