University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Fall News Article
line
PICKING UP FRUITS AND OTHER SEPTEMBER GARDENING TIPS
 
Charlie Nardozzi, Horticulturist and
Leonard Perry, UVM Extension Horticulturist
 
 
Cleaning up fallen fruits, sowing cover crops, and harvesting winter squash are some of the gardening activities for this month.
           
To reduce problems with apple maggots, codling moths and plum curculios next season, pick up and destroy fallen apples. Gather dropped peaches to help control plum curculios and brown rot on those trees next summer.
          
Begin your garden cleanup by pulling up bygone bean and pea plantings, and other vines and plants that have finished producing crops and may be dying back already.  Chop these plant parts into smaller pieces so they’ll compost properly and easily.  Then, layer any succulent green material with “brown” material such as dried leaves or straw in the compost pile.  The composting process may be speeded up by sprinkling a handful of nitrogen fertilizer every few layers.
           
As areas of the vegetable garden become empty, sow cover crops. Annual rye grows quickly and can be planted late into the season. It usually dies over the winters in New England, but still provides some protection from soil erosion. Winter wheat and rye planted as late as October will also grow until the ground freezes. It survives the winter and is tilled under in
early spring.
           
Pick your winter squashes when they have fully developed the color for their particular variety, when the rind is hard enough that you can't dent it with a fingernail, and when the stem turns hard and begins to shrivel. Cut squashes from the vine, leaving 2 inches of stem.
 
Keep leaves raked from lawns so they don’t smother the grass.  Spread a thin topping of compost on the lawn after you rake up leaves, and rake again to settle the compost.
          
Leaf mold is made simply by piling fallen leaves inside a circle of wire fencing. Because fall leaves are low in nitrogen, decomposition will take place slowly over a period of six months to two years. Leaf mold is a great soil amendment, helping to increase water retention, improve soil structure and provide habitat for beneficial soil organisms.
           
Early fall is a prime time for fertilizing the lawn. The grass is growing, but weeds aren’t, so they won’t compete for the nutrients. To minimize pollution of waterways, consider having a soil test done first. If it shows that levels of phosphorus (P) and/or potassium (K) are adequate, choose a fertilizer that contains nitrogen (N), and little or no P or K.  In some areas, using phosphorus is illegal unless a soil test calls for it.  If you're using an organic fertilizer, it needs warm soil for microbial activity to release the nutrients, so apply it early in the month.
           
September begins apple picking in most areas, and is a great time to visit local orchards or farm stands.  Whether you pick your own or buy apples, if storing, do so properly for longest life.  A cool, humid place such as a root cellar or cool area in a basement is ideal.  Cover fruit with a moist burlap cloth to keep up the humidity and prevent shrinkage.  Don’t store apples with other fruits or vegetables because apples give off ethylene gas—a ripening agent that causes other fruits to spoil. 
          
Other activities for this month include replacing those spent annual flowers with fall mums or ornamental kale, and sowing late crops of Swiss chard, spinach, or lettuce.

(Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening consultant, and garden coach; CharlieNardozzi.com). 

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