Pick Up Dropped Fruit
To reduce problems with apple maggots, codling moths and plum curculios next season, pick up and destroy fallen apples. Gather up dropped peaches to help control plum curculios and brown rot next summer.
Plant Cover Crops
As areas of the vegetable garden become empty, protect the soil over the winter and add organic matter by planting a cover crop. Annual rye grows quickly and can be planted through September in northern areas; through October in southern parts of our region. It usually dies over the winter in New England, which makes it easier to deal with in spring, but still provides some protection from soil erosion. Oats are another hardy choice that usually winter kill, but need to be planted in late summer or early fall for best coverage. Winter rye planted as late as October will also grow until the ground freezes. It survives the winter and is tilled under in early spring, as soon as the ground can be worked. Crops can be planted 2 to 3 weeks after it's tilled in.
Pick Winter Squash When Ripe
Pick your winter squashes when they have fully developed the color for their particular variety, when the rind is hard enough that you can't dent it with a fingernail and when when the stem turns hard and begins to shrivel. But be sure to pick squashes before the first hard frost. Cut squashes from the vine, leaving 2 inches of stem. For the longest storage, cure squashes in a warm, humid spot for about 10 days, then store at about 50 F.
Make Leaf Mold
Even easier than making compost, but not for the impatient, leaf mold is made simply by piling fall leaves inside a corral of wire fencing. Shredding the leaves first and turning the pile every six months will speed the process some, but because fall leaves are low in nitrogen, decomposition will take place slowly over a period of six months to two years. Leaf mold is a great soil amendment, helping to increase water retention, improve soil structure and provide habitat for beneficial soil organisms. It also makes a great mulch.
Get Ready to Plant Garlic
October to early November is the time to plant garlic in most parts of our region for harvest next summer, with earlier planting in northern New England and later planting in southern parts. Planting should be done about a month before the ground freezes, time enough for some good root growth but no top growth. Both hardneck and elephant garlic are adapted to New England. Plant individual cloves, root end down, 2-4 inches deep and 4-8 inches apart, in well-drained soil into which a couple of inches of compost has been incorporated. Once the ground freezes, cover the garlic bed with 6 inches of straw or shredded leaves for insulation.