Press-Republican

September 2, 2013

Time for garden adjustments

By JOLENE WALLACE, Cornell Cooperative Extension
Press-Republican

---- — We can’t deny that fall is in the air.

On my way to work this morning, I heard on the radio that there are 122 days until the end of the year. It made me shudder. I don’t want to believe that summer is almost over. 

That said, we need to admit that fall is in the air, and it won’t be long until our gardening season comes to an end. You’ve probably heard me say this before, but it bears repeating. This is a good time to make notes about what worked and what didn’t in your garden.

Whether you grew vegetables, flowers, herbs or a combination of things, taking the time to evaluate your garden and make notes will pay off in the spring. If you want to repeat your successes and avoid your disappointments, remembering details seven or eight months later isn’t always easy. Having a written record comes in handy.

Another thing that pays off in the spring is “putting your garden to bed” in a way that gives it the ability to “wake up” raring to go.

If you have not had a pH test done on your soil for several years, or if you made adjustments last year, you may want to consider having one done. The pH of the soil determines how accessible the nutrients in the soil are to the plants. If your pH needs to be altered so that it is in a range that is most beneficial to growing plants, fall is the time to make those alterations. Lime or sulfur added to soil break down slowly. Adding them, if necessary, in the fall allows time for them to “work their magic” so that come spring you should have some change in pH. We do pH tests in our Plattsburgh office for a fee of $2 to cover the testing materials. Call for instructions on how to take a soil sample for testing. 

In addition to checking pH, you want to add organic matter. Most gardeners feel that the best time to add organic matter is whenever they have the opportunity. Between decomposition and the nutrients used by growing plants, your soil is probably not as rich as it was in the spring when you planted. As part of your fall cleanup, you may want to add compost or other organic material. After all, there are only 201 days until the first day of spring next March!

Master Gardener volunteers are giving a free presentation called “Putting Your Garden to Bed” at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, at the Peru Free Library. Everyone is welcome to attend. Bring your questions and concerns, as well as any samples you would like identified.

We are sponsoring a bus trip to the Montreal Botanical Gardens on Wednesday, Sept. 25, to see the remarkable Mosaicultures Internationales. Your prepaid fee of $63 includes round-trip coach transportation and admission to the botanical gardens as well as the greenhouses, pavilions and Insectarium. As a bonus, we will stay until after dusk to witness the Gardens of Light, a seasonal event. Space is limited. You must have a passport or enhanced driver’s license to participate. Call 561-7450 or email me at jmw424@cornell.edu for more information or to register.

Jolene Wallace is the horticulture program educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. Contact her at 561-7450 or jmw442@cornell.edu.