8/29/14: In the garden this week

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The first New England asters are open, a sure sign of fall. (I’m cheating a bit with this photo, which was taken last year. It’s been too breezy to take closeups in the garden.) The cool nights have been delightful–we’ve barely used our air conditioning this year. In the past week or so, I’ve been seeing hints of color everywhere, especially on the dogwoods and Virginia creeper. Many trees have dropped substantial numbers of leaves. So if you would like to start saving leaves for a compost pile or if you’ve run out of last year’s leaves, now’s the time.

With the shift in seasons comes a shift in garden chores:

– For the first time this season, the ground is quite dry, so if we don’t get significant rain very soon, 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 have begun 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.

– tomato vines are still ripening fruit, so give them no more than 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. Leave seedheads in place–birds will eat the seeds you don’t collect.

– if you fertilize your lawn, apply a slow-release organic fertilizer. Fertilizing is quite unnecessary, but for those who choose to do it, this is the one recommended feeding. Lawns do not need watering, even in a dry period: the more you water, the more you have to mow! Use a mulching mower and leave the clippings on the grass.

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

consider fall planting. Many perennials and woody plants can be safely installed in fall. Wait for the weather to cool down a bit. Late September to mid-October is usually a good window of time in this area, while woody plants can be planted until the ground freezes.

Enjoy this lovely holiday weekend (but hope for some rain)! And do think about saving those leaves. This cranberry bush viburnum (Viburnum trilobum) certainly thinks it’s fall.

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