Ron Kujawski | Garden Journal: Garden season is not over quite yet

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There was frost on the pumpkin and this country bumpkin in most locales this past Sunday and Monday mornings. While it is true that certain tender plants were damaged, it has been somewhat disheartening to hear several people proclaim that the gardening season is over. That is hardly the case. Cooler temperatures, the prospect for precipitation, and fall plant sales at retail garden centers and nurseries make this an ideal time to plant deciduous trees and shrubs. In addition, it is a good time to transplant all but evergreen shrubs that may need to be moved. Though shoot growth is not likely to occur now since these plants are going dormant, root growth and development will continue almost up to the time that soil freezes.

There's also plenty of time left to make additional plantings in the vegetable garden. Leaf lettuce, spinach and radishes are among the cool season crops taht grow well in fall. The growing season for these hardy vegetables may even be extended further by growing them under the protection of cold frames or row covers.

Tasks continue

In addition to planting, there are these tasks to remind you that the gardening season is far from over:

• Dig up summer flowering "bulbs," such as canna, caladium, calla, dahlia, gladiolas and tuberous begonias before a hard frost. A hard frost is when temperatures drop below 28F. For most of us, the frost this past week was of the light variety, that is, in the 30F to 32F.

• Shred leaves with a lawn mower. Rake the leaf bits and incorporate them into garden soils or start a separate compost pile with leaves only. Composted leaves, often referred to as leaf mold by those technically inclined or black gold by those who favor eloquence, are great for use in potting mixes. Because of their high nitrogen content, grass clippings may be added to the compost pile to speed decomposition of the leaves.

• Label late blooming perennial plants. Late bloomers are among the last plants to emerge in spring. By labeling the plants now it is less likely that they'll be inadvertently dug up in spring.

• Batten down the hatches. Then caulk around windows, seal openings around doors and repair holes in screens. Lady bugs, Western conifer seed bug, boxelder bug, crickets, clusterflies and wasps are looking for a winter retreat and your house is number one on their list.

• Continue to apply deer repellents to landscape plants favored by the mammal munchers. Applications should be made about every two weeks, or more frequently if rain or wet snow occurs.

• If adding top soil to gardens, mix it into the existing soil. Topsoil brought in from some other location is almost certain to be different from the existing soil. If it is not blended in, the result is a layering of two distinct soil types. Such layering can interfere with drainage if the original soil is denser than the top soil. Likewise, plant roots will only grow in the less dense top soil and not downward into the original soil. This makes the plant more vulnerable to drought.

• Don't get your knickers in a twist if you see your pines, spruce or hemlocks dropping a lot of needles. The older or inner most needles of conifers fall off in fall. (Is that why this season is called fall?) On the other hand, if the outermost needles drop, twist your knickers; you've got a problem.

• Take a break from gardening tasks and take in the festivities at the 82nd annual Berkshire Botanical Garden Harvest Festival on Oct. 8 and 9. For more information, go to: berkshirebotanical.org.


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