by Georgiana Marshen
September brings, back to school days, the start of beautiful autumn colors, surprised crisp fall mornings and cool evenings, and thoughts of the many chores that lay ahead to prepare our gardens for winter. Starting these chores early and performing them little by little will keep you from becoming overwhelmed, allowing you to finish way ahead of schedule with plenty of time to enjoy the crisp days of autumn.
- Harvest any vegetables left on the plants. Green tomatoes can be put into brown paper bags and stored in a cool, dry place and will ripen slowly. Pull out all of your crops and clean up any fruit and vegetables that have fallen and also any leaves and stems. Debris that is left in the garden over the winter can cause diseases to enter the soil and re-appear the following spring.
- Turn your garden soil and perform a soil test. Check the pH too. Make any adjustments needed.
- You can add horse or poultry manure and compost in the fall, which is the best time. This gives the manure and compost plenty of time to breakdown. Work the manure and compost in and leave the garden messy. This will expose any insects and weed seeds to the winter elements.
- Houseplants that were growing outside should be prepared to be brought back inside. Gather them all and place them in a shady area. Look them over for any signs of insects and prune and repot any that may need it. Leave them in the shade a few days to get them used to low light conditions that will be similar to the conditions once they are back indoors. Browning leaves and leaf drop can happen in some species because of the change in light conditions and the lower humidity that is found in most homes.
- Lift tender bulbs of gladiola, dahlia and tuberous begonia. Carefully dig the bulbs and leave the foliage on. Put the bulbs in an airy, protected area for a two to three week period. Foliage on gladiola and dahlia can be cut off with a sharp knife at this time. Cut at the point where the foliage emerges from the bulb. Begonia stems should be allowed to dry until they are brittle and can be broken off from the bulbs.
- Strawberries and perennials should be mulched to protect them from winter heaving.
- Prepare rose bushes for winter. Prune dead or damaged branches and cut off any old flowers. Using topsoil or mulch, mound the bush and cut canes back to six to twelve inches. To completely protect the bush, you can then cover it using a bushel basket.
- Perennials that are overcrowded or are growing in a ring shape with the center portion missing, should be divided now. Find new spots in your garden or give them away to neighbors.
- Plant flowering bulbs of daffodils, tulips and crocus now for beautiful color come spring. Broadcast the bulbs and plant them where they lay. This is called Naturalizing.
- Lawns could use preparing now for next spring. Aerate and thatch if the soil is compacted. This will allow the soil to drain better and give the roots much needed oxygen. Seeding can be done as well as fertilizing. Seeding early in fall will give the new roots plenty of time to become established before winter.
- Clean up all of your gardening tools. Have pruners, mower blades and shears sharpened now so they will be ready first thing come spring and you will beat the rush of those who waited.
- If you have a garden pool you should drain it to avoid freezing. Hardy as well as non-hardy water lilies can be stored indoors at 50 degreesF in moist sand that is not allowed to dry out. The basement is an ideal place to store these.
Doing these tasks now will give you a head start and wonderful results next spring.