It’s that time of year for pump­kins, pos­sums

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LIFE - Bob Bey­fuss Gar­den Tips

Fall weather has ar­rived and the hill­sides are start­ing to show some color, but it seems to be be­gin­ning later this sea­son than most years. The sum­mer­long drought has most likely caused many trees to turn brown pre­ma­turely.

Nev­er­the­less, in about two weeks, we will be treated to our usual won- der­ful dis­play of reds, yel­lows, pur­ple and all shades in be­tween. Fall is the fa­vorite sea­son for many lo­cal peo­ple, but the short days and lin­ger­ing wet fo­liage un­til mid-af­ter­noon are not my cup of cof­fee.

Right now, I am de­bat­ing whether or not I will have to mow the lawn once or twice more be­fore it is time to win­ter­ize the mower. The grass is grow­ing rapidly again and this is the time of year when grass root sys­tems ex­pand and store re­serve food for next year. Raise the mow­ing level to 3 inches or even 3.5 inches to al­low for added root growth. There is still time to add lime if a soil pH test in­di­cates a need for it. Ac­tu­ally, lime can be ap­plied at any time, ex­cept per­haps dur­ing the mid­sum­mer drought.

In gen­eral, this is not a good time to fer­til­ize trees, shrubs or peren­ni­als. Adding fer­til­izer now may spur new growth that will make the plants have a harder time en­ter­ing dor­mancy. Like­wise, avoid prun­ing any woody plants, as this also forces the plant to deal with the prun­ing wounds, when it needs to deal with pre­par­ing for the up­com­ing win­ter.

You can fer­til­ize an­nu­als for a fi­nal dis­play be­fore we get a hard frost. Some an­nu­als, such as snap­drag­ons, or­na­men­tal kale and pan­sies are quite hardy and will tol­er­ate some pretty cold weather. Mums and asters can also be fer­til­ized, since they may not sur­vive the win­ter any­way!

There is not a lot to do in the veg­etable gar­den right now ex­cept har­vest, but you can still plant win­ter rye as a cover crop in ar­eas that are va­cant. Win­ter rye is very hardy and will es­tab­lish a pretty solid cover, even when planted up to mid-Oc­to­ber. It is also al­lelo­pathic, which means it sup­presses the growth of other plants, in­clud­ing many weeds.

It seems like this has been a ban­ner sea­son lo­cally for pump­kins, as the or­ange globes are show­ing up ev­ery­where. A few years ago, we had a se­ri­ous pump­kin short­age, but lo­cal farm­ers and back­yard gar­den­ers have more than com­pen­sated since then.

I har­vested half-a-dozen medium-sized pump­kins in Au­gust and I still have a few ripen­ing.

Pump­kins may be har­vested at the first sign of or­ange color and they will still fully ripen off the vine. To make them last long­est, try to “cure” them in a very warm (80 to 85 de­grees) very hu­mid (80 per­cent rel­a­tive hu­mid­ity) lo­ca­tion for about 10 days. This may be ac­com­plished in a car with the win­dows rolled up and a pan of water in­side. On sunny days, it will be 85 de­grees or more.

Be­fore cur­ing them, wash with soap and water to re­move fungi and bac­te­ria spores.

Pos­sums have sud­denly be­come quite pop­u­lar, since some­one noted that they eat lots of ticks and any crit­ter that eats dis­ease-car­ry­ing ticks is a

friend of ours! I have seen ads for pos­sum boxes and plans for ways to build your own.

Th­ese toothy mar­su­pi­als have greatly ex­panded their range in the past 50 years, mostly head­ing north and are now com­monly found through­out our re­gion. They do not hi­ber­nate and may in­deed ap­pre­ci­ate a comfy box placed in a tree. Canned cat food is one of their fa­vorite foods, but avoid putting out any type of food un­til the black bears go into hi­ber­na­tion.

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