Written by Norma Friend, UF/IFAS Marion County Master Gardener*
Although summer is over there is still much to do in our gardens. Autumn days are the perfect time to make decisions that will improve the appearance as well as the productivity of your garden.
- A bountiful harvest will leave you with much that cannot be used immediately. This gives you the opportunity to restock your freezer and pantry. Those fragrant herbs won’t stay fresh throughout the winter but they can be dried successfully. Just make sure they are completely dry before you store them in a cool, dry place.
- If you plan on storing bulbs in the refrigerator, remember to remove any apples as they emit ethylene gas which can destroy developing buds on the bulbs.
- If you were less than satisfied with how your plants grew this year, it might be a good time to get a soil test to determine if the pH needs adjusting. You might also want to solarize an area if you’ve had problems with nematodes.
- This is NOT the time to prune or fertilize trees and shrubs. Doing so can encourage new growth which could be damaged by a frost. It is better to wait until late February or March.
- Should you be so fortunate to still have some thriving tomato plants with fruit that haven’t ripened yet, consider using those green tomatoes to make a delicious green tomato pickle to enjoy throughout the winter. Or make a serving of fried green tomatoes to reward yourself for your summer’s labor.
- Now is the time to decide if you wish to plant another crop. There are numerous tasty and healthy vegetables that do well at this time of the year. Among them are beets, spinach, kale, endive, turnips, and many others. It is also the perfect time for planting trees and shrubs. It takes time for trees to establish a root system and at this time of the year they won’t have the stress of our summer heat impeding them.
- If you haven’t already done so, start bringing indoors the houseplants that were outside all summer. Make sure you check them first and remove any bugs or lizards that have made their home in the pot.
- Finally, take all your gardening tools and sharpen those that need it and clean them all thoroughly.
- Check your hoses and sprinkler systems.
Once you are satisfied you have done your best, grab a cool glass of tea with fresh mint leaves and relax in your ever-evolving garden.
* Norma Friend has been a Marion County Master Gardener since 2004. She heads the pH soil testing team and is active in Master Gardener youth activities