8/22/14: In the garden this week

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Boltonia asteroides is in full bloom in my garden, and the first New England asters are opening: the garden is shifting into autumn mode. It’s time to stop pruning, to plant fall crops, and to start getting ready for winter:

– We received a scant inch of rain over the past 24 hours, after a bit of a dry spell, so if we don’t get significantly more rain, water newly installed perennials and woody plants and vegetables. The recommended amount is 1 inch per week during dry spells. Established plants should not need watering.

stop pruning woody plants. Many trees and shrubs are losing leaves, which means they’re beginning leaf abscission, the complicated process of shutting down for winter. This takes a lot of energy, so plants don’t have energy to spare for making scar tissue. The next pruning window will come when plants reach dormancy in late fall.

monitor the vegetable garden for pests and diseases and take action immediately. In particular, remove plants affected by borers and wilt, and hand-pick to keep pest populations low.

– tomato vines are still ripening fruit, so cut back to 1 inch of water per week. Remember to take rainfall amounts into account when determining how much to water. Water in the morning, and water deeply. Continue to stake and tie tomato plants and to remove suckers.

plant fall crops such as lettuce, spinach, and other salad greens.

perennials should need no care except pinching to promote bushy plants and keep plants short when necessary. Leave seedheads in place–birds will eat the seeds you don’t collect.

– if you fertilize your lawn (which is unnecessary), plan to apply a slow-release organic fertilizer around Labor Day. Lawns do not need watering: the more you water, the more you have to mow! Use a mulching mower and leave the clippings on the grass.

plan for your autumn leaf collection: save your autumn leaves for compost. Decide now where you will keep them.

One of the most wonderful things about having a garden is observing the change of seasons in minute detail. What changes are you noticing in your garden?

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