9/12/14: In the garden this week

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You grow asters, right? Sure, they all look pretty much the same–go back to yesterday’s post or to two previous posts on the Asteraceae to see lots of composite flowers–but they’re just so pretty. And there are species for any site, no matter how hot and dry or how shady. And oh how the pollinators love them.

The soil is very, very dry. In the past several weeks, every storm has either passed us by or delivered much less rain than promised. I’m not a big fan of dividing perennials in fall, because the root systems are much smaller and easier to handle in spring, but if you plan to plant or divide, give the soil a very thorough soaking first.

Here are some things you could be doing in the garden this week:

water newly installed perennials and woody plants and vegetables. The recommended amount is 1 inch per week during dry spells, and we are in a dry spell. Most established plants should not need watering, although they may be dropping their leaves a bit early. However, shallow-rooted shrubs such as members of the Ericaceae may need supplemental water: look for curled leaves.

do not prune woody plants. Many trees and shrubs have begun leaf abscission, the complicated process of shutting down for winter. Telltale signs are leaf color and leaf drop. 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. Late crops of fast-growing mustards are ready to harvest. Keep sowing these.

established perennials should need no care. Leave seedheads in place–birds will eat the seeds you don’t collect.

– if you fertilize your lawn, this is the optimum time to 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: because of the drought, shrubs and trees are dropping lots of leave, so collect than and 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. The weather is perfect. September is a good time to plant perennials, while woody plants can be planted until the ground freezes.

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