Saturday, September 21, 2013

Rain Bodes Good Leaf Display

At my house, we have received almost a half inch of rain since darkness fell last evening. We sure can use it. Despite our record summer rainfall, we have had a dry month so far. The soaker we are receiving should go a long way toward making up the "water debt." Not to mention allowing us to turn off the hose and keep the water bill down. Abundant moisture at this time of year typically helps produce a beautiful fall color display.

September is the month for lawn care, the perfect time to aerate, feed, over-seed and otherwise spruce up your cool season lawn. This is also a great time to go after winter annual weeds by applying a pre-emergence herbicide. Both chemical and organic versions exist, and they really save a lot of work by preventing weed seeds from germinating. Weeds that do appear should be removed promptly, to prevent them from producing a supply of seeds for next year.

Planting fall vegetables can continue through the month if you choose varieties wisely. For example, all the Asian mustards, such as bak choy, mizuna and tatsoi, grow well here in the autumn, and they mature a crop quickly, typically in less than two months. Seeds sown now will be ready to harvest around Halloween. Spinach is another great fall crop. It takes around 70 days to mature, but owing to its cold tolerance will keep right on growing even after frost arrives. Lettuce, which takes around 60 days to mature, can also be planted now, but the window is narrowing, unless you have a coldframe.

American Beautyberry
Speaking of coldframes, now is a good time to put out snail and slug bait around them. The pesky mollusks start looking for warm places to spend the winter months, and will move into your coldframe, feeding on your tender crops. Place bait around the perimeter of the frame, not inside. You don't want to invite the slugs in, but rather to stop them at the border. As I have mentioned before, a copper barrier is also effective.

If you plant by the moon, now is the correct time for root crops, like radishes, carrots and green onions, all of which thrive in cool weather. Radishes mature in a month, and carrots and green onions can be left in the ground all winter for harvesting as needed. Choose fast-maturing carrots to plant now, however, as their growth slows dramatically after the weather gets really cold.

With the autumnal equinox arriving on Sunday, we have about 60 days before the weather gets really bitter, so better get those seeds out this weekend. The weather is supposed to be beautiful tomorrow, and after the rain, the soil will be perfect for sowing seeds.

Our Plant of the Week on Garden Talk this morning is a little know edible ornamental, American beautyberry. Botanically Callicarpa americana, this easy-to-grow native shrub produces abundant, glossy purple berries in fall. The fruits contrast beautifully with the golden yellow fall foliage, and they can be harvested to produce jam or wine. Bear in mind, however, that you need a lot of berries, as the amount of pulp on each one is quite small. They don't taste inspiring, but when juiced and mixed with sugar, the berries provide a tart, pleasant flavor. The juice also has mosquito-repelling properties.

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