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September and October Gardening Tasks

Months of September and October Gardening Tasks

Part I

Fall is the time to invest in your future flowering garden beds. Go through the annuals which have done well for you and harvest their seeds. Look for dried flowers which have a brown pod still attached. Remove the pod on a warm bright day so it is dry. Carefully remove any old petals and sepals. Place each variety in a clean envelope label on outside the variety name seal the edges to prevent spilling and place all of them in a box.

Store the seeds in a cool dry dark spot. Closets or drawers work good as long as they will be out of the way and not disturbed.

In the early spring open the envelopes remove and discard the pod shells shake all the seed loose and sow in trays indoors under grow lights or outside after your frost date.

Part II

Division and moving of your perennials should be completed by mid October. Make sure that you keep them well watered weekly until freezing weather. Mulch one to two inches to keep them protected throughout the winter. Do not fertilize until spring.

Many fungal problems of fruit trees can be lessened in the fall. Clean around the trees by raking up leaves and fallen fruit. Dried fruit left on the trees should be removed. Diseases such as apple scab overwinter in infected leaf debris. If left on the ground around the trees spring rains and warm temperatures will reactivate the fungi infecting the new spring leaf growth. The disease won't totally be controlled by the cleaning but will decrease the severity of any attack. In the spring keep an eye wide open for any suspicious damage or growth on the new leaves before blossoming.

Part III

For best flavor and texture winter squash should be allowed to ripen fully on the vine. Once the vines begin to die back and the shells are hard the squash is ready to harvest. A light frost improves the flavor by changing some of the starches to sugars but it will also shorten the shelf life. It's best to pick most of the crop before the first frost is expected then allow a few to remain on the vine until after a frost. If your crop isn't quite ripe before frost threatens you can cover the vines with blankets or a heavy mulch to buy a little more time.

Fall is the time to tidy up your garden beds and landscape. Many insects and disease pathogens overwinter in plant debris and leaves. After your area's first hard freeze (32F or below) remove dead annuals by pulling the entire plant from the ground. Pile the plants in your compost pile but if signs of disease or insects are observed rid yourself of them completely.

Pulling on dead leaves may cause damage to the crown of perennial plants so cut dead foliage and flower stalks at the base of the plant with clean sharp pruners. Add this material to your compost pile as above.

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