Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
September, 2008
Regional Report

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The color of this Knock-Out rose is more intense in cooler weather.

Gearing Up for Autumn

More than most times of the year, fall is a season when changes are in the air that both gardeners and plants can detect. The weather may not be truly cold yet (unless you live in the high country where mornings and evenings are brisk), but it is certainly beginning to get cooler. Plants that were stifled during the heat of summer will start to respond and grow with cooler conditions.

My Knock-Out rose is still blooming strong. The colors seem more intense with warm days and cooler evenings. Enjoy the beauty that continues to unfold in the garden while you also start on some late-season tasks. With cooler air and soil temperatures, now is an ideal planting time for many perennials and landscape plants. The plants you get started in the ground now have the autumn to establish their root systems. This will give them a head start on next spring's containerized nursery plants.

Just be sure to shop carefully and choose healthy potted perennials, trees, shrubs, and vines. Avoid plants that have been stressed from summer heat or those that are showing signs of neglect, severe wilting, or die-back.

Powdery Mildew Treatment
Treat plants that are infected with powdery mildew. Zinnias, squash, dahlias, peas, and lilacs are particularly susceptible to this disease, which causes a white, dusty-looking coating on the foliage. Collect, rake up, and destroy any fallen leaves that were infected; remove severely diseased stems and leaves. You can treat plants with a simple, homemade preventive remedy of baking soda, canola oil, and water. Use 1 tablespoon baking soda and 1 tablespoon canola oil dissolved in 1 gallon of water. Pour this mixture into a tank sprayer and apply to both the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves. It will act like a raincoat that inhibits the germination of the fungus spores.

Drying Flowers
Harvest flowers for drying. Pick varieties with long stems, such as hybrid tea roses, zinnias, strawflowers, Sedum spectabile, and yarrow. Strip off the leaves, bundle them together, and hang them upside down in a garden shed, garage, or basement.

Dividing Perennials
Where frosts aren't expected until late October, you can safely divide and conquer some of your overgrown perennials. Use a heavy-duty spading fork to lift German iris, delphiniums, and Shasta daisies. Split the large masses into several sections. Add homemade compost or a local source of quality compost to the soil and replant the most vigorous sections. Discard the old, spent center part of the clumps.

There's a lot of gardening time left to start on next year's projects, but also take time to enjoy the beauty of the season.

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