Alison Arnold: September Garden Chores

Sep 14, 2017

This week, BPR gardening expert Alison Arnold talks about cleanup from Irma and the gardening season heading into Fall.  

With all the wind and rain this week I can imagine there is a good bit of garden clean up to be done in addition to simply finishing out the season.

Yes well.. it may be a matter of garden triage – what to prop up , what to cut back and what to pull. Throughout the area the impact from Tropical storm Irma was so variable.. for instance, where I live all my late season corn and okra and sunflowers are either lying flat on the ground or leaning waaaay over.

So what will you do?

Once it dries a bit I plan to go in and look closely.. anything that can be propped up I’ll try and stake and set it upright but I know for sure some major stems are bent or broken and those I will cut back. Also my cucumbers for instance are pretty far gone and so it’s time to pull those and get my fall cover crop sown. Plus there’s a good bit of raking leaves and twig pick up to be done.

 Is it always good to clean up and remove spent vegetable plants from the garden?

Yes it is a good practice all in all. It helps reduce the carry-over of insect and disease problems from year to year. It’s best to put plants that are known to have insect and disease issues into a separate compost pile other than your normal one and not use that material for compost in the garden. Unless you manage the compost super well it wont get hot enough to kill off those pests and you don't want to reintroduce that back into the garden again.

How about fruiting plants.. what can be done with them?

Well to minimize fruit rot on soft skinned fruit like plums, peaches and grapes next year you want to remove any kind of old fruit and plant debris including mummified fruit left hanging on the plant and lying on the ground. This is a good time to prune blackberries and raspberries and remove the old fruit-bearing canes from this year. And for sure tending to the strawberry bed is good – especially getting on top of the weeds.

What about with ornamentals?

Yeah well with the recent rain and wind you may get a jump on clean up in the perennial garden and cut back foliage that is looking rough or already dying back. It’s about time to begin making plans to move houseplants indoors. You want to do this before temperatures drop too much below 45 F. Rinsing the foliage, removing dead leaves, cutting back long stems and repotting with fresh potting soil can be helpful. Also be sure to check for insects and treat for them  - otherwise you can have insect population explosions inside the house later in the winter and that can get really messy.

Finally this is a good time to divide peonies that have not flowered well. Fall planting allows peonies to get their root systems established well before the next growing season. Peonies wont flower if they are planted too deep so be sure what we call the “eyes” or growing points are no more than 2 inches below the surface. We’ve seen a lot of foliage diseases in peonies these past few years that can be prevented by not crowding them or planting them too close together so be sure to give them space.