The start of the fall season provides a convenient marker for a new ‘to do' list in the garden. Post this one on your fridge and relish your time in the garden. In fact, now would be a good time to make some relish in the kitchen. But that is a different matter.
Mark's "Things To Do In The Garden" List:
Peonies. September is ‘peony splitting' month. If you have one that is too big for the space that it is in or if you just want to move it, now is the time. If you divide it, do so with a sharp, serrated kitchen knife. Plant peonies no more than 10 centimetres (four inches) below the surface of the soil and choose a bright, sunny place in the garden.
Seed and sod. If your lawn looks amazing right now skip this part. If it has some brown spots, weak areas, or is tired looking, then now is the best time to thicken it by overseeding with fresh lawn seed. First spread three to five cm of lawn soil over the area to be seeded, rake smooth, broadcast the seed by hand, rake again (lightly) and step on it to firm the soil/seed into contact. Water well and often.
Fertilize with the regular formula (24-0-5) fertilizer now and apply a fall formula (12-0-18) in late October through November to winterize your lawn. As your lawn slows down it stores natural sugars in its roots: the late application of a fall fertilizer helps the lawn to build up winter stores for a better performance come spring. This is the most important application of fertilizer that you will make all year.
Harvest. My 200 tomato plants are producing like never before. Mind you, they ripened a little late but that was due to the cool evening temperatures mid summer. Now that they are coming along I pick every day. I recommend that you do the same just to keep them from rotting on the vine or splitting after a heavy rain.
Harvest ripening apples and pears.
Plant. As your annual flowers begin to wane, now is a good time to plant fall flowering mums, New England asters, sedum, and ornamental grasses. No reason to put up with mediocre performance in your garden when you can have a show stopper. All winter-hardy nursery stock can also be planted now. I have better luck with fall planted trees, evergreens, and the like than I do come spring.
Holland Bulbs. Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and the like are in the stores now. The Dutch harvest was a good one and the selection of these bulbs is best in September. I urge you to buy yours now to get the pick of the crop: by October all of the hard to find and unusual varieties are gone. Check out the deer resistant bulbs on my website www.markcullen.com (under the ‘Hot Topic' heading).
Apply dormant nematodes to your lawn to control common grubs. This is as late as you can leave this job without wasting your money. The grubs move deep into the soil over the next weeks, as temperatures drop.
Raspberries. Prune out the canes on which fruit occurred this summer (July bearing). Allow the new growth room to produce a crop next season. Fall bearing raspberries should be pruned in winter or early spring.
Pick cucumbers and green tomatoes. Make some relish from your garden (I had to say it...). Share your green tomato recipes on my Facebook page (you can find the link on www.markcullen.com).
Take in the parks and open green spaces in your community in September. There is a reason why this is the favourite month of the year for many Canadians. Get out there and breathe deep!
Question of the week:
Why do leaves change colour and fall each autumn?
According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, there is an "abscission layer" between the leaf axle and the stem of the tree or shrub that it is attached to. Eventually this ‘layer' causes the leaf to drop off in the breeze. As the corky cells multiply, they seal off the vessels that supply the leaf with nutrients and water and also block the exit vessels, trapping simple sugars in the leaves. The combination of reduced light, lack of nutrients, and no water, add up to the death of the pigment chlorophyll, the "green" in leaves. Fallen leaves are inert and have no nutritive value - they are pure carbon. This is perfect for building a compost pile or adding to your compost bin. Just be sure to add green, nitrogenous material at a ratio of about five parts leaves to 1 part grass clippings or spent ‘green' tomato/annual flower plants.
Mark Cullen appears on Canada AM every Wednesday morning at 8:40. He is spokesperson for Home Hardware Lawn and Garden. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at www.markcullen.com