"Gardening gives one back a sense of proportion about everything--except itself."
~ May Sarton, Plant Dreaming Deep, 1968
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It's official--the last holiday weekend of summer is almost here. That signals the fall preparation of our gardens and the movement back indoors of many of our plants.
In the next 4 to 6 weeks or more, there is a lot to do around the yard.
Many plants will need special treatment before the cold weather arrives to survive until next spring.
Let us hope for a long fall season, as the Farmer's Almanac has predicted a cold and snowy winter ahead for those of us living in New England.
Let's start with the flowering plants that need to be dug up, potted, and brought indoors for the winter.
Plants like geraniums, browallia, 'Nonstop' begonias, coleus, New Guinea impatiens, and even wax begonias.
These plants and many more will adapt to their new home much more easily if they are dug from the garden now and potted.
This gives them time in the container to readjust to their new growing conditions.
Once they are dug up and potted, fertilize and water them and keep them outdoors for an additional couple of weeks as they adjust.
Move them into your home before you close the windows in the house for the season, and turn on the heat, as this will be an additional change in light, humidity, and heat for them; if it is done gradually, your plants will do much better with the move indoors.
When your night-time temperatures begin to reach 55 degrees regularly, it's time to move plants indoors!!!
All plants that have been outdoors for the summer months should be washed with warm water, a soft cloth, and a mild dish detergent like Dawn to remove insects and soil on the foliage.
Also spray with All Season Oil or Pure Spray Green oil to destroy any possible insects or eggs that are on the plant.
If you bring plants that contain insect problems into your home, they will quick multiply and spread to insect-free plants in your home, creating real problems during the winter months.
A good spraying now under and on top of the foliage will go a long way to prevent problems later.
All tropical foliage plants should be also washed and sprayed before coming indoors and placed in their spot in your house for the winter again before you prepare the house for colder weather.
Be sure to fertilize every plant you bring into the house to help give them a boost with the changes.
Be prepared for foliage and flower drop with the changes--but most plant will adjust to the new conditions and replace the foliage and flowers in just a few weeks.
Plants like hibiscus, mandevilla, dipladenia, angel's trumpet, poinsettia and even bougainvillea will do well in your home if they are in a south facing window and stay warm during the winter months--60 to 70 degrees.
There are exceptions like the Christmas cactus, gardenias, and potted florist azaleas; these should stay outside as late as possible in the fall to give the plants time to make the flower buds on the plant.
I keep these plants in a sheltered place outdoors on my back deck or porch during the day and bring them into the house or garage for the evening and bring them in the house permanently in late October.
Once inside, keep in a sunny location that stays cool--50 to 60 degrees--so buds can mature slowly and the flowers will last on the plant longer when it comes into flower.
Gardenias must have a room with humidity in it, so keep plants away from wood or coal stoves.
If you live in a home heated with forced hot air heat, give your plant to a friend for the winter, as the lack of humidity will cause the plant to drop all its flower buds before they have a chance to open in middle to late winter.
Plants like ficus, dracaena, philodendron, yucca, ferns and all your hanging plants will need the same treatment before coming into the house, washing, spraying, and feeding.
During the winter months indoors, cut fertilizer application in half and watch your watering, as different heating systems will change the amount of water your plants will need.
Forced hot air heat and wood or coal stove heated homes will require more watering than oil heated homes, due to the lack of humidity cause by these dry heating systems.
Bulb plants like amaryllis should be dug up during mid-September and placed on your basement floor or crawlspace until the foliage turns yellow and then brown—then remove the foliage.
Once you remove the faded foliage, keep the bulb cool and dormant for at least 8 to 12 weeks before you pot it up, and bring it upstairs to a sunny and warm window for flower to appear on the plant after the holidays.
If your amaryllis is potted, place it in the basement and stop watering.
Cut back foliage when it turns brown and keep the potted bulb cool until you're ready to bring it up for forcing into bloom.
What you should also do in the next couple of weeks is label all your non-hardy summer flowering bulbs.
Name, color and height so when the frost comes and kills the foliage of your plants, you can dig them and prepare them for winter storage in your basement.
Begonias, dahlias, cannas, callas, caladiums, elephant ears and your glads are just a few of our wonderful summer flowering bulbs that must spend the winter months in our basement or they will die when the ground freezes.
When the foliage has turned brown, dig them up, and cut back the foliage of the bulb for storage.
I keep my bulbs in the basement, on the cold cement floor in wooden or heavy cardboard boxes and cover the bulbs with dry peat moss and newspaper for the winter.
A crawlspace will also work very well as long as it stays cool but does not freeze.
Best storage temperatures are between 40 and 50 degrees, and do not water the bulbs while in storage.
I also dust all the bulbs and tubers with a general purpose rose and flower or vegetable garden dust to prevent insect problems while in storage.
Tuberous begonias and calla lilies that are potted can be left in the pot for the winter but you must remove the dead foliage before storing them.
I keep my angel trumpet and edible fig plants in the basement or crawl space for the winter as they are potted and are not winter-hardy here in Maine where I live.
Keep the fig plant outside until the figs are ripe; if the nights are to be cold, bring into your garage and back outside if the day is warm.
When the foliage has all fallen or fruit has ripened, pick and enjoy before moving to the basement.
Water well before placing in basement or crawlspace for the winter.
When angel's trumpet foliage begins to turn yellow and fall, water well and place in basement or crawl space for winter.
Do not water either plant until you're ready to have them begin to grow again in April.
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Your winter vegetables are beginning to mature for harvest and storage this month.
Because of the warmer than normal summer and the extra early spring this year, all vegetables, fruit, and berries are ahead of schedule.
Here are a few ideas to improve this year's crop and next years as well.
September can be very productive for both what you have in your garden today and what your garden can do next year.
If your onion foliage is beginning to fall over, it is time to pull them all up and give them time to dry in your garage while the weather is in your favor.
Choose a day when the garden soil has dried out or stop watering for a couple of days.
This will help the soil to come off the onions more easily and help them store better.
Use a garden spade and loosen the soil around the onion plants before pulling them up from the foliage.
The reason is that you want as much foliage as possible attached to the onion for when you dry out the plant for storage.
As the foliage begins to dry out it will send energy from the foliage to the onion bulb for storage and this energy keeps the onion dormant longer, so never pull up the plant and remove the foliage until it has all turned brown.
Also do not wash the onions; just rub off the loose soil, as watering the bulb can encourage disease during storage.
If you cut the foliage when it is still green it will create a soft spot where the foliage is attached to the bulb, and the spot never seals itself properly to keep out fungus and insects.
Place the onions on the floor of your garage or even on a covered porch, as it will take several days to dry completely and onions should be in a single layer--not put into a pile on the floor.
Also allow the roots to dry on the plant; don't pull them off, as they will dry up quickly and create a protective area on the onion to keep longer.
When the foliage has all turned brown cut it from the bulb but leave an inch or two of brown dry foliage still attached to the bulb--they seem to keep better that way.
Store them in your basement or garage where temperatures stay between 40 and 50 degrees all winter long.
I put my onions in a wooden basket, check them weekly for possible rot development and remove anything that does not look good.
Red onions do not keep as long as the white or yellow onions do, so eat or cook them first.
Potatoes are all finished growing if the foliage has lost its green color and has changed to yellow or brown.
With a garden fork dig them up--but be careful not to get too close to the main stems of the plant.
Use your hands when the soil has been loosened and dig them out yourself.
It's like digging for buried treasure, so be sure to get every potato--even the small ones.
Collect the potatoes and set them on the floor of your garage for a few days so they can dry properly, and any roots still on the potato will have time to dry up.
Any potatoes that are damaged in this process should be eaten as soon as possible as they will not keep; they will quickly rot while in storage.
As with the onions do not wash potatoes; let them dry out of the sun and the skin will become thicker, helping to keep them better while in storage.
Digging is best when the soil is dry, so do not water for 3 to 4 days before harvesting and the soil will come off the skin easier.
Potatoes store best in a cool, dry basement or garage where temperatures stay from 40 to 50 degrees and never freeze.
Those small potatoes you find in the garden are too small for baking or peeling but they are wonderful when washed and used for potato salads or a nice beef stew--with the skin attached, as small potatoes have a very thin and tender skin on them.
Winter squash is growing quickly now and September is the month they seem to put on most of their weight and size.
This week, cut off the very end of every vine that has squash on it.
This will stop foliage growth and new squash development that will not have enough time to mature.
But fruit on the vines that have been pinched will continue to grow larger in size and flavor as cooler temperatures create less stress on the plant and more moisture and nutrition will move into the squash.
Your squash is ready for harvest when the stem from the vine of the plant to the squash begins to turn brown and dry up; if the stem is still green it is still growing so leave it alone.
Feeding your squash plant and foliage with a liquid feed can be very beneficial to the plant at this time of the year.
Liquid feeds like Miracle-Gro or Fertilome Blooming and Rooting are fast acting and will promote additional size to your squash and help thicken their skin for better keeping during the winter months.
Watering weekly also helps promote larger sized squashes.
Pumpkins that have turned orange are finished growing and should be removed from the garden and kept in a cool place until the weather cools off this fall.
Cut the stem of the pumpkin with a sharp knife or garden shears and be sure to leave a stem.
Pumpkins without stems have a very short life span and rot very easily.
Also, never carry the pumpkin by its stem, as most are not strong enough to hold the weight of the pumpkin--especially if it's a large one.
Pumpkins and squash keep best in a cool and dry basement, crawl space, or garage where temperatures do not drop below freezing.
Do not stack them on top of each other during storage, as they will become bruised and will not keep as long.
Also do not wash them when you put them in storage as you will remove the protective covering on them--like your other winter vegetables--and increase chances of fungus problems on the skin.
Beets I leave in the garden until all the foliage has died and then pull them out of the ground.
I let them dry on the garage floor for a few days and remove any foliage that remains before storing them in baskets that I keep in my basement on the floor.
Beets keep until February in storage areas that stay 40 to 50 degrees and dry.
Carrots I dig up in November just before the ground freezes.
I then cut off all the foliage about an inch above the orange carrot tuber and place the carrots in a wooden box standing up carrot to carrot.
Buy a bag of sand box sand and pour it over the carrots filling in the spaces in-between them and cover them with an inch of sand.
Keep in a cool basement 40 to 50 degrees with other vegetables and they will last most of the winter.
When I lived in southern Massachusetts I would cover the row of carrots with bales of straw and that would keep the frost out of the ground so I could pull them up when I wanted during the winter.
Cape Cod with its sandy soil is perfect for storage in the planting bed as long as you have a mild winter and the bed is open to the sunshine.
If you have a surplus of tomatoes and a freezer do this; you will have fresh tomatoes for sauce or soup all winter long.
As the tomatoes ripen wash them well, fill a freezer bag with them and place them in your freezer.
On a cold winter morning, pull out a couple bags of frozen tomatoes and place them in a pot of slow boiling water to crack the skin from the tomato.
It will peel off very easily and you can then place the skinless tomatoes in a pot with low heat.
In a couple hours they will be all soft and ready for soup.
I mash them with hands or potato masher, then clean out the vegetable crisper in the refrigerator and use up whatever I have there.
Add onions, celery, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. and let it simmer all day long.
With a few herbs and spices added to the pot, the entire house will soon smell great for supper.
The last half hour I add a bit of rice or pasta to the mixture and supper is ready with nice crusty bread and a glass of wine.
Let the snow fall!
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We have now lost over 2 hours of daylight every day, and the way we garden must change in the days to come.
If we are going to solve problems around our yard we must act fast, and some of the traditional ways we have been gardening need to change also.
The fall season is a wonderful time to get back into the garden after all of the heat of summer.
This is a season of planting fall flowers; our shrubs and trees will soon be changing the color of their foliage, changing the landscape around us, and we will be planning for next spring by planting Dutch flower bulbs.
This is also the best time of the year to repair or even plant a new lawn from seed around the house.
So here is a check list of things for you to do in your yard during my favorite time of the year, the season known as fall.
Let's start with the lawn, because we want our lawn to be the best on the street and fall is the best time to make it happen.
Begin by walking on your lawn and examining it closely so you know what you have to do.
Do you have broad leaf weeds, crabgrass, or insect problems? If so, here is what you have to do.
Broadleaf weeds can now be controlled with a product like Weed-B-Gone Max, or Weed-Beater Ultra now that the 85 degree days are behind us.
If you're still experiencing hot weather, wait or the products could hurt your good grass.
Remember not to cut your lawn for at least 3 to 4 days before applying the product and the same after you have applied it, so the product has a large leaf surface from the weed to absorb the product for better results.
Tough weeds like clover, creeping Charley, and ajuga should get a second application 7 to 10 days later to destroy these very strong lawn weeds.
Keep the kids and pets off the grass until it has dried completely.
No rain or irrigation for 24 hours after you apply the product so it has time to get into the plant and kill it.
Crabgrass is a big problem right now and no weed killer will kill the plant as it is mature and making seed for next year.
What you HAVE to do is let the grass grow a bit taller than normal so the crabgrass plant can develop long stems that hold the seed heads.
Each crabgrass plant can make 500 plus seeds and when you mow the grass you must bag the grass clippings as they are full of seeds for next year.
If you do not have a mower with a bag attachment borrow your neighbor's lawn mower or you will spread the seed all over your lawn making it a worse problem for next spring.
If you're beginning to notice a red coloration in your lawn, you have crabgrass growing in it and it is making seeds, so bag it up and dispose of the clippings with the trash; do not put your clippings in your compost pile, as composting will not kill these seeds.
Insects are still active in your lawn and if you're beginning to notice birds digging in your lawn, or irregular shaped dead patches in the lawn, it could be Japanese beetle grubs damage.
This will soon be followed by skunks or raccoons digging up your lawn in large patches--just like a farmer tills his fields.
It is too late for the traditional products like Season Long Grub Control or Grub-X, because the season is coming to an end and they will not work with the cooler weather ahead of us now.
Change to 24 hour Grub Killer Plus with the active ingredient called DYLOX and the grubs will all die in just a day or two along with other common lawn insects like chinch bugs, sod webworms, crickets, grasshoppers and ticks.
This is the best time of the year and MOST EFFECTIVE time to kill Japanese bamboo--while it is in flower.
The plant is now full of upright broom-like white flower clusters. When this happens all the reserve energy normally stored in the roots is on the top of the plant making flowers that will in the weeks to come become new seeds for even more Japanese bamboo plants for your yard.
Because all the energy is out of the roots, the weed killers you apply can travel from the foliage directly to the roots and can kill 75% or more of the existing plant.
Use Round-Up Extra Strength, KleenUp or Killz-all now; repeat in a week to 10 days and watch the plant slowly turn brown and DIE! Applying these products during the growing season is not effective--only now! This spraying of the plant will also make the seeds sterile and they will not germinate, so if you're going to do only one thing in the garden this week let it be this.
Do not cut it down until late October or in the spring.
In the rose garden I want you to STOP fertilizing your plants for the year! This will cause the plant to prepare itself for the winter months and build strong and thick tissue instead of new succulent growth.
Your plants will continue to flower if you water regularly with 3 to 5 gallons of water per week and cut back the faded flowers to just above the third set of leaf that has 5 segments to it.
By October build a mound of bark mulch 12 to 15 inches high and just as wide to insulate the graft on all your grafted roses for added winter protection.
The only roses you do not have to do this to are your Rosa Rugosa or beach roses, also any rose plant that you have purchased that states it is "grown on its own roots," like the Flower Carpet Roses from Tesselaar Nurseries plant breeders.
What your roses will need is a good spraying now--and again in 2 to 3 weeks--to control insect and disease with products like Bayer Advanced Insect, Disease and Mite control or Bonide Rose RX 3 in 1 spray.
Once the foliage drops from the plant, be sure to remove it and keep your rose bed clean of infected foliage to prevent problem next year.
Your rose bush will continue to flower as long as the weather stays mild; it is not uncommon to have roses in bloom well into November if cared for properly.
Fall is also the best time to kill moss growing in your lawn and garden.
Most garden centers have moss killers that you can apply now and the grass growing around it will fill in the space in the weeks to come.
Now that the moss is dead you should still add limestone, wood ash from your stoves, fire pits, or Jonathan Green Magic-Cal to reduce the acidity level in your soil, which will help prevent future growth of new moss plants where you just killed them.
As you clean up your garden, be sure to add lime, wood ash, or Magic-Cal to keep the soil sweet and productive.
Your vegetable garden will become more productive; lilacs love a sweet soil and the plant can make more fragrant flowers. Also clematis vines love lime for the same reason--so start creating a better environment for your plants to grow.
Newly planted shrubs and trees should also be fertilized with an organic plant food for slow feeding of the plant until the ground freezes.
Chemical fertilizers like 10.10.10 could force new growth if we have a mild and moist fall, while organic fertilizers feed slowly and most of this fertilizer is stored in the roots of the plant to help keep it strong during the winter and a give a quick start-up when spring weather arrives.
Use Plant-Tone for deciduous plants, Holly-Tone for all evergreens or Dr. Earth Shrub and Tree fertilizer with Pro-biotic for all plants.
After you cut back your perennials for the season, you can also apply organic plant foods to help keep them strong for the cold weather ahead, do not use the stronger chemicals for the same reason.
Any tree you planted this year that is over 6 feet tall should also be staked with a tree support kit to prevent wind damage during the winter months.
If you planted fruit frees, be sure to wrap the trunk of the plant from the ground up to the first branch with Hardware cloth to prevent mouse, rabbit and other animal damage during the winter.
Push the wire into the ground a couple of inches and leave an inch of space between the wire and the trunk of the tree to prevent animals from eating the bark of the plant when the snow gets deep.
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Paul Parent will be hosting a tour that includes:
- Vancouver, BC
- Butchart Gardens--55 acres of floral display!
- Cruising the Inside Passage:
- Icy Strait Point
- Hubbard Glacier Cruising
- Scenic Drive to Anchorage
- Denali National Park
- Fairbanks City Tour, a tour of the Gold Dredge # 8 and a cruise down the Chena river on the Riverboat Discovery Sternwheeler.
Click here for more information.
This Week's Question
What is the world's oldest botanical garden that is still located on its original site? (Note: There is an older one but it has moved twice.)
This Week's Prize:
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Last Week's Question:
What was the first vegetable grown in space?
Last Week's Winner:
Last Week's Answer:
Last Week's Prize:
Liquid Plant THRIVE
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!
Are you looking for a great gift for a gardener (or yourself)? This garden
journal helps make planning and organizing easy. This journal, autographed
personally by Paul,
makes a perfect gift for gardeners. The cover holds a 5x7 or 4x6 photo and a
heavy-duty D-ring binder.
- 8 tabbed sections
- 5 garden details sections with pockets for seeds, tags...
- Weather records page
- 6 three year journal pages
- Insect & diseases page - 3 project pages
- 3 annual checklist pages
- Plant wish list page
- 2 large pocket pages
- Sheet of garden labels
- 5 garden detail sheets
- 5 graph paper pages for layouts
- 5 photo pages, each holding four 4x6 photos in landscape or portrait format
Click here to order online.
What you need:
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh carrot, shredded
- 1/3 cup fresh onion, shredded
- 1/3 cup fresh zucchini, seeded and shredded
- 1/4 cup fresh green pepper, shredded
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 5 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
- 6 cups shaped pasta (fusilli, campanella, gemelli or conchiglie), cooked and drained
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/3 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Step by Step:
- Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven or skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add shredded carrot, onion, zucchini and green pepper; sauté until soft and translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add minced garlic; sauté for an additional 30 seconds, or until fragrant.
- Add chopped tomatoes; cook until thoroughly heated (about 2-5 minutes), stirring occasionally.
- Add cooked pasta and basil, cheese, salt and pepper; toss ingredients gently to combine.
Yield: 6 servings