~ October 15, 2008 ~
Damp and Drippy...
Brrr... cold, damp and rainy - adjectives for the day. It certainly feels like a real fall day. Sam Parker,
the family dog and I went for a walk this afternoon and I pulled out a winter jacket. To some of you this
must sound extreme. To others, those of you who know me, will remember that I hate, I repeat,
hate the cold. Even drippy, damp cold. Wait until it gets really cold and winter is upon us and I really begin to complain.
The positive - we got a much needed soaking.
If you have been thinking about planting bulbs, now is the time to get busy. I always wait until late October
into November before I am out there placing hundreds of bulbs in my beds. When I say hundreds I am not lying.
I love bulbs. Maybe it is because they remind me of spring. There is nothing as beautiful as a bed bursting
with tulips or daffodils. So many colors and varieties to choose from. Visit your local garden centers now.
Don't wait too long like me, sometimes the best varieties are already gone. Also don't forget to maximize
bloom time. Buy some bulbs that bloom early and late that way you will have something going on in the garden
while your perennials are waking from their long winter's nap.
Will Potted Plants Survive?
This time of year many readers ask whether potted plants can survive
outdoors through the winter. This depends on so many factors. The
size of the planters and the thickness of the planter material
are important. If the pots are big enough to keep the soil from
freezing then some cold-hardy plants will survive. The other
winter. Mild winters will favor plants in large pots.
Microclimate - Sunny
locations will allow the soil (and concrete) to heat up and
keep the soil from freezing.
As a rule in the Kansas City area, choose plants that have a
cold hardiness of at least Zone 3. Also make sure there is adequate moisture
available through the winter.
Iris are known for a couple of very common problems: a fungus
disease known as iris leaf spot and an insect named iris borer.
Though both cause problems in the spring, now is the time to
start control measures. Both the fungus and eggs of the borer
overwinter on old, dead leaves. Removing iris leaves and other
garden debris from the iris bed this fall reduces populations of
these pests. This can significantly reduce problems next spring.
Fall is the time to prepare garden soil for next spring’s
vegetable garden. The spring season is often wet making it
difficult to work soil without forming clods that remain
the rest of the season. By contrast, fall is usually drier
allowing you more time to work the soil when it is at the
correct soil moisture content. Even if you work soil wet in the
fall and form clods, the freezing and thawing that takes place
in the winter will break them down, leaving a mellow soil the
often hide in garden debris. If that debris is worked into
the soil, insects will be less likely to survive the winter.
are also less likely to overwinter if old plants are worked
debris will increase the organic matter content of the soil.
Working the debris into the soil is often easier if you mow
the old vegetable plants several times to reduce the size of
matter (leaves, rotten hay or silage, grass clippings) can
be more effectively added now than in the spring because
there is more time for it to break down before planting.
As a general rule, add two inches of organic material to the surface of the
soil and till it in. Be careful not to overtill. You should end
up with particles like grape nuts or larger. If you work your
garden into the consistency of dust, you have destroyed the soil
Make sure your evergreens are well watered as we ease into winter. If we go a
10-14 days without significant rain you'll want to give them a
good soaking. This will go a long way to helping them survive a
long cold winter.
Salvaging the Season...
As the temperatures start a free fall, many Savvygardeners find themselves with
tomato plants still loaded with green or ripening fruit (photo). The goal of course is
to keep those tomatoes for as long as possible. Here's some help.
As tomatoes cannot be stored at temperatures below 50°F. You need to find a
location that is above 50°F but as close to 50° as possible. For most, this will
probably be the coolest part of your basement. On the afternoon before the first freeze
is forecast pick all the fruit on the plant that are full-sized (regardless of color).
Discard any with severe cracks, disease spots, bruises, or that
are otherwise defective. Divide them into three groups:
- Those that are full-sized and still green,
- Those that are showing some color,
- Those that are mostly red or nearly red.
use the red group first. Layer the
other two groups in a box or carton separated by newspapers so
you can remove tomatoes without having to disturb others in the
As you need
tomatoes, bring some from the "turning
color" group to your kitchen counter
for a few days to allow them to develop their full ripe color.
After this group is used up, begin to use
those from the mature green group. Keep your eye
(and nose) out for tomatoes that are starting to rot and
discard them. The newspaper will absorb juice from rotted
tomatoes without damaging those nearby.
Don't Leave Those Leaves...
Those leaves that are falling all over the region are pretty
but leaving lots of them on your lawn can mean trouble. When
they are dry they shade your grass from much needed fall sun.
When wet they can smother grass turning it yellow and possibly
killing it. Just keep the leaves raked up a few times per week
and you should be fine. Better yet, mow and bag them in your
lawnmower and use the shredded leaves in your garden or compost
Cure For The Common Crabgrass...
As you view your October lawn you may see a horrifying crop of crabgrass.
Much of it has already gone to seed and the rest will soon follow. The
good news is that crabgrass is an annual. The bad news is that it reseeds
freely. All that stands between you and a lawn of pure crabgrass next
year is pre-emergent herbicide. Be ready to apply this in April or whenever
the weather indicates.
"Hold on to what is good even if it is
a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe even if it is
a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do even if it is
a long way from here...
Hold on to my hand even when
I have gone away from you."
~ Nancy Wood, From Many Winters