8/23/13: In the garden this week

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Rudbeckia triloba (brown-eyed susan) is still going strong; note the about-to-open pods of orange butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) at the bottom left. Although the garden is showing many signs of fall, some perennials will continue to bloom for at least another month, and some, such as asters and boltonia, have barely begun. There will be food for pollinating insects and for birds for many months to come.

After a couple of hot days and the nearest we’ve been to a dry spell this summer, we seem to be back to moderate temperatures and rainfall. We had about an inch of gentle rainfall this week, which is ideal during the tomato harvest.

Consider these chores this weekend:

– plant your fall vegetable garden: cool-weather crops such as lettuce, arugula, peas, and mustards (brassicas).

– keep the grass long (3″ or more) to reduce mowing times. Mow with a mulching mower and leave the clippings on the lawn, where they will serve as natural fertilizer. There is no need to fertilize or water. We received about 1″ of rain this week.

– as perennials finish blooming, leave the dead flowers on the plants. Collect seeds as they ripen; let most remain to feed the birds next winter. For most perennials, I will not remove any growth until early next spring.

– harvest squash and beans before they get large and tough. Pull up bean plants when they stop producing.

– continue to stake tomato plants firmly as they grow and remove all suckers. While plants are producing fruit, cut back on watering to prevent cracking. Given the amount of rain we have received this week, there is no need to water.

– monitor the garden carefully for pests and diseases; remove and discard infected leaves on vegetable plants.

– identify pests before taking action: most insects are harmless or beneficial, and many harmful ones can be easily removed by hand-picking. Expect pest populations to decline naturally as the weather cools down.

– take advantage of the relatively cool weather to do garden chores: carry out remedial or cosmetic pruning as needed.

And as always, enjoy the weekend in the garden!

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