University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Fall News Article


CHECKING SOIL ACIDITY AND OTHER SEPTEMBER GARDENING TIPS

   
Charlie Nardozzi, Senior Horticulturist
National Gardening Association, and
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
   
Checking your soil acidity or pH, keeping new plantings well watered, and freezing end-of-season tomatoes are some of the many gardening activities for this month.    
           
If you need to raise or lower the pH of your soil, add the required amendments, such as sulfur or lime, this fall because they take some time to work. Take soil samples from different parts of your yard and garden and test them separately so you can apply what's needed for each particular use.  Extension test kits are available from local offices and many garden stores.
           
Plants that are still developing new root systems need ample water in the fall before they go dormant. Roots grow until the soil temperature gets down to the low 40s (degrees F), so moisten the entire root zone once a week unless you have a soaking rain. Moisten means to water well.  A good soaking less often promotes deeper roots better able to withstand stress.
           
Don't let excess tomatoes go to waste. Plum tomatoes and cherry and grape minis dry fairly easily in the oven. Slice them in half lengthwise, set them on a baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil and sea salt. Roast them in a 250-degree oven until they are no longer juicy. When cool, pack them in freezer bags.
           
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.
           
After spending the summer growing foliage and replenishing the bulb, your amaryllis needs a rest. Bring it inside into a cool, dark spot and stop watering for a couple of months.  When you see new growth beginning, or when you are ready to start the flowering process, bring the pot inside, refresh the top inch of soil, and begin watering. Take care not to overwater, especially if there's no growth yet. Different varieties have different bloom cycles but in general your bulb should bloom in about 10 to 12 weeks.
           
With frost likely this month, prepare to cover plants at the last minute. Make sure the cover extends all the way to the ground to hold in the heat, and try to prop it above the foliage so the leaves don't freeze. Old shower curtains and sheets are handy for this, as are light fabrics available at complete garden stores sold for frost protection.
            
The sales are on. There's still plenty of time to plant trees and shrubs.  Root growth will continue into late fall or early winter, 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, submerge them in the vegetable garden -- pot and all.
           
If you haven't ordered spring-flowering bulbs for fall planting, such as daffodils and tulips, you can find these this month in many garden stores.  If you have deer and other wildlife, think daffodils as these wont be eaten by them. 
 

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