OUT­DOORS Gar­dens don’t judge — if it didn’t work, try again next year

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LIFE - Bob Bey­fuss Bob Bey­fuss lives and gar­dens in Schoharie County. Send him an e-mail to rlb14@cor­nell.edu.

We had our first taste of fall weather last week, in­ter­spaced with a few mid­sum­mer-like days.

I fired up the wood­stove for two days and nights since the tem­per­a­ture got down to the low 40s one night and a cold rain made it feel even colder. It was in the 90s just a few days ear­lier, as I shopped (un­suc­cess­fully) for an air con­di­tioner lo­cally as well as in Al­bany. There were none to be had, of course, in any of the big box stores or at the Al­bany malls, so I ended up or­der­ing one on­line. I would much pre­fer to shop at lo­cal busi­nesses, but the lo­cal stores are al­ready stock­ing Hal­loween stuff and the fact that it of­ten hits 90 in Septem­ber does not seem to be ac­knowl­edged by the man­age­ment of these stores.

As un­com­fort­able as these weather swings are for us hu­mans, I won­der how our gar­den plants must be feel­ing.

One day, they are hap­pily grow­ing new roots, ripen­ing fruits, pro­duc­ing flow­ers, and the next day, they are start­ing to senesce or pre­pare for the up­com­ing win­ter. Woody plants, in par­tic­u­lar, ex­pend a great deal of ef­fort get­ting ready for win­ter and short­en­ing day length trig­gers many of these pro­cesses, but other fac­tors can af­fect the process as well.

Late sea­son fer­til­iza­tion can de­lay the dor­mancy process, so avoid adding any fer­til­izer to woody plants be­tween now and late Novem­ber, when they are com­pletely dor­mant. Prun­ing also cre­ates wounds that force the plant to deal with them at the ex­pense of pre­par­ing for dor­mancy. You should avoid prun­ing woody plants now, as well as not fer­til­iz­ing, ex­cept to re­move dead wood when­ever it is no­ticed.

As for our veg­etable gar­dens, now is the time to en­joy the fruit of our labors with­out wor­ry­ing about weeds, dis­eases, in­sects or any­thing else for that mat­ter. Many gar­den­ers ac­tu­ally be­come stressed out or feel guilty when the leaves on the tomato plants turn brown and drop off, or the beans quit pro­duc­ing, the squash vines wither, and the weeds over­take the pep­per plants.

Per­son­ally, I am de­lighted that my cu­cum­ber plants are all dy­ing now. I have made far more pick­les that I will pos­si­bly use, so good rid­dance!

The lack of leaves on the tomato plants just make it eas­ier to spot the green ones and the miss­ing win­ter squash and pump­kin fo­liage al­lows all those fruit to ap­pear, as if by magic. Yes, there will be lots and lots of rot­ten toma­toes, cu­cum­bers and beans but don’t let that fact bother you at all.

Gar­den­ing with­out guilt is the theme for the next few weeks.

You spent much of the spring and early sum­mer get­ting ready for the har­vest, dili­gently weed­ing, spray­ing, pick­ing off bugs, tend­ing and nur­tur­ing all those plants and now, like wel­com­ing the kids go­ing back to school, you fi­nally catch a break! It is time to sit back, have a bev­er­age and re­lax.

There are cer­tainly many chores that I could ad­vise you to per­form right now, from try­ing to keep the weeds un­der con­trol be­fore they go to seed, start­ing a com­post pile with all the dead plant ma­te­rial, plant­ing a fall cover crop, mak­ing even more pick­les or can­ning more beans, but don’t feel guilty about not do­ing any of this stuff. There is no gar­den chore that ab­so­lutely must be done now, so take a break from wor­ry­ing about mildew, blight and bugs.

If you did not har­vest enough of any par­tic­u­lar veg­etable this sea­son, just plan on grow­ing more next year! If your lawn is get­ting to be 4-inches long, that is fine! If the an­nual weeds in the peren­nial border tower above your plants, ad­mire their per­sis­tence know­ing that they will all soon be dead with the first hard frost. You can worry about their off­spring next spring. If your trees and shrubs have spots all over the leaves, it is not a prob­lem now, those leaves will soon be gone any­way.

It is time to cel­e­brate the fall and en­joy the beauty of the sea­sons chang­ing once more.

In the next cou­ple of weeks our forests will be putting on their an­nual fash­ion show and de­spite all the rain we had this sum­mer and the as­so­ci­ated leaf dis­eases, I can guar­an­tee you that it will be very beau­ti­ful! It will be al­most as beau­ti­ful as the per­son who in­spired this week’s col­umn.

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