Volume 5, September 2015
Happy Fall to All!  

I am so glad to have cooler temperatures for our seasonal tasks:  transplanting, dividing and planting.  We're still wishing for more frequent rain to help things settle in and to refresh existing plantings parched by this summer's drought and high humidity.  Some plants are dying back early this year, a survival technique.  We will be cutting them back as we make our rounds.  I see the birch trees along Turner Road are already yellow and dropping leaves in a similar strategy.

Please keep up with watering any woody plant that was installed within the past 5 years.  It is so important for these newly rooting plants to go into winter well hydrated.  If you have water bans in your town, we can help by bringing water to you in our 200 gallon sprayer mounted on our plant health care truck.

We are completing lawn renovation and seeding work now.  Here are watering instructions for newly seeded areas.  Again, it's very important to water properly to help the new lawn seed establish good roots before winter.

Don't forget that we can help you with hardscape projects this month and next - as long as there is no frost in the ground.
When Should You Bring in Tender Plants
At this time of year, many of you wonder when you should bring in tender plants.  Here is a link to an article from Terrain's September Blog that may help you decide.

Al and Carmine are available to spray insecticidal soap with powerful backpack sprayers on your tender plants just before you are ready to bring them inside for winter.  Usually the day to do this arrives on or about October 1, once nighttime temperatures dip into the 30s.  They are also willing and able to help you lift heavy pots inside.
Soil Testing and Amending Will Be Here Soon!
We pull our soil biology tests for all compost tea clients at leaf drop in mid-October.  At this time, the soil is still fairly warm and we can get a good reading on numbers and diversity of microscopic creatures in your soil.  Remember, the more soil biology ("creatures" or "critters") the happier you and your plants will be!  This annual testing is a great report card on how our program is faring and helps us make your plan for next year.

The other type of soil test we pull is called Nutrient Density.  This measures the actual percentages of various nutrients like Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Sulfur, Phosphorus and Trace Elements against desired target numbers.  We then can plan a fall soil amending program with granular amendments.  This goes hand-in-glove with our Compost Tea Program.

A soil with balanced nutrients over time (this is a multi-year process) supports continued plant growth, bloom and health.  In an organic program, we are careful to adhere
Soil with balanced nutrients
supports continued plant growth,
bloom and health
to the NOFA Organic Land Care Standards and will apply only a certain percentage of amendments per year to avoid conditions such as phosphorus runoff into waterways.

Why amend soil in fall?  Woody plants put on their root growth then and set buds for next year's bloom and leafout.  Nutrients are buffered with our high fungal compost and will break down readily in the freezing and thawing cycles of winter.  

Vegetable gardens, once cleaned up, are prime candidates for this program, too.  That will save you time preparing the beds in spring!  Nutrient dense vegetables last longer, taste better, have fewer pests and diseases, and are great for one's health. 
Beginning to Get Ready for Winter
Here are some things I'm thinking about that we are able to do in the near future for you.  Let me know if you would like our help with any of the following:

Gnawing creatures under the snow or "buck rub" from deer - protect tree trunks with mesh supports or pebbles and hardware cloth.  Thin barked species like crabapples, magnolias and fruit trees are always vulnerable.
Shrub Protector

Shrub protectors - Al can measure your shrubs and build these now of long-lasting and good-looking cedar - install in November before snow falls off the roof and smashes your shrubs again!

Japanese maples - these plants were extremely vulnerable to damage last winter.  They put on a lot of summer growth yearly and need an annual pruning check in November as their leaves drop.  Reduce the load ahead of time and reduce the chances of damage to your prized specimens.

Netting around evergreens or other shrubs that splay in snow or that deer eat - apply a bit later in fall OR prune now to reduce the impact of snow load.

Cut back of perennials, clean up of annuals - usually done once frost comes.  Does anyone know the date this year?  Lately we have had to wait until November.  But why not enjoy the color and seedheads until then!

Laying down salt marsh hay or pine needles and evergreen boughs to protect perennials - do not do until ground freezes solidly!  Or you end up making a nice winter home for mice and other rodents.

Winter mulching of certain subshrubs and woody plants - November maintenance work.

Deer protection spraying and anti-desiccant - November routes will be scheduled. 
Plant Pick:  Old Fashioned Mums
Mary Stoker Mum
Just opening now.  Flowers are a clear yellow.

Clara Curtis Mum
Single pink daisy like flowers with yellow centers.
Sheffield Mum
Single daisy-like apricot pink flowers with golden yellow centers cover this plant with a profuse bloom from late summer to frost. 

Priscilla's To-Do List for September
  • The fall garden
    Divide and transplant spring and summer blooming perennials
  • Transplant shrubs and water well in this drought and until ground freezes
  • Plant trees, shrubs and perennials
  • Finish renovating, fertilizing and overseeding lawns - and water!
  • Spray tender tropical plants with insecticidal soap at the sign of first frost, then bring indoors for winter
  • Clean up vegetable garden as crops are harvested
  • Sow cover crops to improve soil in empty rows or beds
  • Keep up with weeding and deadheading to prolong bloom of perennials
  • Reduce watering frequency and duration on automatic irrigation systems late in month as temperatures drop
  • Finalize bulb orders
  • Test soil (see previous article for why)
  • Spruce up containers with fall blooming plants
Hope you are enjoying these glorious warm sunny days and the early fall landscape as much as we are.  Hope to see you in the garden soon.


Priscilla H. Williams
Pumpkin Brook Organic Gardening

© Copyright 2011 Pumpkin Brook Organic Gardening, Inc. 
All rights reserved.