Inspect Trees and Shrubs for Storm Damage
Rainstorms and high winds took their toll in late August. You've likely removed fallen branches and trunks by now, but also check other shrubs and trees for less obvious broken branches and internal and external damage. Remove broken, damaged branches by pruning a quarter inch above the node -- where branch and branch, or branch and trunk connect. Examine thicker branches and trunks for near breaks, dead wood, and insect damage. Contact a certified arborist about trees with severe damage or excessive dead wood.
Prepare Plants for Indoors
Ditch any hitchhikers -- insects, fungi, bacteria -- before bringing tender houseplants and tropicals indoors for winter. Dislodge aphids and spider mites on leaves and stems with a burst from the hose. Then spray with Neem (azadirachtin) to kill hangers-on. I apply twice at two- to three-week intervals before bringing plants indoors. If necessary, use a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol to remove mealybugs and sooty mildew. To eliminate fungus gnats in the soil, apply Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis (BTI) as a soil drench. BTI is also used in mosquito-control products, such as dunks.
Seed Shallots For Fall Planting
At this August's Garden Writers Association Symposium, photographer Walter Chandoha gave some quick tips. One was to sow shallot seeds now so seedlings will be ready to transplant this fall. He recommended using take-out food containers for seed starting because they hold moisture well and close. He also likes to start seeds in horizontally-cut milk and orange juice containers.
Shop Around for a Leaf Blower that Shreds
Rather than blow and bag leaves for the landfill, get a sturdy leaf blower that doubles as a shredder. This type of machine sucks up leaves through a fan mechanism that tears them into smaller pieces. These small shreds are good mulch because they don't smother plants. They also decompose quickly in a compost pile. For best results, vacuum up DRY leaves. Wet, matted leaves get stuck in the fan and muck up the works.
Plan for Protection
Cold temps will be here too soon, so keep an eye out for ways to protect your plants and prolong the blooming and vegetable season. Spinach, lettuce, brussels sprouts, beets, Swiss chard, and bok choy are cool-weather crops we can enjoy into early winter if they're protected from the cold. You can make a V-shaped shelter from two storm windows or doors that join at the top. I just ordered Reemay Frost Protection Row Cover to place over tender annuals and perennials, veggies, and container-grown basil and marjoram.