Friday, September 18, 2009
Spring clean-ups get a lot of attention. Autumn clean-ups sometimes fall by the wayside. Healthy and money saving vegetable gardens are often pushed to the bottom of the “to do things” as winter begins to knock on the back door. But September and October are the perfect season for garden cleanliness to begin to take care of some of the problems of growing 2009.
Garden cleanliness is a key to an improved 2010 vegetable harvest. Three of the most common tomato blights, the nightmares of 2009, can overwinter. Vegetable blights, along with slugs and snails had a great year, with the abundant moisture and cool temperatures. Fall is pay back time for these fellas.
The three most common blights are Early Blight, Septoria Blight and the Late Blight. All three are caused by different fungi and all three can winter over and create problems next year. For information on how to identify a particular blight, click, here.
The fungus spores can live on in the winter in weeds and old tomato vines. Fatal late blight, a disease which infects both tomatoes and potatoes, normally need live plant material to live. It can winter over in potatoes missed when digging the harvest.
Burn all dead or dying tomato vines and rotten fruit or bag it in plastic, let it cook in the sun for several days and throw in the trash. Re-check the potato patch. To be on the safe side, burn or properly get rid of all vegetable plants that appear to be infected. Remember not to compost any of this material.
The blight fungus spores can also live in the weeds. Clear them out as well. Slugs and snails like to hide under boards, pots and other garden junk. Clean it -up, take away the hiding spots. Overturning the soil exposes their eggs to birds and to harsh weather conditions.
Winter cover crops can be planted. They help the soil, protect good soil microbes and suppress weeds. Mustard greens are one often unnoticed choice for fall planting. Other options, depending on the first frost dates, are: oats, buckwheat, winter rye or wheat.
Plan to rotate crops next year. Nightshade plants such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants should be located in another garden area.
Compost makes for healthy soil and healthy soil makes for healthier plants. The autumn months are a good time to renew composting efforts. Yard cleanliness, like raking leaves and the grass clippings from the last mowing are gold for the compost pile along with kitchen scraps. By next spring the compost should be mature enough to use as a soil additive or as mulch.
Mulch is important to help prevent water splashing up on the plants which could splash blight disease spores on the plants. Besides, a good mulch cover helps to control the weeds and will help retain soil moisture
An autumn afternoon clean-up in the garden can solve future blight problems, gets ride of some snails and slugs and can improve the soil. “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” applies to the vegetable garden as well as us and hospitals, restaurants and restrooms and the like, and don't forget, the environment. Save money with a fall clean-up.
Buy a Book
Books make good gifts and winter reading. Buy from your local independent book store. Click on the ad below. How about a book on good organic gardening practices? Or books published by Sam Hossler or contributor Vincent di Fondi?
Other Fall Stuff
Fall is a great time for projects. Acorns are plentiful. Start your own oak tree; your oak tree can last hundreds of years. Pine cones are dropping and luckily the squirrels are doing a lot of work stacking the cones on the ground in piles called a cache. It's easy pickings.
The pine cones can be used for fire starters for the wood stove or fireplace, bird feeders, and winter decorations.
While the leaves get all the attention, the many wildflowers are putting on the best free garden show in town.
Flu season is just about here, Get informed by clicking the ad below for the latest updates and information.
Crawford County Grange
September 18-19 Grange food booth at the Crawford Fairgrounds during the annual Horse Sale.
Scholarship application for college students available, deadline November 1st.
Hayfield chicken-b-que October 4th at noon, take outs available. Great food.
For the Heck of It:
Goldenrods, now blooming with purple asters are good food and some of the last meals for the insects. Goldenrods, at one time, were considered a source of domestic rubber production. Read more, here.
A strain of the fungus, Phytophthora infestans, responsible for the Great Irish Tomato Famine in the mid- 1800's is the late blight fungus causing headaches this season.
The late blight virus is not harmful to human health, nor are the others harmful.
Vincent di Fondi
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New York's Southern Tier