"My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant's point of view."
~ H. Fred Ale
Bring plants to Topsfield Fair grounds, located on Rt. 1 in Topsfield, Mass., on September 30, between 9 am and 4 PM. Put a piece of masking tape on side of pot with your name, address and phone number. Plants will be on display until October 3, after my live broadcast from the Fair at 2 PM.
Plants can be left at the Fair and will be donated to the Agriculture School. If you have pictures of your plants growing, bring them and label them with your name and address for display. Some plants will be selected for a educational display in the vegetable building.
Listen to the program from 7 AM to 8 AM on Sunday, September 19th for information on growing cotton and what to do with your plants in pots or planted in your garden. Bayer Advanced Lawn and Garden will tell you everything you need to know about harvesting cotton in New England, where the season is short.
If you know anyone who has cotton plants, please let them know of this show. If your station does not carry the program at this time, you can listen via Internet at www.paulparent.com. More information coming for you next week.
September is the perfect time to start a compost pile if you do not have
one yet. Just think of all the plant material you will soon have to work with
and change to beautiful organic matter for your spring garden. Fall will bring
us all the tired and dead vegetable plants and some vegetables that did not have
time to make it to maturity. All of your faded annual flowers and foliage, the
fading perennial foliage, the leaves and pine needles from your trees and the
grass will still need to be cut and more. All you need for a compost pile is
a sunny location and a source to get water to keep the material wet so it can
break down faster--that is all.
I have a Compost Tumbler and I will be able to get two tumblers of compost
from now to the spring. On the ground, if you can start now, by spring your organic
matter will be almost ready when you need it in May. So this year recycle your
spent plants into rich compost for a better garden next year. Mix green and brown
plant material evenly for faster compost. Warning: do not put crabgrass plants
into the compost pile or the seed will germinate in your gardens next spring.
This is the only specific plant you must keep out of the compost pile.
Now is the best time to plant a new lawn from seed or help thicken an existing
lawn that has thinned-out over the summer. The days of roto-tilling are over
and so is the hard work of putting in a new lawn or adding seed to a thin lawn.
Today all you need is a machine called a "Seed Slicer," and you can
rent one at any power equipment rental agency for very little money. This is
all you have to do this fall to create the perfect lawn or a lawn that is much
better than what you have now.
Just follow these easy steps to a better lawn. Begin by cutting the grass
as short as possible; there is no need to rake the clippings unless the grass
is as tall as a hay field. Rent a Seed Slicer and be sure to reserve it a head
of time as this time of the year, it is rented a lot. Your Seed Slicer will slice
many grooves into the soil as it pulls you across the lawn and drops the grass
seed into these grooves at the same time. This machine does all the work and
all you have to do is guide it straight so the seed is applied evenly. You should
be able to apply the seed to a lawn about 10,000 square feet in less than one
hour, so consider renting this machine with a neighbor and splitting the cost
of the rental.
Use a good seed and be sure that it is a PERENNIAL blend, as a blend with
annual seed will die with the first frost. Get good quality seed like Jonathan
Green 'Black Beauty,' Scotts Premium Seed or Wildflower Farm 'Eco-lawn' grass
seed. If you are just thickening an existing lawn, run the Seed Slicer up and
down the lawn once. If you are building a new lawn, run the Seed Slicer north
to south and then east to west for double the seed, which will produce a wonderful
lawn. The cost of the seed is minor, compared to your time if you have to do
this again, so use plenty of seed the first time.
Once the seed is applied to the ground, use a good fertilizer for newly seeded
lawns or seed starter fertilizer; it will make the grass germinate faster and
build a better root system. If moss is a problem you can also add limestone or
Jonathan Green Mag-I-Cal to help sweeten the soil and slow down the moss development
in your lawn. If your soil is heavy with clay, apply liquid Garden Gypsum, made
by Soil Logic, to break apart the clay in your soil for better drainage.
Now all you have to do is WATER--and water often. You will need to water the
seed every day, unless it rains, until the ground freezes. Some varieties of
seed will germinate quickly to keep you interested with this project and then
the stronger grass will develop, so keep the water on the area. Some grass seed
will germinate in just two weeks but some might take as long as four weeks, so
be patient and stay positive for a better lawn. NO WEED KILLERS can be used
For your established lawn, fertilize with a fall or winter fertilizer during
September or October. If broadleaf weeds are a problem, the fall is also a
great time to control them. Use Lime or Mag-I-Cal to sweeten the soil for your
lawn and control moss. Use Garden Gypsum to break up clay and also apply this
product on the side of the road to open up the ground so salt from the snow plows
can leach out of the ground faster and minimize dead grass from the salt.
Check the lawn regularly for potential insect problems that will be noticeable with animals
digging in the lawn. If problems develop in your lawn, check with your local
Garden Center or Nursery for the right product to apply to the lawn.
In the perennial flowerbeds begin to cut back tired perennials to the ground
and continue to remove weeds that develop. Once the plant begins to turn yellow,
cut it back and compost the foliage. If you have open spaces in the garden
between plants, place a plant label there so you can later plant spring flowering
bulbs in the opening for early color. If some of your perennials have grown very
large or have spread beyond where you want them to grow, this is the time to
divide them or thin them out.
When everything is clean, I love to apply a thin layer of bark mulch to keep
the plant roots protected during the winter months and when spring arrives, the
mulch will help control weeds in the garden. Do not fertilize perennials in the
fall because if the weather gets moist and warm some of the plants may begin
to grow and will be killed back by colder weather.
Annual flowerbeds should always be cleaned of all plant debris as soon as
the plants die back. Pull all plants up and rake the garden clean of foliage.
This cleaning removes potential problems for next year that you had this year.
Diseases leave spores on the plant for next year and insects leave eggs for next
year, so get them out of the garden for a fresh start.
If you are using the old-fashioned limestone in your garden, apply it to the
garden now as it may take up to six months to help sweeten the soil. This is
also a great time to spread animal manure, compost or seaweed on the garden so
it has a chance to work its way into the garden soil. Just scratch it in or turn
over the soil to cover the material you are adding to the garden soil.
In the Rose Garden, it is important now to keep the roses well watered but "NO
FERTILIZER"! At this time of the year, you want the plant to begin to "harden-off" the
stems and prepare for the winter with woody and hard stems rather that soft and
flexible growth. If insects visit your garden, spray them and continue to use
fungicides if needed--but no food.
Cut your flowers for a vase of water but do not "cut back the plant" at
all. Roses are pruned in the spring only, to control size, remove dead or disease
branches and to stimulate new growth. If you prune back roses in October, you
are making openings where the plant can lose moisture during the winter as the
plant is going dormant for the winter and is unable to scab over the branches
you cut. The results are branches that dehydrate and die.
When the rose plants are leafless, clean the garden of all foliage on the
ground and remove it from the garden as these leaves carry insect eggs and disease
spores for next year if left on the ground. Spray plants with a anti-desiccant
like Wilt-Pruf or Wilt Stop to help protect them for the winter winds and build
a mound of soil or mulch around the plant 12 inches tall and wide for additional
In the vegetable garden, begin to remove the plants that have stopped producing
and toss them in your compost pile. There is not much time before frost, so any
productive plants should be fertilized now. Use a liquid food like Miracle-Gro
to push the plants and help mature the fruit they are making. Water the garden
as needed to keep plants productive and check for possible late insects. Clean
the garden of all dead foliage as it could contain disease spores and insect
eggs that could infect the garden next year.
If you want a better soil for next year, spread pine needles, ground up leaves
or even seaweed from the beach over the garden and till into the soil. Animal
manure and compost are also very good to encourage beneficial microbes to develop
in your garden soil. Apply limestone to the garden if your tomatoes had black
spots on the bottom of the fruit this year as this is a sign of acid soil and
called "blossom end rot."
Fall is for planting shrubs and tree around your home. It's a great time to
plant, because the ground is warm, traditionally we receive more rainfall and
most nurseries are having sales on their shrubs and trees. Take advantage of
this and get some of your landscaping done now while the weather is nice.
When purchasing plant material on sale, here is what to look for before spending
a lot of money. If the plant is not in a container, examine the root ball and
make sure it is in good shape and firm. The overall appearance should be nice
and green with little damage to the plant. If the plant is deciduous and has
leaves missing, scratch the leafless branches to see if there is green under
the bark that you scratch off. See if the plant looks healthy, if it made new
growth this year and if the nursery cares for its plants properly.
Look at the nursery in general and see how it looks--is it clean and cared
for properly? If the place is a mess, the plant might be also. This year has
been hot, and many plants came into bloom very early in the season and this did
shorten the selling season, especially flowering plants. Most quality nurseries
have sales at this time of year to help move inventory and the plants are in great
shape, so take advantage of this situation. Some nurseries also have a guarantee--ask
Fall is also the time to plan your spring bulb garden for after the long winter
we have coming. I suggest that you plant early-flowering crocus, grape hyacinth,
daffodils and tulips to help get you ready for the arrival of spring.
Did you know that bulbs are graded just as eggs are by their size? When you
buy tulips, you can expect them to flower for 3 to 5 years, if you buy big bulbs.
The bargain bulbs at the box stores will flower but the bloom will be smaller,
bloom a shorter time and last in your garden only 1 to 2 years because of their
If you purchase daffodils, look at the bulb carefully. Check the point on
the bulb and size of the bulb. Bargain bulbs have one shoot or what bulb growers
call the "nose" of the bulb--and that will make one flower. Most garden
centers have double-nose bulbs for 2 to 3 flowers per bulb; these bulbs also
have a better chance to divide and multiply in your garden. Spend a bit more
and get the quality you want for your garden. If you have rodents, rabbits or
deer, ask the sales person to help you select bulbs that are not eaten by these
animals. Plant daffodils rather than tulips and grape hyacinths rather than crocus.
Do not be afraid to ask for help.
When you plant bulbs use a bulb fertilizer, Soil Moist to help hold water
near the bulbs--and at all costs keep away from bone meal or animals will dig
up your garden the same night you planted them. Here is a final tip for you when
planting bulbs, point always goes up and plant bulbs with twice the soil on top
of the bulb as the bulb is high. Examples:
• The crocus is one inch tall, so you must dig a hole three inches deep to cover
the bulb with two inches of soil on top of it.
• Tulips are two inches tall, so the hole must be six inches deep to cover the
bulb with four inches of soil.
Water well and keep soil moist until the ground freezes so bulb has time to
make roots. Get your bulbs now while the selection is best and store in your
garage until you are ready to plant. One more question to ask your sales person
about bulbs: which tulips are early, mid-season or late flowering? That way you
can have continuous flowers for as long as 8 to 10 weeks by planting three different
types. Plant now for a colorful spring, then enjoy!
This Week's Question:
Cotton is mostly grown in the south. But where was Eli Whitney, Jr. (the inventor of the the cotton gin) born?
This Week's Prize:
Espoma Organic Potting Mix
- Contains Myco-toneŽ mycorrhizae
- For all indoor and outdoor containers.
- In 4, 8, 16 qt., 1 and 2 cu. ft. bags.
Last Week's Question:
Why don't botanists consider a strawberry to be a true berry?
Last Week's Prize:
Last Week's Answer:
A berry is produced from one ovary. A strawberry is produced from an ovary plus tissue adjacent to the ovary, so the strawberry is an adjacent or accessory fruit. But, they're simply delicious. (Ed. note: Agreed on the delicious part! Oddly enough, both tomatoes and cucumbers are berries, botanically. )
One winner per question - we choose winners from the list of those who answer correctly. Winners must be newsletter subscribers. We'll ship you your prize, so be sure to put your address in the form in case you win!
Finding gluten-free--and tasty--desserts can be a challenge. Here is a no-bake chocolate almond cheesecake that is yummy and decadent (but safe for celiac disease sufferers).
- 2 cups finely ground almonds
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 packages (24 ounces) cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons rice flour (or other gluten-free flour)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 8 squares baking chocolate, melted
Step by Step:
- On a baking sheet, toast almonds at 325 degrees F for 3 minutes (or until golden brown). Remove from pan and cool completely and grind into a fine powder.
- Combine ground almonds, dark brown sugar, melted butter
and cinnamon, mixing well.
- Press mixture into a parchment lined 13x9 inch pan (you may also line pan in foil if desired). Coat parchment or foil with nonstick spray.
- Bake crust at 325 degrees F for 14-18 minutes (or until pale golden color). Cool completely.
- In a mixing bowl beat softened cream cheese, sugar, rice flour, vanilla and almond extracts until smooth.
- Add slightly cooled, melted baking chocolate and fold into smooth cheesecake filling.
- Carefully spoon cream cheese into cooled almond crust.
- Refrigerate at least 3 hours, until set.
- Before serving, sprinkle with slivered almonds and chocolate curls.
Yield: 4 servings.
Recipe courtesy of "Cooking for Pleasure" by Jeanine Harsen.