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Enriching Soil and Other September Gardening Tips

By Leonard Perry
9/13/2012 9:21:51 AM

There are two main ways to enrich the soil for next year: spreading compost or planting cover crops. Before you spread compost, dig or lightly till in any plants that aren't diseased to return nutrients to the soil. Spread compost, even if it's not well decomposed yet. It will protect the soil over the winter and break down by spring planting time. Or you can plant cover crops, such as buckwheat or annual rye that will grow this fall and early spring until you till it under several weeks before planting.

Ready houseplants for winter by checking them for insects, trimming off dead foliage and stems, and repotting if necessary. Gradually move them into shadier conditions to get them used to less sunlight before bringing them inside when nights dip into the 40s.

If daylilies are getting too large, perhaps not blooming well, it may be time to divide them. Daylily clumps are so dense you'll need to slice through them with a shovel or spade. Or you can just divide off half, or a chunk, leaving the rest. Separate large clumps into smaller divisions, leaving at least three groups of leaves or "fans" per clump. Trim leaves to about 6 inches long and replant. Water well and they should bloom for you next summer.

Get weeds out of your garden or else they will make it doubly hard for you next spring. Since bare soil invites weeds, cover bare soil with mulch, such as layers of wet newspaper covered with straw, compost, or manure. This will control late fall and early spring weed growth and provide organic matter. Fall weeding is satisfying, as they're basically done growing for the year and won't return unlike summer weeding.

Legumes, such as beans and peas, have the ability to take nitrogen from the air and use it for their own benefit. Rather than pulling up the spent plants and adding them to the compost pile, why not keep that nitrogen where it's needed by chopping up the vines and tilling or digging them into the soil.

There's still plenty of time to plant trees and shrubs. Root growth will continue into late fall, and plants won't have the heat of spring or summer to dry them out. Be sure to water well at planting time and every week until they go dormant. If you don't have a spot ready for your new additions this season, submerge roots in the vegetable garden for holding -- pot and all.

This month is, of course, the time in our north country to buy apples, either at a local farmer's market or apple orchard. The latter are fun excursions, particularly if you want lots of apples such as by picking them yourself. This way you can often save some money. Other than fresh eating, you can make cider, juice, sauce, pies, and dried slices. Think of the wonderful treats this winter, pulling out a jar of canned sauce or an apple pie from the freezer.

To help in your figuring, one pound of apples equates to about 2 large fruit, 3 medium size, or 4 to 5 small size. You would need about 2 pounds of apples for a standard 9-inch pie. A bushel of apples would make about 20 pies, or 18 to 24 quarts of applesauce or slices.

Other gardening activities for this month include keeping evergreen shrubs well-watered if there isn't at least an inch or more of rain a week; and make sure to buy some spring-flowering bulbs to plant now. Plant some in pots to keep cool (not freezing) for forcing blooms this winter.

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