48 September 16, 2006
We have had a lot of cool weather for this time of the year. Many of you have found that your annual flowerbeds are slowing down and the vegetable garden is starting to wind down too. Let’s take a few moments and talk about some of the things going on now in our gardens.
I have had a number of people ask me why their tomato plants are not producing red tomatoes. Some people have told me that their annual flowers look a bit ratty. In most cases the problem is the same. People have not kept up with the fertilizing of their plants. For instance, tomato plants need a fair amount of potassium if the tomatoes are to turn red. If you look at any of the fertilizers that are called tomato food, you should see that the last of the 3 numbers of the analysis is usually a higher number. This 3 rd number is the potassium. If you have not kept up with the fertilizing, then the soil will be low in potassium. If you begin feeding again with a water-soluble fertilizer that is high in potassium, then your tomatoes should begin to ripen.
The same is true with your annual flowers. They require a large amount of phosphorous to continue to produce flowers. All of the newer varieties of annual need to be pushed with fertilizer if you are to continue to get flowers. I know that people get busy in summer, but keeping up with the fertilization of your gardens is very important.
Lawns were hard hit by the heat of the summer. At this time of the year, you should be applying a high nitrogen fertilizer to get the lawn growing again. Lawns need this growth now to help them store food in the roots. If you follow up with a high phosphorous and high potassium fertilizer in 4 to 6 weeks, your lawn will be ready for the all important food storage phase that come about in the fall. Lawns can also be treated now for grubs. The grubs are still small and the grub control work best when the grubs are small. Another important fall lawn chore is adding lime to the soil. If it has been a year or so since you added lime to your lawn, then now would be a good time to add some lime.
Fall is also the time to plant tulip, daffodil, hyacinth and crocus bulbs. These bulbs need to be planted in the fall so that they have time to develop a strong root system and then to be exposed to a long period of cold temperatures. As the soil warms in the spring, the bulbs put out leaves and then their flowers. If the bulbs do not have time to root and then get a cold period, they will not flower properly. You still have plenty of time to plant these spring flowering bulbs. You just need to set aside some time to do the planting this fall.
As your vegetable garden goes by and you eventually pull up all the plants, then you should apply a cover crop of winter rye. Winter rye sprouts in the cool soil temperatures and forms a strong root system and green grassy leaves. The roots help to hold the soil in place during the winter. In the spring, you can turn the winter rye into the soil. The green grassy part adds valuable organic matter and nutrients back into the soil.
I will try to bring this point up on a regular basis in the next few months. Fungus diseases this spring and summer hit many plants hard. Any leaves or plant parts that are left on the ground over the winter will be a source of re-infection next year. I cannot stress enough that fall clean up of diseased leaves and plants will go a long way in reducing problems next year.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.