Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
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Gardener’s Checklist

 Continue planting spring flowering bulbs. While I love all spring flowering bulbs, I have to admit that my favorites are species and hybrids of crocus. I think they look best when naturalized as opposed to planted in formal patterns. Try randomly tossing crocus bulbs over a portion of lawn and then planting them where they land.

 Sow seed of spinach for early spring harvest. Spinach planted now may grow a few inches this fall. That’s OK. The seedlings can be left unprotected but it would help their survival if they are covered with straw mulch or a floating row cover just as the ground begins to freeze.

 Dig up a few roots of horseradish after the next hard freeze but before the ground freezes. Yes, harvesting horseradish roots is usually done in early spring but if you have some mature plants, it won’t hurt to dig a few roots this fall. This is especially important if you’ve run out of horseradish sauce to go with your grilled kielbasa at the next tailgate party.

 Sort out any winter squash in storage which was not fully ripe when harvested. Most winter squash does not continue to ripen after picking. Unless the outer shell was hard at the time of harvest and the squash were cured at warm temperatures for a few weeks, these squash will soften and rot. Butternut and acorn squash may continue to ripen but only if they were near full maturity at the time of harvest.

 Take advantage of cool fall weather to tackle the most physically challenging landscape tasks such as putting up a new fence, installing a stone or brick walk or patio, or building a deck or garden shed. Having chronic back problems, I find it easier to take on these jobs if I do some calisthenics and stretching beforehand. For the heaviest work, get help or hire someone to do it.

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Did you know that most insects spend the winter in the form of eggs or pupae (cocoons)? In these forms, they are protected from cold temperatures. However, there are several insects which overwinter as adults. In the adult form, insects have a tough time surviving freezing temperatures. So, many of them do what we do — they move indoors where it is warm. Among the critters we can expect to see sharing our homes are boxelder bugs, multi-colored Asian lady beetles, western conifer seed bugs and cluster flies. None of these are threats to your health but they can be annoying. The one I find most vexing is the cluster fly. It is often mistaken for a housefly but is patchy gray with gold-colored hairs on its body. The presence of cluster flies should not be taken as a symptom of sloppy housekeeping. These guys are only in your house to share in its warmth. Early in fall, they can be seen clustering (hence their common name) on the sunny side of the house. As the weather cools, they’ll move indoors and on warm days they may gather near a sunny window. They are usually quite lethargic and can be dismissed with a few blows from a fly swatter. In the long run, the best way to prevent entry of cluster flies and other house invaders, except for crazy Aunt Tilly, is to caulk or seal openings around windows, doors, and loose siding. For crazy Aunt Tilly, pull the blinds and lock the door.

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