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Posted on Fri. Sep. 05, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

Gardening column: Prepare your garden now for the winter

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There is still plenty to do in the late garden as well as through the next couple of months. Till "the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock" (James Whitcomb Riley) most annuals and other garden and container plants can still be coaxed into more bloom and continued growth.

Here are few things to jot down on your Garden To-Do list for the week:

• Prune off any new leafy stems your tomato plants are sprouting right now. This will help the plant to put all its energy into ripening the fruit that is already on the plant.

• Sow seed for lettuce, radishes, and other cool weather vegetables. If you have sown seed a few weeks ago and seedlings are up, thin the rows.

• At the end of this month is a good time to plant new garlic bulbs for next years' crop.

• Cut off the foliage of your potatoes 3 weeks before you dig them, then dig and lay out the tubers to dry for a few hours — then store in paper or burlap bags (must be bags that breathe) in a cool, dark place.

• Make sure there are no soft or rotten potatoes in the lot — one bad potato will ruin the whole bushel or bag. (This is true for apples, onions, flower bulbs of all kinds, as well). When I purchase potatoes that are already bagged up, I take the time to give the bag a good sniff — if there is the least bit of a smell of overripe potato I keep checking till I find a bag that has the right smell and the tubers feel firm and solid.

• By the way, here is a bit of information about one of our favorite foods: Potato plants are herbaceous perennials. This starchy, tuberous crop comes from the nightshade family Solanum tuberosum L. Except for the tubers; all parts of the potato plant are not edible and have toxic properties. Potatoes have suffered many ups 'n' downs because periodically a group of people thought they were harmful for the human diet. In the 19th Century an activist group called The Society for the Prevention of an Unwholesome Diet worked very hard to prevent potatoes from being eaten in Britain. Of course we know the potato won as it has in our day when we were told eating potatoes wasn’t good for us. Fortunately, when not fried, instead baked or boiled, and eaten in moderation, they are not only delicious, they are nutritious.

• This is the month to think about taking houseplants that have been enjoying the outdoors, inside for the winter.

• Check the plant carefully, stems and leaves, for aphids and other pests and pest eggs — then either treat the plant and soil with a non-toxic bug spray or totally repot the plant.

• Washing the pot inside with soap and water, then repotting with fresh sterile soil will help reduce problems with pest eggs in the soil hatching out indoors later on.

• Disturbing a pest’s habitat should be every gardener’s sworn duty — and fall cleanup should be at the top of the list of times to do this. So, best practice for your fall garden is to continue pruning off dead foliage and keeping the soil around the plants clean of dead leaves and other debris.

• This is a good time to plant new perennials and to prepare the garden beds and amend the soil for planting spring blooming bulbs.

Jane Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to bloominthing@gmail.com. This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of The News-Sentinel.


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