Lowenfels: Prepare now for first frost

GardeningAugust 28, 2013 

Prepare now for the inevitable first frost, says garden columnist Jeff Lowenfels.

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OK. We made it into September and so far, its been one heck of a growing season, once you discount the end results of a very weird winter/spring combo. I say "so far" because, as the experienced Alaskan knows, we can have a killing frost at anytime this month.

This is not something that will come out of nowhere. We will have generally cooler and cooler days and nights for the month leading up to it. And judging from the 60 degree days we've had this week, a killing frost won't hit this week. Still it is a good idea to harvest vegetables and flowers -- Brussels sprouts and potatoes being the main exceptions. As I keep saying: What are you waiting for? Older and bigger do not necessarily correlate to better taste.

While the weather is decent, bring in those houseplants and any garden plants you wish to keep over this fall and winter. Obviously watch out for hitchhikers. Consider spraying the plants with AzaMax and by all means isolate them in the garage or porch for a couple of weeks.

If you are not going to bring tomato plants indoors to grow under lights, then it is a good idea to pick off any flowers. These will not have enough time to develop and ripen before it does get cold, no matter how hard we believe in global warming. Let the plants concentrate on putting energy into the existing fruit instead.

If you have moose problems during the winter months (and who doesn't) this week is the ideal time to apply emulsified blood meal in the form of a Swedish product, Plantskydd. This stuff works to keep moose at bay for up to six months because the moose think the blood smell means wolves, hunters or butchers are nearby. There is only one problem, Plantskydd is not fun to apply in cold weather as it is a bit viscous. Applying it when it is warm is much easier. Take my advice and do not wait to buy and apply Southcentral's favorite moose repellent. Make sure it won't rain for a day or so after application.

Butter and eggs have bloomed and those cute yellow-orange, snapdragon flowers are forming into seed pods. Each contains hundreds of seeds, part of the plant kingdom's attempt to take over and enslave mankind. Defend yourself from the onslaught and remove the entire plant. Bring a bag or container to collect them.

For my money, this is a good time to plant and to move most perennials, especially peony plants. Do not plant them deeper than they are in the pot or ground. They should be planted in soils rich in organics and, needless to say (but I will), with good drainage. Do not fertilize.

Spend a bit of time on your lawns. Dandelions? Use ADIOS, BurnOut or vinegar on warm sunny days. They all work best if it doesn't rain for 24 hours after application. This is the absolute last call for putting down lawn seed which requires up to 21 days to germinate, though I am being optimistic here. Continue to leave clippings except if you need to heat up your compost pile one more time this season.

Spent delphiniums stalks should be cut at the base of the plant so these hollow stems don't fill with water and freeze/thaw all winter long. You can divide yours and transplant this time of year. When you do divide plants, make new labels for the divisions. By the way, it is a good idea to standardize where you put labels. That way you can bury them in the winter so moose, skiers, snowshoers and the like won't step on them and break them. At our house they are always located on the south side of the plant.

Finally, nurseries and box stores generally do not want to keep trees, shrubs and perennials over the winter. The selections may be thin, but prices cannot be beat. I would suggest you visit around and see what you can find. With this great weather, it is even fun to plant this time of year.

Jeff Lowenfels' bestselling books are available at tinyurl.com/teamingwithmicrobes and tinyurl.com/teamingwithnutrients.

Garden calendar

ALASKA BOTANICAL GARDEN: THE GARDEN IS ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL THIS TIME OF YEAR. WHILE YOU ARE OUT THERE, YOU MIGHT LEARN SOMETHING ABOUT HOW THE STAFF GETS READY FOR WINTER.

YOUR GARDEN SHED: CLEAN AND ORGANIZE NOW SO YOU DON'T HAVE TOO WHEN IT IS COLD.

TOOL SALES: WHEN VISITING BOX STORES, LOOK FOR SUMMER GARDENING TOOLS ON SALE.

 

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