Jars of preserved tomatoes
Jars of tomato juice made from this year's tomato crop.

Gardener’s Checklist: Week of August 27, 2020

What the smart Berkshires gardener does as Labor Day approaches!

To do this week:

* Use the transition to September to start hardscape projects. Build a stone wall, brick walk, or a replica of an Egyptian pyramid. Okay, maybe the latter is a bit much (most of us don’t have the room), but the cooler temperatures of late summer and early fall make these heavy-duty tasks a tad easier to accomplish.

* Take advantage of cooler weather to dig, divide, and replant herbs such as oregano and mint. These two herbs can easily get out of hand if not routinely reined in.

* Edge flower borders. This is another task that I like to do when soil moisture level is high. It’s easier to slice into grass that is invading flower borders when soil is moist.

Edging the garden
Edging a flower border will prevent grass from invading the garden.

* Plant peonies. Incorporate some ground limestone and organic matter into the soil prior to planting. Peonies prefer a soil that is neutral or slightly alkaline.

* Space daylilies about 1 ½ feet apart when planting.  They can tolerate part shade but place them in soil that drains well.  In October, plant daffodil bulbs between the daylilies.  After the daffodils finish their bloom next spring, the daylily foliage will come up and hide their fading foliage.

* Freeze or can extra produce from the vegetable garden. Those who have never canned vegetables or fruit should seek the assistance of someone who has. While canning is not difficult, it must be done properly to avoid contamination of the food. With the anticipation of increases in food prices at the market, this is a good time to become familiar with food preservation techniques.

* Apply fertilizer to established lawns. This fertilizer application is the most important one of the year since nutrients taken up now support early spring growth of grass.

Rambling patch of oregano
This rambling patch of oregano will be kept in bounds by dividing the plant now.

***

Get out this weekend and look for colorful fall foliage.

“He’s been into the fermented cabbage juice again, Nellie.”

Hic…., no, I haven’t, nor am I jumping the gun on the fall foliage season. True, it is early for normal fall foliage, but I’m not talking about normal here.

You see, one of the best symptoms that a tree is stressed is premature development of fall color. Observing this color change is the first step in diagnosing a tree problem. The next step is more difficult, and that is figuring out what is causing the stress. Some possibilities include: soil-borne disease, over-fertilizing, root rot caused by poor drainage, root damage incurred during construction, bark injury from mowers or string trimmers, improper planting depth, mulch piled high against the trunk, excessive application of herbicide to surrounding turfgrass, or a dog with a fatal attraction for the tree. With careful and objective analysis the amateur can often diagnose the problem. However, if the solution is not obvious, it is best to hire a consulting arborist. The arborist may be able to save the tree or at least keep it from falling on the dog house.