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GARDENER’S CHECKLIST: Week of October 6, 2022

Autumn has arrived, and the frosts are approaching. Ron Kujawski helps you get ahead of winter, breaking down the most efficient ways to manage fall wastes, how to protect your wooden gardening stakes from harboring spores, how to minimize die-back in your lavender bush, and, perhaps most importantly, how not to kill your beloved houseplants.

* Start a compost pile.  There will be plenty of fodder for the pile as we begin removing spent plants from gardens and raking up fallen leaves. A simple way to confine a compost pile is to create a bin using a 6-7 foot piece of sturdy wire fencing set up to form a cylinder. I’ll have several of these, some of which will be located in the vegetable garden. 

Don’t waste fall wastes. Add them to a simple compost bin made using wire fencing.

* Wipe down tomato stakes, bean trellises and other wooden plant-support structures with a solution of one part household bleach in nine parts water before storing these structures for winter.  Otherwise the spores of certain plant diseases will remain on the wood and become sources of plant disease inoculums next spring.

* Cut back the spent flowering stems on lavender plants.  Curiously, there seems to be more dieback in winter on lavender stems with flowering stems left intact. 

* Soak the tines of bamboo rakes in a tub of soapy water for several hours before using.  Soaking makes the tines pliable and extends the life of the rakes.

* Do not cut back the leafy stems of asparagus until they have completely browned. However, do remove weeds that mingle between the asparagus stems.

Ron’s wife, Pat, weeding the asparagus patch under the watchful eye of family watchdog, Luna.

* Plant some bulbs for naturalizing.  By that, I mean plant the bulbs in a back lawn or beneath a grove of trees where they can grow freely in a random pattern. Not all bulbs or varieties of a particular type are suited for naturalizing.  However, the label on bulb boxes or bins in stores will note the suitability of the particular variety for naturalizing. 

* Pause a moment when working in the garden and take in the spectacular show of fall foliage, a Berkshire treasure.

***

With so many outdoor tasks to be completed before the onset of cold weather, it is easy to neglect our houseplants.  Yet, this is a critical time for them.  Just as outdoor plants are adjusting to changes in their environment, houseplants also have to adapt to shifting conditions.  For outdoor plants, the environmental changes are typically gradual, while the changes for houseplants are more dramatic, mostly due to heating systems being turned on.   The sudden change in temperature and humidity places a lot of stress on houseplants. As a result, it is not unusual for plant leaves to turn yellow and drop off.  At that point, many houseplant caretakers hit the panic button.  Since I have no idea where I put that darn button, I usually stay calm.  Besides, experience has taught me that the plants will eventually adapt, though they will look like they are on death’s door.  To assist plants in making this transition, keep them away from heat sources and set the plants on trays of pebbles filled with water.  Moving plants nearer to a bright window or providing supplemental light from a lamp will also help them make adjustments.

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