Now is time to tackle fall gardening chores

October 17, 2012 

After the Georgia National Fair is a good time to begin new projects. I now need to clean the cotton candy out of the car, empty the car trash cans of all the wrappers from the fair food and then sort and read the brochures I picked up at the fair. I also need to begin a new diet now. For some reason, I picked up some extra weight during the past two weeks.

As life returns to normal after the glorious chaos of the fair, we find that the weather has changed and it is time to begin our fall gardening chores. The cooler weather is nice, but we need to prepare now for the coming winter. In fact, some fall tasks will actually prepare the landscape for next spring. Do not miss out on these fall garden chores.

The weather this September could be best described as average. We experienced cooler weather and average rainfall over much of Georgia. Looking to the future, October is typically the driest month of the year in our area. The winter rains often begin in November. The average date for our first frost is Nov. 15-20, but frost can occur two weeks or more earlier or later than this date.

Watch for the first frost if you have frost-tender vegetables in the garden. Frost will damage tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and summer squash. Allow the plants to continue to produce fruit as long as possible. Production will slow as temperatures decline. If you expect a frost, pick all mature fruit before the frost and bring the fruit inside. Green tomatoes will ripen in a warm dry place. Another option for tomatoes would be to cover the plants during the first few frosts. The first frost may be followed by several weeks of warm weather, so covering a plant may extend the harvest for several weeks.

Pansies and other cool season annual flowers are best planted from Oct. 15 through Nov. 15. This gives them enough warm weather to get established before they must deal with our erratic winter weather. If you plant too early, the heat may make the plants leggy. Pansies that are planted later may never do as well as those planted on time. Prepare beds well before planting -- http://tinyurl.com/9e8mcaa.

Woody shrubs and trees and most perennials are best planted in the fall and winter. Plan now, prepare the beds and plant beginning in late October. The plants will be able to establish strong roots in our moderate fall and winter temperatures and then should grow better next summer. This is very important to proper establishment. Shrubs and trees planted in the fall may be stronger and healthier for their entire life just because they were planted at the right time and in the correct manner -- http://tinyurl.com/94rlvcd.

Fall is the best time to control fire ants. Fire ants are making preparations now for winter survival. If you try to control ants now, even if you do not kill all the ants, you may weaken them enough so that the mounds will not survive the winter. See this information on fire ant control -- http://tinyurl.com/8fk4x9t.

Argentine ants are the small brown ants that look for sweet things, dead insects, etc. and then create an “interstate” of ants going back and forth to the food source. They love to climb trees and live in potted plants and move into houses and cars looking for food. In fact, they will actually move their colonies into the walls of your house. Once they are in the walls, they are hard to control. Control Argentine ants now, before they move inside.

Pecans should be falling now, so prepare to bring them in. If they have not already fallen, rake around your trees to give them a clean place to land. This makes them easier to find and to pick up. If they are already falling, rake the leaves as you pick them up to make it easier to see the rest of the pecans. Pecans with holes in them may harbor pecan weevils. Bag those up and put them in the trash so the bugs do not re-infest your trees.

Willie Chance works with the University of Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture.

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