♦ Fall is a great time to plant and divide perennials and shrubs for next year’s garden. Plants planted in the fall do not endure the summer heat during establishment and will form sufficient root systems before winter dormancy.
♦ Many B & B trees and shrubs are now sold wrapped in synthetic burlap that will not rot in the ground, resulting in a root-bound plant that doesn’t grow well if the burlap is left in place. Some of this material strongly resembles cotton burlap; if in doubt about the burlap’s makeup, cut it away from the root ball once the plant is in place.
♦ If you are not sure which end of the bulb is the top, plant it on its side. The stem will always grow upright.
♦ Plant peonies now, but make sure the crowns are buried only 1½ to 2 inches below ground level. Deeper planting keeps the plants from blooming. Look for varieties that perform well in the South.
♦ Divide, cut back and fertilize daylilies now to promote root growth for next year’s flowers.
Fruits and Vegetables
♦ During the fall, be sure to water vegetables adequately; crops such as corn, pepper, squash and tomato won’t mature correctly if stressed due to lack of water. Snap bean, tomato and pepper flowers may fail to develop fruit when daytime temperatures rise above 90°F.
♦ Harvesting guidelines: Pears should be picked at the hard ripe stage and allowed to finish ripening off the tree in a paper bag. The base color of yellow pears should change from green to yellow as the fruit approaches maturity.
♦ Cucumber beetles, squash bugs, Colorado potato beetles and European corn borers pass the winter in debris left in the garden. Remove dead plant material and compost it or till it under. This limits your pest population next year to the insects that migrate into the garden.
♦ To harvest sunflower seeds, wait until the seeds are fully grown and firm, then cut the head, leaving one foot of stem. Hang in a dry, airy spot to finish ripening. Do not store sunflowers on top of each other or they may rot.
♦ Winter-type pumpkins and squash, such as acorn, butternut, and spaghetti keep for several months in a cool, medium dry basement, garage or tool shed. Allow the fruit to ripen fully on the vine, and cure in the sun to form a hard rind. Harvest before frost, and leave a piece of stem on each when they are cut from the vine. If the floor is damp, elevate them to reduce the possibility of rot. The best storage temperature is about 60°F.
♦ Keep basil, parsley, garlic, mint and sage producing by pinching off the flowers. Herbs can be used fresh, frozen, or dried. When the dew dries, cut a few stems, tie a strong cord around this little bouquet, and hang in a cool, dry place until fully dry. Place in a jar for use during the winter.
♦ Don’t prune or fertilize fruits now; it may disturb bud formation.
♦ Do not store apples or pears with vegetables such as potatoes and squash. Fruits give off ethylene gas that speeds up the ripening process of vegetables and may cause them to develop “off” flavors.
♦ Beets, carrots, collards, mustard greens, onions, parsley, radishes, spinach and turnips seeds can be planted all month.
♦ Near the end of the growing season, pick off all tomato blossoms that won’t have time to bear fruit so that plant nutrients go into existing tomatoes.
♦ Hot peppers will keep best if stored after they are dry. Pull the plants and hang them up, or pick the peppers and thread on a string. Store in a cool, dry place. Wash your hands after handling them.
♦ Autumn is a good time for improving garden soil. Add manure, compost and leaves to increase the organic matter. Before adding lime, have soil tested to determine if your soil is acidic.
♦ Do not spray pesticides when it is windy or temperatures are over 85°F; and always follow directions carefully.
♦ Washing clothes worn while applying pesticides is important. Use heavy duty detergent and hot water as soon as possible.
♦ Some pesticides are sold as dusts. Dusts cannot be applied as precisely as sprays and may drift to non-targeted areas.
♦ Ready porch and patio plants to bring inside before the first frost; check under the pots for sowbugs and pillbugs.