October 2020       Volume 10, No. 9
Hello Everyone,

Photo: Lee Gadway
This is a busy month in the garden! I'll devote this issue to the myriad of tasks that our crew has underway. Please let us know how we can help, since the days are growing shorter and the countdown to the first deep frost has begun. 

Drought - Emergency Watering Service Available 

We are back in a Category 2 drought situation here in eastern Massachusetts. It's interesting to study the US map to note where the other areas of drought exist at this website.

Pumpkin Brook has an emergency watering service available. We bring the water to you! Our spray trucks have 200 gallon tanks and long hoses to reach all beds. And for particularly far off areas, we use backpack sprayers. This is particularly important if you have installed new plantings within the past three to five years, and CRITICAL if you planted this season. 

We add a kelp/seaweed/mineral solution called Stress X to the water to help your plants regroup. Please contact Nancy Altman in our office to arrange for an estimate or schedule this service, 

Soil Testing and Amending Time is Here 

Amendments are mixed with compost on site, per soil test results
Lee Gadway photo.

In droughty times, many nutrients in the soil are rapidly depleted as plants attempt to adjust to adverse conditions. As we pull soil tests this fall, we find that Potassium is lower than desired on many test results. 

I want to repeat an article about the necessity for Potassium that I wrote in September 2013: 

"We've just finished a round of soil testing as we get ready for soil amending in another month. I will begin planning specific amending programs in the near future. Below is a brief discussion of one of the common issues we address. 

Many soils in this region show a deficiency of Potassium, a key nutrient necessary for strong stems, dark green leaves, and exuberant blooms and fruits. In hot weather, plants quickly take up Potassium as they work to survive the heat. By fall, we're often left with insufficient Potassium for the coming growing season. 

What to do? Potassium needs to be added to the garden beds in the form of minerals such as Greensand, Potash or Kelp Meal. Our high fungal compost also supplies a healthy dose of Potassium. These materials stimulate biological activity and improve soil structure. We follow the NOFA Organic Land Care Standards when applying Potassium, as an oversupply can cause problems with soil balance. Sometimes it takes several years to bring the Potassium up to the proper level. 

Fall is the best time for soil amending, when the roots of woody plants are putting on active growth. Vegetable, perennial and annual gardens appreciate this treatment, too, as the harvest season signals fall cleanup."

Fall Planting and Renovation is in Full Swing 

Transplanting a shrub in Harvard.
In October, we aim to finish all fall planting and transplanting by the end of the month. With warm soil temperatures, this is an ideal time to plant or transplant, as roots will readily establish given cooler nights and (hopefully) more frequent rain. 

We'll wait until leaves are about to drop before transplanting shrubs and small trees. Perennials are being divided and re-set now. 

Bulbs are an exception to these practices as they arrive in a dormant state. We'll plant bulbs between Columbus Day and Veteran's Day so that they have time to root well before winter. 

Our recommended watering instructions for fall are here. Please let us know if the emergency watering service can help you piece in where town watering bans may not allow you to water.

Plant Pick: What Stands up to Fall Drought? 

Looking around the garden, I notice that many native plants are vigorous despite the drought! Here are just a few: 

Polygonatum biflorum
Solomon's Seal - 
Polygonatum biflorum
A staple of the shade garden, Solomon's Seal blooms in May with dangling white bell-shaped flowers on an arched stem. In fall, leaves turn a lovely golden yellow. This plant gently spreads and can be easily divided and reset in fall. 

Aronia melanocarpa
Black Chokeberry -
Aronia melanocarpa 
Health conscious consumers know that Aronia berries have many health benefits! In the landscape, nothing bothers this easy, multistem upright shrub. It's newly available in a dwarf selection called 'Lowscape Mound' that is covered with white flowers in spring, dark berries and red leaves in fall. 

For more information on eating Aronia berries: 

Cotinus obovatus
American smoketree -
Cotinus obovatus
This small tree provides interest in summer with its blue-green leaves and flower panicles that give a smoke-like effect. Leaves turn interesting shades of gold, copper and red in fall. It may be a single trunked tree up to 30' tall or a multi-stem shrub in the range of 15' tall. Easily pruned in the spring to control size. 

PHC News - Ticks, Tea and Tender Plant Protection 


Please be extra careful and check yourself, children and pets after walking or playing outdoors this month! Leaves are dropping early and coating the ground. Ticks prefer to hide in this type of moist, enclosed environment. Our tick and mosquito spray program using essential oils can help, so now is the time to sign up if you aren't already enrolled. Contact Nancy Altman in our office, <office@pumpkinbrookorganicgardening.comto arrange an estimate. 

We will be continuing our spray routes through the month of November to keep on top of the tick population. Remember that ticks are active whenever temperatures are above 32 degrees. 

Fall compost tea routes are happening now and will finish for the season later this month. 

Do you have tender houseplants that are still outdoors enjoying the warm weather? When it's time to bring everything indoors, we offer an insecticidal soap spray available for tender houseplants. We can also help you lift large, heavy pots indoors. Please contact Reese Crotteau, our Plant Health Care Manager, to arrange for this service. Reese can be reached at <> 

Spotted Lanternfly Alert in Concord Area 

Adult Spotted Lanternfly
Photo: Lawrence Barringer
This invasive pest may have migrated north from Pennsylvania this year. Please be on the lookout for the (rather attractive) Spotted Lanternfly. Click here for more info.

Leaf Shredding Service  

Reese has serviced our leaf shredder to make this annual chore go faster and to produce a small, evenly sized product. Shredded leaves are perfect for mulching garden beds that are planted closely, especially woodland gardens. Please contact Kimberly for an estimate, <> as we'll be rolling this service out soon! 

Staff Update   

Rick Burnett has joined the Plant Health Care Department as PHC Technician and resigned from his role as Field Manager. You may meet Rick doing a spray route. Kimberly Kuliesis has resumed full responsibility for scheduling and also develops estimates and proposals. Please contact her with your special requests at <> Meanwhile, Priscilla will continue to assist with site visits and task lists, <> 

Garden Conservancy Webinars    

This wonderful national nonprofit is offering a fall Literary Series of webinars on selected Thursday afternoons with garden authors. You'll enjoy color photos and virtual tours of fine gardens around the country, with a chance for questions and answers. Can't attend on a Thursday afternoon? Registrants receive a link to a recording after the event to view at your leisure. Visit this website to register. 

NOFA's October Challenge     

As a Board Member of NOFA/Massachusetts, I will be participating in their Human Health and Climate Acton Challenge this month. This event combines personal commitment, public education and crowdfunding to raise awareness about how organic practices, especially agriculture, are linked to human health and the climate crisis. Many of our staff members will be participating as well. We invite you to join this community by creating your own challenge, or to support us if you are so inspired. See their website for more info.

Priscilla's To do list for October 

  • Identify and finish fall transplanting and dividing work 
  • Keep planting trees, shrubs and perennials until the end of the month 
  • Plant bulbs when soil cools, starting mid-month 
  • Test and amend soil in problem spots 
  • Begin cutback of frosted ferns and other perennials that mildew, blacken or drop leaves 
  • Let birds enjoy seedheads 
  • Pull spent annuals and vegetable crops promptly 
  • Freshen containers with a fall look 
  • Dial back irrigation systems to a fall schedule and plan to shut off completely by end of the month 
  • Begin leaf cleanup and consider shredding leaves on site for reuse in garden beds as mulch 
  • Structural pruning of small trees and shrubs can begin after leaf drop at end of month 

We look forward to enjoying the colors and sounds of fall with you soon in your garden, 

Priscilla and the PBOG Crew 

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