By Bev Johnson

Master Gardener

This time of year, some gardeners are suffering from “Garden Fatigue. They are praying for frost so they can stop gardening. Of course this is not true for the avid gardener. She/he would like at least another 2 or 3 months of garden weather to be sure that new plant /tree/shrub, is well established before snow man weather. Even if you are suffering from G.F., there are things that need to be done this time of year.

To ensure a weed free garden (as if there were such a thing), keep pulling weeds. Every one you leave in the garden this time of year will be a million weeds next summer. Pull all the dead vines and don’t compost them. They are too woody to compost well and often carry insects and diseases. They also have a nasty habit of wrapping around the tiller tines leading to much blue air from the operator.  Keep mulching. Bare soil attracts weeds like white pants attract dirt.

Bring in vacationing house plants after giving them a good bath to clean off dirt and any hitch hiking bugs like spider mites. If they have gotten too big for their pots, repot, outdoors so you don’t have to clean up the mess.  If needed, thin them and share the extras. (Think garden club sale.)

Keep watering. Trees and shrubs especially need to be well watered to survive the winter. Perennials will winter better if they are healthy and well watered before the first frost. (Dirty word, that.) Keep picking up any diseased leaves from trees, flowers, or vegetables and bag or burn them to slow or stop the diseases from reappearing next summer. Many diseases enter the soil from diseased plant materials and just wait there to attack a tender, baby plant next summer. Never leave windfall apples on the ground. They harbor apple maggot eggs. 

Cut the grass long, 2 ½ to 3 inches. This shades out the smaller weeds and helps prevent those ugly brown spots in the lawn during hot dry weather. Cut it shorter after the first hard frost to prevent snow mold.

Some of the later summer apples are ripe now. Cut one open and if the seeds are dark, black or brown, it’s ripe. Apples will tolerate a temp down to 28 degrees without damage. Just don’t touch them until they thaw out.

Fall webworms show up now. The web looks terrible but really has little impact on a healthy tree. Just put on a glove and pull it out of the tree, squishing any worms that have escaped. Never attempt to burn the web. It will damage the tree and just warm up the worms. If the web is on a small branch, cut the branch off. Now you can burn the branch.

The birds aren’t singing this time of year but they are still busy eating bugs and weed seeds. Gold finches especially love wild thistle seed. Leave a few seed heads on flowers for the birds and not only will they clean them up, you will find some of the leftovers, fully fertilized, popping up in really weird places next spring. Encourage birds to stay in your yard by having food, water and suet available for them. It’s only polite to feed guests.