Gardening in the Autumn of the Year

There is so much to do in the spring that it is a great idea to do some tasks in the fall whenever possible. And some years the soil is simply so wet that it's difficult to even get started. Planning a new bed? In 2010? Remove the sod now. Add organic material . Shred leaves and add them to the bed. Add well rotted manure or compost.

The autumn is the best time of the year to fertilize and reseed your lawn. The rain and snow will take the food right down to the roots.

This is the ideal time to make cuttings from plants that we treat as annuals such as coleus, impatiens, strobilanthus and scented geraniums. Make sure your cuttings are free of both disease and insects. Remove the lower leaves so several nodes (growing areas) spots are visible. Pour some rooting compound on a piece of paper. Dip the moistened cuttings in a mixture of fungicide and rooting hormone (Use a product such as Rootone ®) Now moisten vermiculite or other sterile medium. Poke a hole in the medium with a pencil (Carol Ann actually uses a finger). Place a cutting in each Gently tap the medium around each cutting. .Place the container in a plastic bag open at one end. Check on your cuttings weekly. When they are rooted you can transplant them into potting mix. If you have sufficient light you can enjoy your cuttings as house plants during the winter. In spring you can harden off the plants and put them back in the garden.

Collecting seeds at this can be fun. It might be helpful if you know whether or not the parent plant was a hybrid. Most annual plants you purchased this past year are probably hybrids. Hybrids don't breed true so the results are not predictable but it can be fun to try! Garden plants that tend to breed true are cleome, dill, fennel, cosmos, and alyssum. Heirloom species such as scarlet runner bean, Black Valentine bush beans, Big Max pumpkin, Ford Hook Giant swiss chard, tomatoes such as Brandywine are open pollinated plants and you will enjoy collecting their seeds!

Label and store the seeds in paper envelopes. Place the envelopes into glass jars. It is a good idea to put a thin layer of silica gel on the bottom of the jar to keep moisture from encouraging fungal growth on your seeds. Many people store seeds in the refrigerator as well.

You might consider joining a seed saver organization or contributing some of your saved seeds to organizations such as American Horticulture Society, Herb Society of America, and of course the Seed Savers Exchange.

Now you can rest. I love hearing from you.

Forever Young Magazine -September 2009