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September 17, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, September 17, 2004

Garden tips for September Garden tips for September (September 17, 2004)

A hot time to harvest -- then make soup

By Jack McKinnon

September is still hot and yet is the middle of the harvest season. Tomatoes are ripening, squash are coming to the end of their season, we are thinking about putting fruits and vegetables up for the winter.

This is also time to harvest and dry flowers, make arrangements and start making hearty soups. I like minestrone and it uses almost all the harvest vegetables.

There is still work to do in the garden and with that, here are the tips for this month.

1. Keep an eye out for powdery mildew. Spraying is not always an option and should be done with great care. Follow the instructions closely, use all the protective equipment such as goggles, gloves, cover-all suits, hats, rubber boots and a respirator. Or just don't spray at all and pick off the unsightly leaves.

2. Try collecting flowers such as roses, lavender, status, straw flowers, stock and yarrow. Dry them by tying in bundles with twine and hang them in a cool dry room from the ceiling. It makes a wonderful atmosphere and you will have flowers all winter.

3. Pick fruit such as pears and apples when they are full size rather than letting them get ripe on the tree. Save some to tree ripen knowing you will be competing with birds and squirrels. The slightly under-ripe ones will ripen in your cool storage area and last much longer.

4. Keep dead-heading flowering plants (removing spent flowers) and cutting back stems that are finished producing. You can stimulate plants to flower again if you can be diligent about this. It only takes a few minutes a day and can keep your yard looking like new.

5. Mulch around your plants and trees. This keeps weeds down and moisture in. Of course, if you have a cactus garden, you do not need to mulch. You can put some bones around so it looks desert-like.

6. If you have been collecting compost, this is a good time to refresh your efforts. Turn your pile, sift out the finished compost, start anew and mix some of the old pile with some of the new organic matter. Wet the pile so it is moist but you are not able to squeeze out a drop of water. Too dry or too wet and it will not compost.

7. Invite friends over for sliced tomatoes, basil and toast. There is nothing better. If you want to get fancy, you can make bruschetta by dribbling olive oil on a slice of Italian bread and then top with diced tomatoes, basil, garlic and parmesan cheese. A minute under the broiler and you have a great appetizer.

8. This is a good time to plant new shrubs and trees. They will get a start when it is warm and then when winter cools everything down, their roots will get established and they will come back all the better in spring. Be sure to dig a good-sized hole, amend the soil, water well and give a starter dose of fertilizer.

9. Look for bulbs in the nurseries. Half Moon Bay nursery has a good selection, and you can ask at the counter about growing them. There are also handouts right in the bulb section that give you the depth to plant and some characteristics of each bulb. Get them into the ground as soon as possible, and you will reap the show sooner.

10. Divide daylilies, agapanthus and Penstemon. Plant scaevola, cosmos, Japanese anemone, epimedium, delphinium, foxglove, salvia, helianthemum, catmint, campanula, yarrow and ajuga. Look them up in your garden book, and if your nursery does not have the plant, buy the seeds or order them on line at

Good gardening.

Jack McKinnon worked in the Sunset Magazine gardens for 12 years and has been a private garden coach for six years. He recently started a gardening school, "Garden Talks with Jack McKinnon" in Pescadero. He can be reached at 879-3261 or by e-mail at [email protected]

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