Timely fall garden activities | House and garden






Steve renquist


Our growing season in 2021 ended rather cool and abrupt after a scorching summer.

It’s been a number of years since we had more than two inches of rain in September and high temperatures in the low 60s for much of the last few weeks of September and early October.

This early fall tends to put an end to hot-season veggies and make many of our fall garden activities more urgent.

The first activity on my fall gardening list is to finish harvesting the vegetables from my garden so that I can remove any remaining plants and incorporate them into my compost pile.

Then I spread lime on the floor, about 50 pounds per thousand square feet of area. I work the lime into the soil lightly with a heavy steel rake. You can lightly plow the area with a rototiller if you like working with lime. After raking or plowing lime, sprinkle cover crop seeds on bare soil.

This cover crop seed will germinate in a week if you keep the soil surface moist with light watering daily. Cover seed can be purchased at any of our local agricultural stores. It is usually packaged in 5 pound bags containing a mixture of legumes and cereal seeds. Annual rye, wheat, barley, clover, and vetch are some of the types of seeds you will find in cover crop mixes.

The cover crop will protect the soil from compaction in winter rains and improve the grass and fertility of your garden when incorporated in the spring. You can also add compost to your garden soil to increase the organic matter content and biochar which can improve the soil’s moisture and nutrient holding capacity.

Next year, use organic mulch around the base of the plants to retain moisture. All of these steps will help your vegetable and flower crops tolerate long, dry summers like we have had this year.

As the information on the 2021 growing season is still fresh in your memory, now is a good time to take a look at how well each harvest of flowers, vegetables and fruits has gone. Think about the varieties of vegetables you planted this year, which vegetables seemed to thrive in the extreme heat, and which suffered. Think about the quality of production of each vegetable crop and whether there were any disease or pest problems.

Take out your seed catalog and circle the ones that worked well so you don’t forget when it’s time to order next year. If you want to order new varieties, look for ones that speak of heat resistance or resistance to bolting (go to seed).

When planning the garden for the next year, be sure to alternate your crops in the garden. To help your plants withstand the pressure of insects and disease, having a different family of plants in each row of your garden each year is an easy step towards a healthier garden.

Remember, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants are all from the same family. The same goes for cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.

Draw a map of this year’s garden to remind you where to plant next season.

Fall is a good time to spread lime and fertilizer to your lawn to help reinvigorate a strong recovery after the hot, dry summer. You only need to estimate the number of square feet of your lawn to know how much fertilizer to buy. Commercial lawn fertilizer bags will indicate how many square feet they will cover. Most bags cover 5,000 square feet.

Use a swirl type fertilizer spreader to improve the uniformity of fertilizer application.

Fruit trees often need a few dormant sprays in the fall and winter. When the trees have shed at least half of their leaves in the fall and the weather is dry for 4 to 5 days, apply copper to each one. There are a number of brands that you can recognize for copper sprays. Liquid copper Nu-Cop, Kocide, Liqui-Cop, Cuprofix and Bonide. Any of them will do.

When spraying fall fruit trees, be sure to get good coverage over the trunk, branches, and canopy of the tree. These sprays are intended to control fungal cankers and bacterial blight.

Steve Renquist is the Horticultural Extension Officer for the Douglas County OSU Extension Service.

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