Red Kuri winter squash
Winter squash such as this Red Kuri, having been exposed to frost, will have a short storage life.

Gardener’s Checklist: Week of October 1, 2020

Don't forget to take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn. And other good tips for Berkshire gardeners this week.

* Be aware that the storage life of pumpkins and winter squash is reduced if they are exposed to frost. If it was exposure to a light frost of 30-32°F, plan to eat these soon. In parts of the Berkshires where there was a hard freeze, that is, 28°F or lower, any pumpkins and winter squash in the garden at that time may already have started to decay. Relocate these to the compost pile.

* Prepare garden soil for planting garlic. If a cover crop was not planted earlier this year, incorporate some well-rotted manure or compost into the soil. I also like to work in some wood ash, since the potassium promotes healthy growth of garlic. Garlic should be planted in late October or early November.

* Now that we have had some rain, lower the cutting height on the lawnmower by one notch. Continue to gradually lower the cutting height through this month to a final height of two inches. Leaving grass too long not only provides cover for field mice, but also increases the likelihood of snow mold disease in late winter and early spring.

Daffodils
2 When buying tulips and daffodils, buy early, mid-season, and late flowering varieties to extend the period of bloom in the garden.

* Start raking leaves from lawns to keep them from smothering the grass. This is especially important on lawns that were newly seeded or overseeded last month. Because of the drought this year, leaves have been dropping much earlier than usual.

* Pay attention to the bloom time when buying spring flowering bulbs. If buying tulips and daffodils, buy early, mid-season, and late flowering varieties to extend the period of bloom in the garden.

* Collect fallen pine needles and use them as mulch in flower borders, but don’t apply the mulch until the ground has frozen. The yellow needles now seen on white pine trees are last year’s new needles.

Yellow needles on white pine trees
The yellow needles now seen on white pine trees are last year’s new needles.

* Store clay pots in a dry location where they will not be subject to freezing. Clay pots often have small amounts of moisture in their porous walls. When exposed to freezing temperatures, the pots will crack, and there are few things as annoying as cracked pots, or so I’ve been told.

***

“Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn.”

That quote from Elizabeth Lawrence, famed garden designer and writer, sits well with me. One of the many reasons I do not fly south now with the rest of the birds is so that I can enjoy the magnificence of our fall foliage, the singular icon of our New England landscape.

And sit I do, taking frequent breaks from daily tasks, to stare in amazement at the collage of gold, bronze, purple, crimson, and orange foliage. Though deciduous trees capture most of the attention, it takes only a brief glance around our garden to realize that there are numerous shrubs and even perennial plants that deserve equal billing for the brilliance of their fall color.

Pity the birds!