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Falling temperatures bring

gardening chores

By MICHELLE WILSON

Published Sept. 23, 1999

As temperatures start to cool this week, I have begun thinking about one of my favorite times of year – autumn.

I like this season for several reasons. Most importantly, the cooler temperatures make being out of doors more pleasurable.

There are plenty of things to do outside this time of year. Many people across Alabama spend their fall weekends at football games. And although I am a Troy State University fan, when they are not on the field I will be – the vegetable field that is.

This time of year, there are so many things for a home gardener to do. And with more comfortable weather than the searing heat of past months, working in the yard can be a lot of fun.

From my classes in the Master Gardener’s program sponsored by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, I learned about the garden maintenance one should do this time of year. Although getting the garden ready for fall and winter can be labor intensive, I enjoy the work. It is fun for me, and I know many gardeners see it the same way.

To start off with, fall is a good time of year to rid beds of weeds and other wastes. It’s a good idea to do this chore when you pull up your summer crops or before you make your fall plantings. Then mulch the beds with some pine straw or leaves to prevent future weeds.

I spent several hours this past weekend weeding in my vegetable, herb and flower beds. My garden is arranged in a series of 4-by-8-foot raised beds made of landscape timbers, which simplifies this chore. And I can weed the beds easily without compacting the soil. I highly recommend this arrangement for home gardens.

While you are getting your garden ready, it is important to think about what you want to plant for fall and spring.

Alabama’s long growing season makes it possible for gardeners to produce fresh vegetables for about nine months out of the year. Pike County averages about 250 frost-free days a year, according to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Leaving the garden idle in fall allows it to grow up in grass and weeds that make work harder next spring.

September is the right time to plant collards, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, mustard and lettuce.

Also, you will also want to flip through the many fall seed and bulb catalogs in an effort to plan for next year. Now is the time to plant bulbs for spring bloom.

Another way to plan for next year is by having your soil tested in the fall. A Pike County Extension agent can give you more information about this if you call 566-0985.

The results of a soil test let the gardener know what fertilizers and amendments need to be added to soil to increase its productivity. By testing soil in the fall, you will be able to add these things in time for them to be effective for spring planting.

There are a lot of chores to complete in the fall, but for most gardeners this is a labor of love. The work doesn’t seem so bad after all.

Michelle Wilson is a staff writer for The Messenger.