2006-09-21 / About Town

The Island Garden

By Roger Marshall

The nights are getting colder and darker and fall has arrived. Soon leaves will be turning, and we'll be raking them off our walkways and lawns, and out of gutters and drains. This year, why not put all your leaves in a contained pile and make leaf mold? Leaf mold is basically the stuff you find on forest floors. Its very rich in nutrients and makes a terrific additive to potting soil and growing beds.


If you haven't done it yet, raise your lawn mower blades and leave the grass longer. This helps to protect its roots during severe cold weather. Buy some Milky Spore powder and sprinkle it on your lawn when daytime temperatures are above 50 degrees. It's the organic way to control grubs in the lawn, and one application lasts about 10 years. The milky spores get into grubs, kill them, and then remain in the soil until more grubs come along so they can infect them. Just sprinkle it around and let the rain wash it in.

In your flower gardens

Did you check last spring and mark where you needed to add more daffodils or tulips? If you did, now is the time to plant them. Jamestown Hardware has boxes of various bulbs on sale, so check 'em out now!

Once again, mark your dahlia stems so that you know what's what when frost kills the tops. Stop applying fertilizer now. You are only forcing growth that will not harden off before frost. Remove any seed heads that have developed or you may find volunteer plants coming up all over your yard.

In the vegetable garden

Mulch your garlic while it is starting to grow. I put chicken wire over the garlic plot to keep animals from digging up the bulbs. You might want to get some spun fleece, sold under the trade name of Reemay, and cover your greens. Most of them will last until Thanksgiving. Make sure you harvest winter squash before animals get it. Before frost gets your tomato plants, hang them, roots and all, upside down in the garage with green tomatoes still attached. Most of the green ones will gradually ripen. Those that don't you can use in chutneys or fry them. Clean up all the dead plants after frost has killed them. I throw tomatoes in the garbage to prevent disease that any plant might have from spreading in the soil. The remainder of your plants can go into the compost heap.

Shrubs and bushes

If you are growing fuschias, wait until the leaves die back then cut them to the ground, mulch them heavily, and hopefully they'll come up again next year. Take a look at your roses and see where they may need cutting back. I prefer to cut roses in the spring, after I've seen what sprigs have been killed by winter frosts. Protect shrub stems against deer damage. If the winter is really cold, expect to see deer in your yard eating the bark off shrubs and young trees.

In the greenhouse

Check your heating system to make sure it works before you really need it. Make sure all the windows are clean and start bringing plants into the greenhouse. You'll need to be vigilant about opening windows this time of year, as a hot sunny day can easily overheat the greenhouse. Check frequently for bugs before they get out of hand. You should also check your pots for snails and slugs before you move them into the greenhouse.

A reminder for those of us on septic systems: You might want to get yours pumped before winter sets in and the ground freezes. It may take a week or two before the honey wagon can come so call now.

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