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Some gardening tasks to do this month

Published 3:52am Monday, September 9, 2013 Updated 5:54am Monday, September 9, 2013

If we don’t have regular rains, at least an inch a week, water, water, water. Trees are especially at risk of premature death next spring if they go into the winter dry.

The death of more than usual conifers is directly related to drought. The DNR says 8 of the past 11 years have been very dry during the summer and fall “plunging many forested areas in the state into severe drought.”

If the tree is growing at the edge of a wetlands, or lake, they have been subject to fluctuating water levels.

When the roots are flooded, the lowermost roots die. If it is too dry, the upper roots die.

This causes photosynthesis to shut down, causing the tree to use up stored sugars and starches.

The tree starves to death. This is especially true of balsam firs and the white and black spruce.

The pines don’t live near wet areas so they too, starved as they couldn’t replenish their reserved sugars and starches for lack of moisture.

Our leafy trees and shrubs have the same problems. They lose water from their leaves in hot weather making the problem worse.

Now is the time to dig up and thin iris. Only replant a rhizome with a healthy fan of leaves on it. Make a mound of soil, plant the rhizome, toes down, covering the roots.

They like to have their rhizome left to sun bathe, not covered up.

If you must … you can dig up and move your peony now too. They will happily thrive and flower in the same place for 50 years if planted properly.

Not too deep! The roots should be only about two inches below the surface of the soil.

Hostas can be thinned or moved anytime. They are tougher than woodpecker lips. Just be sure you have at least six weeks frost-free when you are moving or planting any perennial.

Move any plant that bloomed in the spring or mid-summer now.   Fall bloomers are moved or planted in the spring.

If you have had critters digging up your tulip bulbs as fast as you plant them, dig the hole a foot deep. Put an inch of chicken girt in the bottom.

Add the bulb; top with two to three inches of grit, then soil. If the critter does dig that deep, (unlikely) once his tender toes hit the grit, he will retreat.

The grit in the bottom of the hole increases drainage. Most bulbs originated in very dry areas. The bulbs store water. Too wet and they rot.

Add mulch anyplace it has gotten thin. Cut down or pull corn stalks as soon as they have presented you with a cob.

Why feed a plant that isn’t feeding you?

Check gardens for powdery mildew. Leaves of vine crops will appear gray. Wash them down well and apply a fungicide. It will stop the damage but not repair it.

Muskmelons are ripe when they fall off the vine — slip stemmed varieties that is.  Winter squash and pumpkins are ready to cut off the vine when you can’t pierce the skin with your fingernail.

Keep then dry and in a cool place for several weeks to harden off.

These chores should keep you busy all month.

Remember, gardening is not only good for the body, it’s great for the neighbors who don’t have one, and love to see you coming with your extras.


Bev Johnson is a master gardener in Otter Tail County.

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