master gardener

September Checklist for Connecticut Gardeners

Written by Colleen Amster and Arianna Ege, UConn Extension Master Gardener Volunteers

mums on a bench
Photo: Michelle Winkler

September is a good time for Connecticut gardeners to begin the fall cleanup and assessment process. It is also a good time to shop for trees, shrubs, and bulbs, and prepare for next year’s growing season. Here is a helpful list to get you started:

Annual and herbaceous perennials

  • Take note of which annuals did well in your garden this year and decide what plants you would like to add to your beds next spring, and where. It is helpful to take photos of the bare spots that you would like to fill.
  • Remove and compost spent annuals. Some annuals like geraniums can be dug up and placed in a cool place to overwinter in containers.
  • Some annuals are cold hardy, like pansies, calendula, sweet pea and ornamental kale, and can be planted now.
  • Begin to harvest and dry (in paper bags) seeds for herbaceous perennial plants that are ready to be collected by late September like hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon), echinacea (coneflower), rudbeckias (black-eyed susans), baptisia (false indigo) and some helianthus (sunflowers), just to name a few. Store seeds, once they are dry, in containers or bags in a cool dry location. Some coneflower seed heads, like echinacea, will need to be shaken in a container to separate the seeds from the chaff. Seeds can be started outdoors later in the fall or, for better results, inside in potting medium in the spring. Some will need to be refrigerated and stratified.
  • As herbaceous perennials turn brown, begin cutting back plants from 4-8” from the ground, depending on the plant. Some fibrous herbaceous perennials do best when they are divided every few years, including echinacea, hostas, and peonies.
  • Take note of any perennials that have been impacted by powdery mildew or fungal diseases. Look for fungal problems on leaves and remove and dispose of any diseased plant parts. This is a good time to research and implement treatments for plants that have been impacted by botrytis, or root rot, or other diseases over the last growing season.
  • It is also a great time to buy discounted plants that transplant well in fall. Many local plant trusts have sales in September and some will sell grouping of pollinator plants. Planting in fall allows root systems extra time to develop.

Bulbs, tubers, rhizomes, and corms

  • Decide what bulbs you would like to add to your garden beds and buy from a reputable source.
  • Before purchasing bulbs, check for disease or damage, such as rot, cuts, or bruises and do not buy bulbs that are soft or moldy. Make sure bulbs are firm and have a protective papery skin. Purchase hardy bulbs in August-September and plant the bulbs as soon as possible. Plant from mid-September to mid-October so the bulbs can grow roots before the ground freezes.
  • Store bulbs in a dry place away from direct sunlight until you are ready to plant them.
  • A special note about garlic: Garlic is especially beneficial in the garden. It is nutritious, easy to grow, repels pests and wildlife, and is a good pollinator plant if some is allowed to bloom. It comes in three varieties, hardenck, softneck, and elephant. If you are planting garlic next month, cloves should be purchased from a reputable supplier or local garden center. Garlic bulbs sold in the grocery store are mainly grown in China and California and may have diseases, nematodes, or viruses that can impact your soil.

Vegetable and herbs

turnips growing in a garden
Photo: Michelle Winkler
  • Maintain good sanitation in your vegetable gardens, pruning and removing diseased leaves, weeds, and any plants that are no longer producing viable fruit to reduce insect and disease issues, and staking plants like tomatoes to keep them off the ground.
  • Make room for cool weather greens like spinach, lettuces, radishes, collard greens, swiss chard, kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, and mustard. Brussel sprouts can still be started now, as well as carrots and rutabagas. Check out this planting calendar for best dates to plant in your zip code: https://www.almanac.com/gardening/planting-calendar/zipcode/06070/date.
  • Harvest veggies as they ripen. Harvest and dry herbs that are beginning to get leggy or that have begun to flower or bolt.
  • It is a good time to save heirloom seeds for next season, including tomatoes. Fun fact: any tomatoes that haven’t ripened on the vine by the first forecasted frost can be harvested green and stored indoors until they begin to ripen! See this article for details: https://news.extension.uconn.edu/2014/10/27/is-your-garden-bursting-with-fall-tomatoes/.
  • You can take herb cuttings at this time to start herbs like mint and oregano indoors in a sunny window.
  • Protecting your fall vegetables and flowers with row covers will give you extra growing time in the season and protect tender plants from sudden temperature changes.

Trees and shrubs

  • Focus on removing deadwood and deadheading flowers after they bloom. Don’t prune too heavily, because new growth will not have time to harden off before winter and will be more susceptible to frost damage.
  • It is a good time to plant trees and shrubs, many of which are on sale this time of year!
  • Continue harvesting seasonal fruits.
  • Sanitize the area around each plant by removing fallen fruit and plant debris to prevent the spread of disease and pests.
  • Never add a heavy application of fertilizer to perennials or trees in the late fall as it will encourage new growth and plants can be injured by an early frost.

Lawns

  • Mow grass below 3” now that temperatures are dropping to reduce matting and fungal issues.
  • If your lawn is compacted, consider de-thatching and aerating.
  • Remove weeds and dead grass to expose soil and apply fertilizer. Now is the best time of year to plant grass seed and fill those bare patches in your lawn!

Soil and pests

  • Make plans to add mulch around plants that will need extra protection during the winter months and order a delivery of mulch if that is more economical than buying it in bags. Evergreens and other perennials will need a protective layer of mulch before the first frost. Remember to ask your supplier if they sell certified compost and mulch–and heat their products to at least 104 degrees to kill invasive earthworm cocoons and other pests.
  • All plants should be quarantined and observed before planting and some invasive pest research groups are recommending that all new plants be thoroughly rinsed and planted with bare roots.
  • Prepare your leaf collection bin and compost bin for cool weather.
  • Check for insect pests including the spotted lanternfly and invasive earthworms.
  • Apply deer repellent or plan for netting trees and perennials that deer tend to browse, including arborvitaes and yews.
  • Continue to weed garden beds and maintain good sanitation.
  • Many Connecticut gardeners are reporting infestations of the invasive Asian jumping or snake worm. Wood ash is always a beneficial fall amendment but has the added benefit of repelling these worms; diatomaceous earth or biochar may also be used to combat them.
  • Last, collect soil samples to be tested while the soil is still easily workable so you can plan soil amendments accordingly: https://soiltest.uconn.edu/sampling.php

References and further reading

Perennials: http://www.ladybug.uconn.edu/FactSheets/perennials.php
Bulbs, tubers, rhizomes, corms: https://web.extension.illinois.edu/bulbs/planting.cfm
Seed saving: http://www.ladybug.uconn.edu/FactSheets/seed-starting.php
Flowering sequence of different types of bulbs: https://web.extension.illinois.edu/bulbs/selection.cfm

Garlic: http://www.ladybug.uconn.edu/index_306_3102396391.pdf http://www.ladybug.uconn.edu/Articles_28_731441880.pdf
Tomatoes: http://www.ladybug.uconn.edu/FactSheets/tomatoes.php
Saving seeds: http://www.ladybug.uconn.edu/Articles_25_1925738656.pdf
Invasive earthworms: https://ag.umass.edu/sites/ag.umass.edu/files/pdf-doc-ppt/kostromytska_invasive_earthworms_ppt.pdf

https://extension.psu.edu/look-out-for-jumping-earthworms
September gardening: http://www.ladybug.uconn.edu/FactSheets/gardening-tips-september_15_1424196800.pdf
Fall gardening: https://news.extension.uconn.edu/tag/fall-gardening/
Tree, shrub, and perennial planting and aftercare: https://clear.uconn.edu/projects/crlg/documents/f3.pdf
Fall lawn care: http://www.ladybug.uconn.edu/Articles_69_3249872767.pdf

Apply to Become a UConn Extension Master Gardener

2022 classes will include hybrid and virtual options

vegetable gardenFall is a great time to plan for next year’s gardening activities! Apply now for the 2022 UConn Extension Master Gardener Program. Classes will be held in New Haven, Norwich, Tolland, Torrington, and Stamford. The deadline for applications is Friday, October 18, 2021.

“The program provides the opportunity for beginner, intermediate or experienced gardeners to increase their personal knowledge of the practice of gardening … The program allows you to meet with like-minded people over a common interest – growing plants,” says Advanced Master Gardener Ken Sherrick of Middletown.

UConn Extension Master Gardeners have an interest in plants, gardening, people and the environment.  Specifically, they are willing to share their knowledge, passion and enthusiasm with their communities, providing research-based information to homeowners, students, gardening communities and others. They receive horticultural training from UConn, and then share that knowledge with the public through community volunteering and educational outreach efforts. UConn Master Gardeners help with community and museum gardens, school gardens, backyard projects, houseplant questions and more.

Four of the program cohorts will be in a hybrid class format, with three to four hours of online work before each of 16 weekly in-person classes, running from 9 AM to 1 PM. There will be one entirely online evening cohort, on Thursdays from 5:30 – 9:30 PM, hosted by the New Haven office.

Classes begin the week of January 10, 2022. Subject matter includes basic botany, plant pathology, soils, entomology and other aspects of gardening such as plant categories, native plants, and pest management. After the classroom portion, students complete 60 hours of outreach experience during the summer, along with a plant identification project.

“The Master Gardener program gave me an understanding the role of plants and insects within the ecosystem, which fostered a passion for removing invasive plants,” says Advanced Master Gardener Karen Berger of Canton, who now volunteers on a project to remove invasives, replacing them with native plants that benefit the local environment.

The program fee is $450.00, and includes all needed course materials. Partial scholarships may be available, based on demonstrated financial need.

For more information, visit the UConn Extension Master Gardener website at mastergardener.uconn.edu , where both the on-line and paper application are located.

Master Gardener Plant Sale

flower in pot on porch

Date: Saturday, May 8, 2021

Time: 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM

Place: Windham County Extension Center 139 Wolf Den Road Brooklyn, CT 06237

 

Perennials

Annuals

Tomatoes

Vegetables

Herbs

Houseplants

Soil Testing Kits for sale

 

*Free Parking                                                *Free Admission                          *No Pets Allowed-Except Service Animals

Rain or Shine (Outdoors)

*All proceeds support UConn, Master Gardener Program

TEL: 860-774-9600                     Windham@uconn.edu

Master Gardener logo

Learn Gardening Fundamentals in New Online Course

FANs gardenInterested in how plants grow? Do you want a healthy, productive, and sustainable landscape for your home?  UConn Extension now offers the Fundamentals of Home Gardening, an asynchronous online series of classes covering a wide variety of gardening topics. These classes explore the foundation of good gardening practices, and help explain the “why” of successful gardens.  Taught by UConn Extension educators and specialists, and drawing on the Extension Master Gardener curriculum, this four-part, online series can be taken at your own pace, at times that work for you. Choose just the segments you’re interested in or complete all four components and earn a certificate of completion in the Fundamentals of Home Gardening.

The four modules cover Core Fundamentals, Environmental Factors, Ornamental Plants and Growing Your Own Foods. Each module is independent and does not require any prerequisites. All modules will be available by the end of April, and a registrant will have six weeks to complete the three or four classes contained per module.

Modules are $150 each. A flyer with more information is available. Space is limited. Registration is at https://uconnmastergarden-ers.gosignmeup.com/  or for more information, contact sarah.bailey@uconn.edu.

2020 Herb of the Year

RUBUS (Brambles) 2020 Herb of the Year Red Raspberry, Black Raspberry, Blackberry & Wineberry

Article by Dana Weinberg, UConn Extension Advanced Master Gardener

Since 1991, the International Herb Society has chosen an Herb of the Year. This year’s choice is the genus Rubus. The name comes from the Latin word ‘ruber’ meaning red. Indigenous to 6 continents and readily hybridized, you can count up to 700 different species within the genus. It’s mid summer and the raspberries, wineberries and even some blackberries are bearing their delicious fruit. What a great time to explore some of the commonalities and differences in this wideranging genus!

A member of the Rosaceae family, all Rubus species bear 5 petalled flowers, like a wild rose. These petals are usually white, but sometimes pink. Each flower has several pistils. Each flower has numerous pollen-laden stamens which attract insects, but many Rubus species are also self-fertile with the ability to set seed on their own. All flower parts are attached to a central coneshaped receptacle (torus). Rubus fruit is an aggregate of small drupelets (individual fleshy fruits surrounding a single seed) attached to the torus.

Members of this genus thrive in well drained, humus rich soils in full sun to part shade. Their water requirement is modest. Rubus stems are called canes. Canes can be green to somewhat woody and are usually covered with bristles, prickles and/or gland-tipped hairs. They spread by seed, tip rooting, or suckering from stolon runners or rhizomes, depending on species.

Berries
Image by Stefani Ecknig, Getty Images

Rubus root stock is perennial, but the canes are biennial. With the exception of some special cultivars, first year canes (primocanes) yield flowers and fruit only during their second season (floricanes), then die. The floricanes are then replaced by new primocanes the following year. Canes can vary in length, depending on type. In the wild, canes tend to bend and arc. In cultivation, canes are commonly pruned and trellised.

Rubus plants have been used since antiquity for food and medicine. Stems, roots, flowers and leaves have been used in infusions, plasters and extractions to treat a wide range of maladies. These include treatments for diarrhea, nausea, stomach ailments, shingles and fevers, as an external wash for wounds, as an antivenom for snakebites, to strengthen gums, to reduce eye inflammation, to cool rashes and as a hair dye. Rubus fruits are full of fiber, antioxidants and vitamins and are delicious to eat.

Read More

Apply to Become a UConn Extension Master Gardener – 2021 Class Will Be Online

Master Gardener logoGarden harvests are underway, and it’s a great time to plan ahead for next year. Apply now for the 2021 UConn Extension Master Gardener Program. Classes will be held in Bethel, Brooklyn, Farmington, Haddam and Stamford. The deadline for applications is Friday, October 16, 2020.

UConn Extension Master Gardeners have an interest in plants, gardening, people and the environment.  Specifically, they are willing to share their knowledge, passion and enthusiasm with their communities, providing research-based information to homeowners, students, gardening communities and others. They receive horticultural training from UConn, and then share that knowledge with the public through community volunteering and educational outreach efforts. UConn Master Gardeners help with community and museum gardens, school gardens, backyard projects, houseplant questions and more.

“The Master Gardener Program opened my eyes to the wonderful world of horticulture, gardening, and the fragile ecosystem we share with animals and insects,” says Pat Sabosik of Hamden, who completed the program in 2017.

The 2021 class, that runs January through April, will be entirely online. Each topic consists of online educational material to be reviewed before the class date and a weekly interactive online session providing more depth and application of information to real-life situations. The classroom portion runs from 9 AM – 1 PM. There are five class cohorts available; each affiliated with one or more Master Gardener offices. This year’s Haddam class will be held on Saturdays.

“The combination of in-depth classroom learning with subject matter experts, extensive reading materials, and hands-on projects and outreach experiences is a good balance of learning experiences”, says Anne Farnum who also took the class in 2017.

Classes begin the week of January 9, 2021. Subject matter includes basic botany, plant pathology, soils, entomology and other aspects of gardening such as plant categories, native plants, and pest management. After the classroom portion, students complete 60 hours of outreach experience during the summer, along with a plant identification project.

The program fee is $450.00, and includes all needed course materials. Partial scholarships may be available, based on demonstrated financial need.

For more information, visit the UConn Extension Master Gardener website at www.mastergardener.uconn.edu , where both the on-line and paper application are located.

There is Still Time to Garden

school garden plant
Photo: Molly Deegan

August is just around the corner, and somehow you never got your vegetable garden started. Perhaps you had a wonderful early-season harvest but didn’t plant any later-season crops. The garden bed is just sitting there, empty except for weeds.

Don’t think the garden season is over! There are plenty of short-season crops and cold-tolerant veggies you can grow starting right now.

Connecticut’s first frost dates vary from mid-September in the area of Coventry to early November along the coast in the Bridgeport area. For most of the state, that frost date falls sometime in October. (You can check your specific area at  https://www.plantmaps.com/interactive-connecticut-first-frost-date-map.php) That means most of us have anywhere from eight to ten weeks (55 to 70 days) of growing season left.

There are plenty of short-season vegetables to choose. Once you have determined your likely first frost date, select plants and varieties that will mature in that time frame. This includes vegetables such as beets, bush beans, some cabbages, lettuce, kale, Asian greens, scallions, radishes, turnips, spinach and Swiss chard.

Some vegetables can tolerate cooler temperatures and even a light frost. These selections provide a little extra insurance against an early frost. These include small, round beets, short carrots, radishes, bunching onions, mustard greens, Swiss chard, kale, and spinach. The cooler temperatures will actually improve the sweetness of carrots, cabbages and beets.

You can extend your season further by using plant protectors such as floating row covers, cloches and other similar devices that will give your plants a little extra warmth when the temperatures drop.

So, don’t put the garden tools away just yet. Get started on round two – or three – of your garden to table season!

Article by Sarah Bailey, State Coordinator, UConn Extension Master Gardener Program

Getting Started with Vegetable Gardening

It’s exciting for those of us who are already passionate about gardening to see the recent interest in vegetable gardens. Seed companies have been doing a great business. Every winter I love to browse seed catalogs and gardening websites and dream about the perfect garden. There is a special joy in eating something you grew yourself, it is convenient to have fresh food at hand, and you can even save money.

While there are wonderful benefits of growing your own food, it can also be challenging. How can you be successful from the beginning? Where can you turn for reliable science-based information? UConn Extension has numerous resources available online and you can reach out to any of our nine Master Gardener offices around the state with questions.

Before you spend money on seeds, plants or fancy tools, ask yourself if you can provide the basics of adequate sun, soil, and water. Without at least 6-8 hours of sun, few vegetables can thrive. Similarly, if your soil pH is not in the correct range, plants struggle to get nutrients from the soil. Finally, you should have a way to easily water your new vegetable garden if it does not get at least an inch of rain per week.

As long as you can provide enough sun, a yard isn’t necessary. Container gardening is an easy way to get started without a big commitment. Make sure the container is deep enough for the roots to grow and look for dwarf varieties that will be happy with less room to grow. See the container gardening section for more information.

Consider creating a small raised bed in a sunny area. A few tomato plants, 2 or 3 cucumber plants, lettuce, radishes, and basil fit in a 4 x 8-foot raised bed. Purchased garden soil eliminates the need to dig.  Remember to allow space between plants so air can circulate and reduce the chance of disease. If deer, rabbits, and other animals are a problem, you can use netting and stakes to create a simple fence around the bed.

As a beginning gardener, start small so that you aren’t overwhelmed by weeds, insects, other potential problems, or your aching muscles. Grow what you like to eat. I grew Swiss chard for several years because the foliage is colorful, but I don’t actually like to eat it! Consider choosing plants with fewer pest or disease problems. Cool season vegetables like radishes and lettuce grow quickly from seeds planted in the garden and they have few pests. Soil should be at least 40 degrees and not too wet. Beans can also be direct sown in the garden, but watch out for Japanese, Cucumber, and Mexican Bean beetles. Luckily, hand picking insect pests is manageable in a small garden. Home grown tomatoes are delicious, but they are susceptible to disease and take a long time to mature. Seeds must be started indoors 6 weeks before the last frost date (average of mid-May in CT) or you can buy plants to put in the ground in early June. Warm season vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant need warm soil (at least 60 degrees) to thrive so don’t start too early.  Whether you grow from seed or plants, keep track of when you plant and how it grows.  This can be as easy as taking pictures with your phone.

Welcome to the world of gardening!

Article by Michelle Winkler, Litchfield County Extension Master Gardener Coordinator

Common Garden Mistakes

vegetable sprouting out of soil with words common garden problems written on the photoMistakes are a great learning tool, but they also can dampen any enthusiasm for a new project. When early mistakes compound problems further down the road, they can turn someone away from a pastime that offers great satisfaction, healthy activities and a renewed appreciation of the natural world around us.

So, if you are just starting on the gardening odyssey, let’s look at how to avoid a few common mistakes. Avoiding these trouble spots will make gardening easier, much more productive – and fun!

There are three main components to consider when starting out: sun, soil and water. In simpler terms, location, location, location. If you provide your garden the right combination of these three items, you sidestep many problems that can occur as the growing season progresses. These concepts apply to both vegetable and ornamental gardening, and to any specific type of plant you want to grow.

Let’s start with sun. Different plants have different light needs. Plants are categorized as sun, part sun/part shade and shade – but what do those labels mean? Here’s the breakdown. Full sun means at least six to eight hours of full sunlight a day and you start calculating that after 10 AM. Early morning sunlight isn’t considered strong enough to be included in your calculations.

Part sun/part shade is four to six hours of sun daily and anything less than four is considered shady. Make these calculations after the trees have leafed out in the spring; the sunlight in your yard shifts from winter to summer.

Your soil is the foundation of your garden, both literally and figuratively. It provides support, nutrients and water to your plants. Just like humans, different types of plants have different preferences in nutrition and water. Find out what you can provide and choose plants that will thrive in those conditions. First and foremost, if the site is new to you, or it’s been at least five years since the last one, get a soil test. Find out what you do – and don’t – need to add to your soil. Soil tests are available from the UConn soil lab at http://www.soiltest.uconn.edu/sampling.php

You can amend your soil with additional nutrients and elements, but it’s difficult to significantly change water-holding capacity. The test will help you determine how well your soil holds or drains water, allowing you to choose plants that are happiest in those conditions. Observation will also tell you a lot: how quickly does an area drain after a rainstorm? Is it wet is spring, but dry in the summer? Is it always damp?

A related issue is access to water. While an established plant in the right location may not need any supplemental water, both vegetable gardens and newly planted ornamentals will. Is it easy to get water to this area? Do you need to develop a water storage system, such as rain or water barrels? Or is another location really a better overall choice?

Once you know the characteristics of your space, you can then choose plants that will do well in that location without a great deal of extra work. The old phrase ‘Right Plant, Right Place’ is a valid one. Don’t try to significantly alter the location for a favorite plant that really isn’t right for the spot. It will only lead to frustration and poor results. Instead, find plants that like your location and choose from those. Let your gardening provide a positive experience!

For answers to your gardening questions, go to https://mastergardener.uconn.edu/ask-us-a-question/  . We’ll be happy to help!

Article by Sarah Bailey, UConn Extension State Master Gardener Coordinator