University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Fall News Article


HARVESTING BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND OTHER OCTOBER GARDENING TIPS

   
Charlie Nardozzi, Senior Horticulturist
National Gardening Association, and
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
 
Harvesting Brussels sprouts, leaving seedheads on some flowers, and shredding leaves are some of the gardening activities for this month.
           
Brussels sprouts, resembling little "cabbages", will continue to ripen and sweeten through the cold snaps so harvest whenever you're ready to eat them.  If some of the sprouts get frozen almost solid, cook them right away or pop them in the freezer.
           
Rudbeckia, sedums, ornamental grasses, and other perennials with long-lasting seedheads will feed the birds if you leave the plants standing. They are also beautiful under a light blanket of snow.
           
Poppy seeds will germinate in early spring if you sow them now in bare soil. Rake the soil lightly and spread the seeds, tamp them down gently, and water. The rest is up to Mother Nature.
           
If you use raked leaves to top your annual veggie and flower beds or add them to the compost pile, speed up the decomposition process by mowing over them first with a lawn mower to shred them.
           
Plants that you moved inside for the winter might harbor insects, and it can take a few weeks before they become obvious. Check plants every week and isolate and treat any that have mealybugs, scale, spider mites, or aphids -- the most common hitchhikers.
           
Christmas cactus needs either long nights or cool temperatures (or both) to initiate flower buds. You can put it in a closet or room that stays completely dark from sunset to sunrise (give light during the day) until new flower buds reach 1/8-inch long (at least three weeks). Or move your plant to a cool location that stays between 55 and 60 degrees (F). Water just enough to keep the plant from wilting (the stems will feel limp), and hold off on fertilizer until buds form. Then move the plant into your living space and water whenever the soil is dry to the touch.
           
Planted spring-flowering bulbs yet?  If not, do so soon as the bulbs need a few weeks before soil temperatures drop too cold in order to form roots.  Keep in mind most tulips are annual, blooming well for only the first year.  Planting deeper (below 6 inches deep) may help them come back in future years, or you can buy tulips marked as "perennial" varieties.
           
Now is a good time to pot up some bulbs for "forcing" into bloom next winter or spring.  If you want some in raised beds or large containers, pot them now in pots about 6 inches across, then sink in the ground and cover with straw.  Mark your calender to remove them in spring when they start emerging, then relocate where you can enjoy them.
           
Visit an apple orchard for picking your own apples for eating, cooking, drying, freezing, or making your own cider.  Local apple farms make a great weekend outing, often with great food and cider if you don't have time or ability to make your own. Check online for orchard listings and links (www.newenglandapples.org).
           
Don't forget to buy some pumpkins at farm stands for painting, carving and pies.
           

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