Thursday, October 7, 2010

October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came -
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples,
And leaves of every name.
The Sunshine spread a carpet,
And everything was grand,
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band.
~George Cooper, "October's Party"
End of Season Clearance Sale

30% OFF Trees, Shrubs, Perennials, and Herbs

October 9th - October 17th

We will be closed Monday October 11th.

"Late Fall in the Perennial Garden" By Dr. Leonard Perry

After reading this article, we wanted to share it with you, so we can all 'try" to properly bed-down our gardens for the winter.

Late Fall in the Perennial Garden

By Dr. Leonard Perry,
Extension Professor, University of Vermont

If you're like me and haven't quite got your perennial garden in top shape, fall is a great time to catch up and have it ready for rapid spring growth. Fall is more leisurely, it is more cooling working outside, weeds don't grow back, and you can go into winter feeling a sense of order and accomplishment.

Here are 10 activities I "try" to get to each fall:

1. Cutting back. I used to leave perennials until spring so their leaves and stems would recycle nutrients back into the soil, as well as providing seeds for birds in fall. There never seems enough time in spring, though, so I have begun cleaning up and cutting back in the fall. I still leave ornamental grasses and plants with attractive seed heads. This way I have some fall effect, yet less cutting back in spring.

2. Checking labels.I like to keep track of what I planted, and over time labels seem to drift around, the writing wears off, or plastic labels break when exposed to sunlight. As a famous garden writer once said, the only thing worse than a plant without a label is a label without a plant. For large markers, what I've found work best are the soft aluminum labels you write on and make an impression. Even if the ink fades, the impression remains to identify the plant. Plastic labels, which require replacing yearly or as they become brittle in sunlight, work well. Best is to write on them with pencil (which often holds up better than "permanent" markers).

3. Planting spring bulbs. Ideally spring-flowering bulbs should be planted in late-September through October in the north. But if they aren't in the ground yet, better to plant late than wait or not plant at all.

4. Caging tall plants. If you have tall perennials, an effective method of staking is to make a cage of wide mesh fence to place around them. During the slower fall months when you're not busy mowing and weeding, make some of these up and place on taller plants once you cut them back. If in a windy area, you may also have to put in a stake with the cage to hold it in place. You may have a couple of different sizes for different height perennials. Plants will then grow up through the cage next spring, often hiding it entirely.

5. Soil testing and amending.It is a good idea to test your soil every year or two, amending it with lime and nutrients as needed. Kits are available from many garden stores and your local Extension office. Lime is important to adjust the soil pH, raising it when too low or acid. Without the proper soil pH nutrients wont be as available, and plants wont grow as well. As lime is slow acting, fall is a great time to add it if needed, so it can improve the soil by spring.

6. Adding compost. A soil amendment you really can't have too much of is compost. It adds some nutrients, improves soil structure, and helps soil microorganisms that help plants. I like to add a shovel full or two around perennials once cut back in the fall so it too can act over winter, working into the soil. If buying compost, make sure it is from a reputable source and weed free.

7. Rodent and animal prevention.Rodents such as voles or field mice are looking for winter homes this time of year and getting set up. Cutting back perennials and disposing of the stems (such as composting), keeping grassy areas mowed, and traps are all effective deterrents. For voles, an effective trap is to bait an inexpensive spring trap with peanut butter, placing it by an entry hole to their burrow, and then placing a pot over the hole to trap. This way they think they're still in the burrow and come for the bait. If planting bulbs such as tulips that squirrels and chipmunks love to dig up, place wire mesh on top of the bed. Avoid bone meal (attracts skunks which dig but don't eat bulbs), using another source of phosphorus such as rock phosphate (organic) or superphosphate instead. Covering the bed with sharp stones or shells helps prevent digging too.

8. Dividing peonies.Wait to spring to divide most perennials when they are beginning active growth, but divide peonies most any time in the fall. Keep in mind they may not bloom the following spring while they are getting new roots and growth.

9. Edging beds.Having a neatly edged bed does more than just keep surrounding grass from growing into it. A neat edge provides a sense of satisfaction, beauty, and for a "wild" bed that is natural or just out of control, indicates there is a bed there and a purpose.

10. Storing tools and chemicals. Use a brush and water to scrub your tools, then wipe with a light coating or spray of oil (such as cooking oil). Many use a 5-gallon bucket filled with sand and a quart of motor oil. After using tools, scrape and rinse the heaviest dirt off, then push the tools in and out of the sand mixture a few times. The sand helps remove other dirt, the oil helps prevent rust.

Don't forget to sharpen hoes and cutting tools such as pruners. Sharpening stones or power grinders and sharpeners are available at complete garden and hardware stores.

Don't forget to disconnect and drain garden hoses on a warm day before they freeze solid for winter. The same applies to sprayers. Otherwise you may have openings in the spring not just at the ends!

If you have chemicals, especially liquids, in an outdoor shed or unheated area, make sure they get stored in a non-freezing place over winter.
Everyone must take time to sit

and watch the leaves turn.

~ Elizabeth Lawrence

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Time to Plant Bulbs...Garlic, that is!

Once you've tidied up your garden beds for the winter, make time for one more task: Planting bulbs. There is nothing like spring flowers and summer garlic. Yes, plant some garlic bulbs now for more flavorful cooking next summer.

Garlic is more than just a versatile, indispensable kitchen seasoning. Garlic has many health benefits that include antioxidant properties, promoting the health of the heart and immune systems. Garlic even has been shown to reduce cholesterol.

As a companion, garlic is super. Garlic (along with other “fragrant” crops like onions, chives, and some herbs) repel insects or mask the scents of tasty crops that attract insects. Planting garlic among your other crops may well deter pesky pests from your vegetables. Planted at the base of peach trees, it repels borers.

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a hardy, perennial member of the onion family. Unlike onions, garlic plants produce a number of small bulbs called cloves rather than one large bulb containing multiple layers.

Beneath garlic's papery-thin, white skin are a dozen or so cloves. The larger outer cloves produce the best garlic.

Variety...the spice of life and Garlic comes in dozens of varieties. They fall into three major categories:

(great-headed) garlic has a mild flavor, somewhat like garlic and onions together. The large bulb has few cloves.
  • Mild-flavored, cold-hardy stiffneck varieties, with cloves surrounding a thick central stem that curls as it grows. Stiffneck varieties don't store as well as others.
  • For garlic you can braid for storage, choose a softneck variety. The "necks" stay soft once harvested which allows for braiding.
Don't plant bulbs from the garlic you buy at the grocers. Some is treated so that it won't sprout, and you won't know what variety it is.

Timing is key: Garlic should be planted before the ground freezes. It won't take long for the cloves to begin establishing roots and sending out shoots before the ground freezes. The winter cold is needed for bulbing (formation of side buds) the following year that will grow to make the new cloves you'll harvest next summer.
Location, Location, Location... Garlic enjoys basking in the sun. Choose a spot that has not grown onions in the past few years. Plant in well-drained, weed-free soil, such as a raised bed in slightly dry soil.
A Few Do's and Don'ts:

  • Do plant only the healthiest garlic cloves. The larger the cloves, the larger the bulbs next year.
  • Do not divide the bulbs into cloves until you are ready to plant them.
  • Do keep the papery husks on the cloves.
Plant the cloves three to five inches apart and about an inch deep in an upright position (clove root down) to ensure a straight neck.
For every pound of garlic cloves that you plant, you may yield from 8 to 10 pounds of garlic next summer.
Mulch It! Garlic appreciates a 6” thick, warm blanket of straw mulch applied around Thanksgiving. Remove the mulch in the spring, leaving just a bit to keep the weeds down.
Water to keep your garlic from drying out over the winter. In the spring, remove the mulch. Water deeply as needed, especially on sandy soils. Apply an inch or so of compost around the bulbs.
Garlic greens, known as “scapes” are a bit spicy and a nice addition when cooking vegetables. Clip those any time to direct more of the plant's energy down towards the bulb.
Begin checking your garlic after July 4th when you notice that the foliage is beginning to die off. Once the foliage beging to die back, check a bulb. If it's too soon, the cloves won't be segmented yet. If you wait too long, your garlic with shed the papery sheaths that cover the clove segments and they won't store properly. Ideal harvest is when you find about 3 layers covering the bulb.
Dig out under the bulbs for an easier harvest. Pull the entire plant out of the soil and let air-dry in the shade to avoid direct sunlight which may scald the bulbs. Dry thoroughly for 3 to 4 weeks to prolong storage.
Storage: Once your garlic is dry, dust any remaining soil off the bulbs. If you grew softneck garlic, braid the tops and hang. Otherwise, remove the tops by clipping them about 1 inch above the bulb. Trim off the roots.

Ideal conditions are a cool (50 to 65 degrees F), dry, and well-ventilated area. Check your garlic monthly and discard any soft bulbs that may be rotting internally. Set aside the largest cloves for planting again in fall.
If you've never planted garlic before, try planting some this year. ...and remember, when on a date, two servings of garlic cancel each other out! (If you're the only one enjoying a garlicky dish, munch on some parsley to freshen your breath.)

Companion plants:
RI Vegetable Planting Calendar:
Garlic for Disease Control:

End of Season Clearance Sale

End of Season Clearance Sale

30% OFF
Trees, Shrubs,
Perennials, and Herbs

October 9th - October 17th
We will be closed Monday October 11th.