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The subtleties of Autumn – what a wonderful time to enjoy the garden.

native ashAs our gardens begin to show the effects of the summer heat and now the cooler night temperatures, plants turn from lush greens to the colors of Fall – gorgeous umber and sepia tones, goldenrod and red. Petals drop, leaves fade and the graceful lines of plant structure emerge. The pattern of branch formations are finally visible and the striking textures of various bark that was hidden all Summer is now on display.

Weather can be highly variable this month. We can expect our first night frosts by mid month but these last weeks have been a glorious Indian summer with warm days and just a scattering of rain to freshen up the garden. Look for a pink tinge in the morning sky as this often means rain is on it’s way but a little moisture really makes for a perfect time to work the garden.

Here are some tips on gardening in October:

Pick a bouquet of branches and spent grasses, dried seedpods or evergreens to bring indoors.
Harvest late apples, pears, pumpkins or quince. Once the frosts come they will be damaged. Gather walnuts as well and store in a warm dry spot until heady to crack.
One last round of weeding will go a long way toward easing Spring clean up.
This is a great time of year to mulch with a compost, manure or composted bark to clean up beds and keep down weeds over the winter.
Continue planting bulbs for spring and summer blooms.
Its still perfectly fine to plant perennials now and since the rains are coming it will be much less work for you.
Start ground covers so they can spread out over the winter and come up full and fresh in the spring.
Cut back non shrub roses to protect from winter winds.
Move potted containers to a protected location where they will not fill with water and crack.
There is still time to seed some cover crops if planted early in the month. Cover crops in veggie patches help to keep soil in beds, they fix nitrogen, keep down weeds and give you something to look at besides bare dirt all winter long.
Pot up bulbs like narcissus and amaryllis to force for the holidays.
Bring in tender house plants that have spent the summer on the patio. Check for pests hitchiking indoors and give them a nice warm shower to clean leaves before the move inside.

September garden tips

Japanese anenomeVegetable gardening isn’t over yet!
Plant:
We still have time to get in short season crops from seed like radishes and beets. And you can plant all sorts of cold hardy greens like kale, mache, arugula, sorrel, asian greens, endive, and lettuces to harvest later in the fall. This is also the time to get garlic and shallot bulbs in the ground for harvest next year. For more winter hardy options for Spring harvest try kale, cabbage, or fava beans.

Protect:
Spread straw or mulch for added protection of overwintering crops or fallow beds.
Protect young fruit trees from insects and winter cracking by painting a strip on the lower truck with interior white latex paint mixed with a .5 ratio of water.
The downside to dry soil, cool nights, warm days and added moisture on foliage is that it is the perfect conditions for powdery mildew. Keep an eye out and destroy leaves as it appears.

Harvest:
As vegetables ripen pick them, remove the spent plants to your compost and replace with winter plantings, mulch or a cover crop to enrich the soil for next year.
If you want to collect seeds from your vegetables and flowering perennials see our previous blog post with tips.

Perennial beds and landscape maintenance:
Fall is one of the best planting seasons. The soil is still warm and easy to work and since the air temp has cooled a bit it’s much more pleasant for us too. Morning dew and (hopefully) the occasional shower is giving our gardens a bit of drink after the dry season and makes the soil easier to work too.

When you plant perennials and trees now you give your plants a jump on root development so they are better prepared for a beautiful show next season. Plants that have the fall and winter to develop will be better prepared for drought tolerance and to fight off disease and pests next season. Plus they will be more likely to set blooms and gorgeous foliage. The exception is borderline tender plants – which do better if planted in the spring so they have the summer to develop and prepare for their first winter out.

Bulbs are here too – if you want Spring bulbs to bloom now is the time to plant them. And if you want to force bulbs for the winter start looking now while the selection is best.

Dig plants that will not winter over such as dahlias and tender canna. Bring houseplants indoors. Divide iris, grasses and lilies. If you want to divide peonies now is really the only time of year it should be done. Remember to keep the peony roots close to the surface when replanting so they will be sure to re-bloom in the following year.

September can still be dry so watch the moisture level of transplants until the Fall rains come but hold back on watering after the night temperatures drop consistently below 50 degrees.

Saving seeds

photo

Has your garden gone to seed? Don’t despair – collect those seeds for next year or just bring them inside to enjoy.

If you have decided not to replant another round of Fall/Winter veggies and the old ones are bolting, consider letting them mature to seed and collecting for next years sowing.

While it is very easy and fun to save seeds there are a few challenges. Hybrid plants have great qualities like disease resilience and productivity but their seed is often sterile or won’t produce offspring true to the parent plant so it is better to not save seeds from hybrids, choose heirlooms instead.

Another issue that can arise in saving seeds is that some plant flowers are open pollinated which means they can cross with other plants in their family and their offspring are a bit of a wildcard. These plants include broccoli, basil, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, cucumbers, chard, celery, kale, melon, mustard, onion, parsley, squash and spinach. The good news is that some of our favorite plants will not automatically cross pollinate and so are very easy to save seeds – peas, beans, tomatoes and peppers are ideal.

Most seed heads will develop a pithy outer covering, look for that substance to begin disappearing, as the seeds start to emerge it it time to harvest. Remember that most of the drying process should be done on the plant to be sure the seeds have fully developed.

Peas and beans:
Allow the pods to remain on the vines until they brown and dry. Pick and take indoors to continue drying in an open mason jar for two more weeks.

Peppers:
Pick a robust very ripe pepper, bring inside and allow the fruit to whither and begin to dry (about a week). Scoop out the pith, remove seed, spread over paper in a cool dry place for 1 to 2 weeks.

Tomatoes:
Choose a beautiful tomato (you want the healthiest one you can find), scoop out the seeds and surrounding goo, place in a grass jar with a little water. You will allow this mixture to ferment for about 5 days after which the good seeds will sink to the bottom of the jar. Dry them off and spread over paper to dry for 1 to 2 weeks.

And don’t forget your flowers too – there are so many blooms that produce lots of seeds that you can simply let fall to produce drifts of flowers in seasons to come or you can collect them and help them along. Poppies, columbine and daisies, hellebore, sunflowers, feverfew, zinnias, cosmos, coreopsis, and so many more!

Once you have dry seeds to store place them in small paper bags and be sure to label them. Put dried seeds in the freezer for two days to kill any pests that may piggyback. They can be stored in a cool, dark, dry place or in the refrigerator. If you choose the fridge it is wise to include a packet of dry milk or silica in order to keep them moisture free.

The subtleties of Autumn – what a wonderful time to enjoy the garden.

native ashAs our gardens begin to show the effects of the summer heat and now the cooler night temperatures, plants turn from lush greens to the colors of Fall – gorgeous umber and sepia tones, goldenrod and red. Petals drop, leaves fade and the graceful lines of plant structure emerge. The pattern of branch formations are finally visible and the striking textures of various bark that was hidden all Summer is now on display.

Weather can be highly variable this month. We can expect our first night frosts by mid month but these last weeks have been a glorious Indian summer with warm days and just a scattering of rain to freshen up the garden. Look for a pink tinge in the morning sky as this often means rain is on it’s way but a little moisture really makes for a perfect time to work the garden.

Here are some tips on gardening in October:

Pick a bouquet of branches and spent grasses, dried seedpods or evergreens to bring indoors.
Harvest late apples, pears, pumpkins or quince. Once the frosts come they will be damaged. Gather walnuts as well and store in a warm dry spot until heady to crack.
One last round of weeding will go a long way toward easing Spring clean up.
This is a great time of year to mulch with a compost, manure or composted bark to clean up beds and keep down weeds over the winter.
Continue planting bulbs for spring and summer blooms.
Its still perfectly fine to plant perennials now and since the rains are coming it will be much less work for you.
Start ground covers so they can spread out over the winter and come up full and fresh in the spring.
Cut back non shrub roses to protect from winter winds.
Move potted containers to a protected location where they will not fill with water and crack.
There is still time to seed some cover crops if planted early in the month. Cover crops in veggie patches help to keep soil in beds, they fix nitrogen, keep down weeds and give you something to look at besides bare dirt all winter long.
Pot up bulbs like narcissus and amaryllis to force for the holidays.
Bring in tender house plants that have spent the summer on the patio. Check for pests hitchiking indoors and give them a nice warm shower to clean leaves before the move inside.

 
© thicket 2014

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