plants

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.

Celebrate National Pollinator Week!

This week highlights the crucial role of pollinators in our food supply, crop success and persistence of the plants we admire. Pollinator activity is needed for the reproduction of over 85% of the world’s flowering plants including  over 1,200 crop plants. We can take time to learn more about pollinators and reflect on the need to celebrate and protect them every day.  Most pollinator species are insects and many of them continue to face significant conservation challenges. Reports indicate significant declines in 28% of North American bumble bee species and 19% of U.S. butterflies species are at risk of extinction. So lend them a hand by planting a pollinator garden or creating nesting sites for native bees.  

To learn more about pollinators and how to protect them visit this website: https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Wildlife/Learn-About-Wildlife/Pollinators-in-Connecticut

For fun family activities for this week you can visit   https://www.pollinator.org/pollinator-week#pw-activities

What is a Virus?

covid bannerA virus has a very simple makeup. It is just a piece of DNA or RNA, a protein coat, and in some cases a fatty (lipid) layer. The protein coat provides protection for the piece of genetic information (DNA or RNA), and can code for different functions when the virus infects a host organism.

Viruses are considered neither alive nor dead. Viruses do not consist of cells or have any components to carry out basic functions on their own. They rely on the cell functions of their host to replicate. They hijack their host’s cells to operate in a way that allows the virus to thrive.

For this exact reason, viruses have a biological incentive to keep their hosts alive. If their hosts die, the virus can no longer replicate. Viable virus particles can exist on a surface, such as a table. But without a host, the virus can not cause disease or infection.

The first virus to be crystallized and therefore each of its parts were able to be studied, was actually a plant virus, Tobacco mosaic virus. Rosalind Franklin made this discovery in 1955. Since then, thousands of new viruses have been described.

Potato virus Y (PVY) is one of the oldest known plant viruses, and the 5th most economically important plant virus in the world, meaning that it can cause a lot of damage. Hundreds of plants can infected by PVY including potato, tomato, pepper, eggplant, tobacco, and many species of weeds.

Historically, PVY has been easy to detect in fields because of the beautiful mosaic symptoms it causes on foliage. On potatoes, other symptoms include veinal necrosis, deformed or rotting (necrotic) potatoes, and up to 70% yield losses.

Read more at:

What is a virus?

 

 

 

Plant Diagnostic Lab Offers Hot Water Seed Treatment

Our Plant Diagnostic Laboratory now offers hot water seed treatment. What is it? Watch Abby Beissinger, our plant diagnostician, explain how hot water seed treatment works and can help you.

Hot water seed treatment is supported in part by a UConn CAHNR Innovation in Extension Programming Award and a grant from the New England Vegetable & Berry Growers Association. The Plant Diagnostic Laboratory is currently closed due to the university closure for COVID-19 but will accept seeds for treatment when we re-open. The Plant Diagnostic Laboratory is a service of the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture and Extension.

Video: Mike Zaritheny – https://www.mzaritheny.com/

Cold Weather and Finding Old Friends in the Garden

Lilac flower covered in snow

These are some crazy times lately. Snow in the second week of May just adds to the disruptions in our lives right now. Folks are looking to their yard and gardens to bring stability to the upheaval in their lives, and snow and cold weather does not ease the mind. However, mother nature has a way of healing the plants and in doing so, shows us we will heal, too.

Some blossoms will sustain damage without the entire plant being lost. Some plants will succumb to the freeze, but these plants are ones that grow naturally and natively in much warmer areas which would not experience snow or freezing weather. If tomatoes or marigolds were planted out in the garden, they most likely were killed from the freeze. See packets and transplant labels state to wait to plant after all danger of frost has passed. For us in Connecticut, May 15th is the average last frost date. I err on the side of caution, waiting until Memorial Day when the soil as warmed considerably before planting cucumbers, peppers, petunias, squash and tomatoes. Putting these plants into cold soil will shock and stunt them for the rest of the growing season.

Perennial plants in our area are like old friends, returning home after a long absence. The familiarity of finding them in walk abouts, makes the world seem normal. Even some stalwart rhubarb laden with snow gives me hope we will weather  our storms. Rhubarb is a hardy perennial vegetable, providing pies and baked goods from its leaf stalk. Don’t eat the leaves as they contain a high level of oxalates the body doesn’t handle well. Better to use the leaves in the compost or lay them on the ground in the vegetable garden to keep the weeds down. They cover a lot of area.

Read more at:

Cold Weather and Finding Old Friends in the Garden

 

 

What is a Virus?

examples of plant problem symptomsGiven the Coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to focus on viruses to share a little more on these infectious agents.

A virus has a very simple makeup. It is just a piece of DNA or RNA, a protein coat, and in some cases a fatty (lipid) layer. The protein coat provides protection for the piece of genetic information (DNA or RNA), and can code for different functions when the virus infects a host organism.

Viruses are considered neither alive nor dead. Viruses do not consist of cells or have any components to carry out basic functions on their own. They rely on the cell functions of their host to replicate. They hijack their host’s cells to operate in a way that allows the virus to thrive.

For this exact reason, viruses have a biological incentive to keep their hosts alive. If their hosts die, the virus can no longer replicate. Viable virus particles can exist on a surface, such as a table. But without a host, the virus can not cause disease or infection.

The first virus to be crystallized and therefore each of its parts were able to be studied, was actually a plant virus, Tobacco mosaic virus. Rosalind Franklin made this discovery in 1955. Since then, thousands of new viruses have been described.

Read more…

Article by Abby Beissinger