Timely Tips: October 1 – 15
PLANT SOME GARLIC – Buy bulbs of this staple of life online or from a local nursery; grocery store-bought garlic will grow, but it’s best to go with a variety proven to thrive in our area. This year I’m trying Northern White, tested and recommended by friends. Bust up the garlic bulb gently into separate cloves. Eat any that are small or damaged or have lost their basal plate (the flat part on the bottom,) and plant the fat cloves at least 3” apart and 2-3” deep. Prepare the soil by turning in lots of organic matter, then make a hole with your finger (mine is exactly 2 ½”, so it makes a good measuring device,) drop the clove in, point side up, and cover with soil. [Primex has garlic starts available now!]
BLAME YOUR ALLERGIES ON THE RIGHT PLANT – Itchy eyes and runny noses are all the fashion this month, hitting their peak when those yellow flowers of goldenrod (solidago sp) burst out on roadsides and vacant lots. But very few people are actually allergic to goldenrod—it’s the visually insignificant flowers of the ragweed plant that invariably grows alongside that causes you to tithe to the tissue manufacturers. Rumor has it that a single ragweed plant can release one billion grains of pollen in a season. And if you’ve ever seen these medieval-torture-device-looking nuggets under a microscope, you would understand why they cause such anguish.
BEWARE OF ANGRY INSECTS – As the season winds down, wasps & hornets get more frantic to find enough food to get them through the coming winter. Of course, understanding this doesn’t make it any easier when they get into your soda can at a picnic; put your drinks in a clear vessel so you can see whether or not you’re sharing your libations.
HARVEST POTATOES – Plants should have died back by now, but even if they haven’t, it’s time to get those babies out of the ground before they resprout. Use a spading fork instead of a shovel to avoid cutting your spuds in half.
DO SOME “LAST CHANCE” GARDENING – This is almost the last occasion for planting lettuce, mustard, and basic greens if you want them big enough to feast on by Thanksgiving , or even to survive the winter. Hard to think about that when the temps are still in the eighties!
PLANT CABBAGE / MUSTARD FAMILY CROPS – These go in the ground after the potatoes, and they LOOOOVE the cool weather. The problem is, fall didn’t bring us respite from the pests that plagued us during the summer, so all these need special protection against aphids, whiteflies, Cabbage Worms, and the dreaded Harlequin Bug. If you can still find cabbage, kale & broccoli starts, read the tags carefully–make sure they are in the 50-60 days-to-maturity or there’s no chance of harvest before cold weather comes. Collards, mustards, and most Chinese cabbages will winter over, so deadlines don’t matter. Spray starts well on all surfaces with neem oil or BT to kill off any insects or insect eggs, and plant . Cover with floating row cover (you can buy hoops, but I put mine over old election sign frames, bent to round out the corners) to keep out cabbage butterflies, and make sure all edges are buried, since they are very sneaky! Be prepared to peel back the cover after a week and respray if needed to kill anybody that you missed the first time. If plants aren’t available, plant seeds of collards, mustard, chinese cabbage, radishes or arugula and cover these with row cover as well; peel back periodically to check for bugs that snuck in.
PLANT LETTUCE AND SPINACH SEEDS – These are the easy ones, as they don’t need row cover. Just broadcast lightly and cover with a quarter to a half inch of soil. Water lightly and expect the fall rains to be enough.
CLEAR OUT THE HOSTAS – These were blasted by the heat followed by short-term drought, so just rake up all the leaves. The newly naked space needs to be filled in with leftover perennials and then mulched. While you’re digging, might as well plants some daffodil, crocus, hyacinth and tulip bulbs for spring color.
Sally McCabe is Assoc. Director of Community Education at PHS, and grows stuff at two community gardens and in her backyard. She has been a faithful Primex customer since all the way back when Pops (David’s grandfather) was still around.