September 23, 2009
As September rolls to a close, we have to begin to think about the dreaded W word. Yes, it isn’t too early to begin to think about winter.
Eventually we will get a frost that will kill off all of the vegetation. A frost will kill off many of the vegetables in your garden. When this happens, it is time to pull up the dead plants. Any of the plants that were diseased should be thrown away and not added to the compost pile. These plants will break down in the compost pile, but unless the temperature during the composting process gets high enough, you run the risk of disease organisms surviving in your compost. There is no sense in taking that chance after all of the problems facing most vegetable gardeners this season. If the plant material was not diseased, add it to the compost pile. As you clean up make sure to pull up any stems that may remain in the soil. Insects can over winter in those stems left in the garden.
Once the vegetable garden is cleaned up, add some lime to the soil. This will help to change the Ph of the soil to a more neutral level. A more neutral Ph level will allow your plants to grow better and to make better use of the fertilizer that you use in the garden. Once you have applied the lime, it is a good idea to apply the seed of a cover crop. A cover crop will germinate and its roots will hold the soil in place over the winter. Without the use of a cover crop, the wind can blow away layers of topsoil. The most commonly used cover crop used around here is winter rye. As the winter rye seed sprouts, it puts up blades that look like grass. Over time, this grassy growth will form a dense mat over your garden. In the spring, the winter rye is turned into the soil. This will add a tremendous amount of organic matter into the garden.
Perennial gardens will need to be cut back after the first frost. It can also be done now if you have the time. You can leave any of your late flowering perennials so that you can enjoy those late flowers of summer. Once you are done with your clean up, you should add some lime to the soil. It would also be a good idea to add some superphosphate to the soil. Superphosphate adds phosphorous to the soil. Perennials use lots of phosphorous to form flower buds and to help with the development of a strong root system. Once the ground has frozen, you should apply a 3-inch layer of mulch over the perennial beds. This will help to prevent damage to the roots of the perennials caused by the alternating freezing and thawing of the soil during the winter.
Your lawn will continue to grow into the fall. By this time of the season, many of you are sick of mowing the lawn. However, if you don’t keep up with the mowing, the blades of grass will get very long and tend to flop over during the winter months. These long blades of grass, lying on the ground will lead to the development of fungus diseases on the lawn during the late winter. As hard as it may be, you will need to keep up with the mowing until the ground freezes or the blades of grass stop growing.
During the fall, many plants take up moisture through the roots and store that moisture in the twigs and stems of the plant. This allows the plants to lose moisture to the drying winter winds. Without this extra stored moisture, the plants would dry out and die. The soil in our area is very dry at this time. You should be watering those plants that need to take up extra water. This would include rose bushes and all of your broadleaf evergreens. If we don’t get a soaking rain each week, you will need to water these plants once a week until the ground freezes.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.