McIntosh apples hang from a branch of a tree at Carlson Orchards, in Harvard, Mass., Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012. Many orchards across New England are facing shortages after a warm spring and late April freeze killed early blossoms. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Purchase photo reprints »
a Run your mower over fallen leaves on the lawn. Make several runs to chop the leaves into wee bits. A mulching mower works best but is not essential. If the leaves are chopped fine enough, they will settle between the grass plants and eventually decompose, adding organic matter and plant nutrients to the soil. The chopped leaves may also be collected and worked into garden soils. This is one of the methods we use to increase fertility of soil in our vegetable garden.
a Make a quick sketch or map of this year’s vegetable garden crops, noting where they were planted. This will make it easier to rotate crops in next year’s garden. Crop rotation is a key to pest and disease control.
a Clean all flower pots before storing for winter. Store clay and terra cotta pots where they will not be subject to freezing temperatures. Otherwise, they may crack.
a Take some time to roam the neighborhood or the nearest botanical garden and make note of plants with interesting fall features, other than foliage color. For example, there are shrubs and flowering perennials such as hydrangea, tall sedums and coneflowers with attractive dried flower heads; winterberry, holly and flowering crab apples with colorful fruit; and Japanese stewartia, paperbark maple and red-stemmed dogwood with fascinating bark features. Unlike foliage, these features can be enjoyed through the winter.
a Order a copy of the 2013 UMass Garden Calendar. The 2013 calendar has the usual colorful photos and daily gardening tips that make it a great gift for gardeners. Go to www.umassgardencalendar.org for information on placing an order.
a This month can be one of drudgery as we begin the process of cleaning up our gardens. However, it can also be a fun time for those of us who like to trade varieties of garlic, dry beans and heirloom tomatoes. Trading garlic is easy; I give you a bulb of a particular variety and you give me one. Likewise, trading dry bean varieties is easy since all we have to do is shell the dry pods and trade samples of seeds. Tomatoes require a little more effort. Start by cutting open a tomato of a chosen heirloom variety and squeezing out the innards, i.e., gelatinous pulp and seeds, into a glass jar. To this glop, add a little water, about a shot glass or two. Set the jar aside to let the contents ferment. Beware, it’ll stink. After several days, most if not all of the seeds will separate from the rest of the glop and settle to the bottom. At that point, pour off as much of the moldy gel as you can without losing the seeds. Then dump the seeds into a kitchen sieve and rinse under the faucet to remove any clinging residue. Finally, spread the cleaned seeds onto a paper plate or a piece of wax paper to dry. Drying may take a week or two. Trade some of the seeds with friends but be sure to save enough to start your own heirloom tomato seedlings next spring. Don’t bother saving seeds from hybrid varieties since they do not come true to form.