Harvesting onions and storing them properly, freezing fresh corn and dividing certain perennials are some of the gardening activities for this month.
Begin harvesting onions when about one-half to three-quarters of the leaves have died. Gently dig or pull the onions and store them in a dry, shady place with good ventilation, such as an outdoor shed or barn, for 10 days to two weeks. After the onions have cured, separate the young, soft and thick-necked bulbs and use them first because they won't store well. Put the rest in slatted crates or mesh bags, and store them indoors in a basement with low humidity and temperatures between 33 and 45 degrees F.
Preserve the fresh-picked flavor of corn on the cob for winter meals. Cook the cobs as usual, then using a special corn scraper or a sharp knife, cut off the kernels and freeze them in freezer bags. They will be much tastier than any store-bought frozen or canned corn.
It's time to start some mesclun greens and leaf lettuce in bare spots in the garden for fall picking. Mix in some compost before seeding and give new seedlings a dose of liquid fish emulsion.
Build the nutrient levels and organic matter in garden beds by sowing cover crops like annual ryegrass or buckwheat into empty annual beds. They will grow until winter kills them and then can be incorporated into the soil in spring. Cut down buckwheat before it flowers so seeds don't become a problem.
Begin removing the old mulch under roses and raking up all leaves and debris. While this organic matter may seem beneficial, there are many rose disease organisms and insects that overwinter there, and you can reduce the damage to your plants next year by getting rid of it all.
Trees, shrubs and perennials are on sale, and late summer into early fall is a great time to plant. Get new plants in the ground then so they can begin expanding their root systems. If you don't have the final spot ready, sink the pots or root balls temporarily in an empty area of the veggie garden. Water them if nature doesn't provide enough.
Late summer is a good time to divide German and Siberian iris, rudbeckia, echinacea, daylilies and tall phlox. If plants are blooming well, with strong stems, and you still have space for them, they shouldn't need division. Don't make the divisions too small or you'll wait longer for blooms. Wait until after bloom to divide. Trim the foliage by at least half before replanting.
Be sure to set bearded iris rhizomes (the thick roots) just barely below the soil surface to prevent rotting. When dividing these iris, check the rhizomes for mushy areas with borers. Discard affected roots, making sure to kill the borers.
You can savor the smells and memories of summer this winter by making potpourri from your roses, pinks, mint and other fragrant garden herbs and flowers. Pick the flowers during early morning soon after the dew has evaporated. Dry petals and flower heads, until crisp, on a screen or newspaper in a warm spot out of direct sunlight. Or, you can use an oven set at its lowest temperature. Mix the dried plants with orris root (from many grocery and health food stores, found among the spices) to preserve the flavor. Age and store in an airtight container in the dark. For many more tips from Leonard Perry... visit www.icangarden.com.
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