In the perennial borders, fall natives like these New England asters (aster novae angliae) are still going strong and will continue to bloom vigorously until frost. And in the vegetable garden, it’s time to transition to fall crops such as cool-weather greens, beets, turnips, and members of the cabbage family. If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to harvest carrots and beets and remove warm-weather crops such as bush beans, cucumbers, and squashes, especially if they have succumbed to pests and diseases. Get them out of there, discard (do not compost) infested plants, and start fresh. There’s still time in the growing season for a good harvest. I planted cool-weather mustard greens three weeks ago, and we’ve been harvesting young leaves and eating them in salads for a week already.
Here are some garden tasks to consider for the coming week:
– 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 water. We received a lot 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.
— think about next year’s perennial garden: what needs to be cut back, moved, divided, replanted?
– harvest squash and beans before they get large and tough. Pull up bean plants when they stop producing. Pull up and discard (do not compost) warm-weather plants such as cucumbers, squash, and beans that are attacked by insects or disease.
— continue to stake tomato plants firmly as they grow and remove all suckers. While plants are still producing fruit, cut back on watering to prevent cracking. If it looks like the weather might turn very cool, harvest green fruit.
— 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, now that the ground is nice and wet, do some weeding.
— fall is the time to renew your lawn. If you fertilize your lawn (although this is not something I recommend), this is a good time to do it, using a slow-release organic product. If patches need reseeding, buy seed and so it as soon as it looks like the weather will stay cool. If you have places where grass won’t grow, consider planting something else next spring!
Now, when most plants have reached their maximum growth for the year, is the time to think about next season: what did well, what needs to be replaced, what should be added? This is the best part of gardening–looking ahead to next season. Enjoy every minute of it.