Box Elder Bugs on the Prowl
You may be noticing 1/2 inch long, narrowly oval, red-lined black bugs congregating on the outside of buildings, especially on southern and western exposures. These are box elder bugs looking for protected places in which to overwinter. While they feed on a variety of plants and are especially fond of box elder tree seed pods, they are primarily a nuisance pest when they make their way inside homes in fall and winter, where they may stain light-colored surfaces and produce an unpleasant odor when crushed. To prevent bugs from getting in, inspect caulking around windows and doors and screen attic vents. The best control for these bugs inside the house is the vacuum cleaner. Suck them up, then remove the vacuum bag and seal it in a plastic bag to keep the bugs from escaping. If you deal with large numbers of box elder bugs each fall, cutting down nearby box elder trees may help.
Prepare New Garden Beds
Save your back by preparing new garden beds without stripping off the sod. Cut existing grass as short as possible, then spread a layer of compost several inches thick on top. Cover with a layer of newspapers 4-5 sheets thick, wetting the papers with a hose as you lay them down. Then top with a layer of mulch, chopped leaves or more compost. By next spring the sod will have decomposed beneath its blanket, adding organic matter to the soil and the bed will be ready for planting.
Wait to Protect Roses
Hybrid tea roses usually need some protection to come through our New England winters. But wait until around Thanksgiving to cover them. Putting on protection too early interferes with the the natural development of the plants' hardiness in response to decreasing daylengths and falling temperatures.
Plant Some Spinach Seeds
Are you eager for a super early crop of spinach next spring? Sow spinach seeds in late October and early November. The seeds will lie dormant in the soil until next spring, when they'll sprout as soon as the soil is warm enough with no effort on your part. You may get better germination some years than others, but it's worth the gamble for an early harvest.
Top-dress the Asparagus Bed
When the feathery fronds of asparagus have turned brown and withered, cut them down at soil level and destroy them to deprive asparagus beetles of overwintering sites. Then spread a 2 inch layer of compost or composted manure in the bed to enrich the soil.