Summer is one of those seasons that overstays its welcome, but ends too soon. This year, particularly, it was tough keeping up with watering as dry August and September droned on like yellow jackets banging against my screen door.
In fall, it seems like I’m stuck in reverse hauling stuff into storage or the house. In between, I’m endlessly raking green-husked black walnuts and shushing my pack of howling hounds. They regularly square off with the squirrel that resides in the neighbor’s black walnut tree enjoying the all-you-can-buffet during “the year of the nut.”
While I may still wax on about big fat hips forming on old-fashioned rose bushes and such, I’m OK when it’s over. There’s too much work to get done before the big chill to be sentimental.
Here’s a list of my chores — and probably a few of yours, too:
1. Clean out the vegetable patch. Get rid of diseased materials.
2. Keep weeding. Do not surrender to creeping Charley.
3. Trim or cut back perennials after a killing frost, but leave some stems for winter interest and feeding birds, such as baptisia, rudbeckia and sedum.
4. Plant spring- and summer-flowering bulbs, and find homes in the garden to a couple of potted hydrangeas.
5. Trim back old-fashioned rose bushes and climbers that grew a little wild over the summer.
6. Wash out pots with a diluted bleach spritz before rinsing. Wear eye protection and gloves.
7. Keep watering new shrubs, trees and perennials until ground freezes.
8. Mulch when the ground freezes; keep it away from tree trunks to prevent rodent damage.
9. Save pumpkins and squash from displays; halve or cut into chunks to feed wildlife. Remove flesh and seeds from glittered or painted pumpkins and discard shells.
10. Lift tubers and corms after a killing frost.
Gladioli: Dig plants in circle, grab tops and pull out. Shake off soil; discard damaged or diseased corms. Cut tops to 1 to 2 inches above corms. Let dry for several days. Place in flats or trays and let cure for two or three weeks. Remove corms, discard mother plant. Let cure a few days to harden scar. Dust with fungicide and store in paper bags or onion sacks at 35 to 40 F.
Cannas: When leaves begin dying back, cut foliage to 4 inches, dig up rhizomes and let dry for a few days in a protected area, then store in a cool, dry place for winter. In spring, divide clumps and replant after the last frost date.
Caladiums: Dig the whole plant and let it dry in a warm, dry location for about 1 week. Then cut off foliage and tuck tubers into a box filled with peat moss. Store at 50 to 55 F.
Dahlias: Dig clumps; cut back stems to 3 inches above root; rinse and let dry upside down for several days. Store in peat moss in a cool dry place. Dust with fungicide if desired.
Tuberous begonia: Lift clump and let dry in sun until foliage dries out; remove foliage and rinse tubers gently to prevent damaging outer skin. Let dry for one week. Dust with fungicide; store in single layer in newspaper-lined box.