9/19/14: In the garden this week

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The nights are chilly, and many trees are showing fall color like this blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium). Each sugar and red maple seems to have one brightly colored branch, as if it’s previewing the color to come. I passed a large and brilliantly red tree today while driving; it was most likely a tupelo. Vines are showing lovely reds, oranges, and yellows as they flaunt their ripe fruit to the birds. Asters and goldenrods show no sign of slowing down.

In addition to enjoying the changing colors, here are some garden chores you might think about this weekend:

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 (we got a scant inch of rain earlier this week). 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. But get ready to harvest all the remaining fruit if the weather prediction is for frost.

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. This is also a good time to reseed the bare spots in your lawn. 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.

Enjoy this lovely fall weather!

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