Question #1: I am a new homeowner and I have heard in the past that the fall is a good time to do gardening chores. My question to you seems silly but what period of time is considered to be the fall when it comes to gardening? Are there some chores that should be done early in the season and some that should wait? Thanks for clearing this up.
Answer #1: This actually is a very good question. There are certain chores like overseeding a lawn that should be done in late summer into early fall (mid-October). Generally, planting seeds for fall crops in a vegetable garden should be sown in late summer into September; however there are ways to extend the season. Transplanting and dividing perennials should be completed by about mid-October to allow time for some root growth before the ground freezes. This is true for planting trees and shrubs but depending on the weather you can plant later in the season. Hold off on pruning trees and shrubs until November, when they are dormant. Early fall pruning can promote growth that could get damaged during the winter. Mulching, another fall job, should be done after the ground freezes.
Question #2: One of my neighbors mentioned to me that they are planting garlic in their vegetable garden now. I have a little garden and thought I would give it a try too. Can I just plant some of the cloves of the garlic I purchase in the grocery store?
Answer #2: This is the recommended time to plant garlic but don’t plant garlic from the grocery store. It could be a symptomless disease carrier that could infect your garlic crop. Purchase and plant certified, disease-free garlic bulbs from reputable seed sources. Plant bulbs in a sunny location, 1-2 inches deep, spaced about 4-6 inches apart in each direction, in well-drained soil amended with compost. Fertilize with a nitrogen fertilizer, like cottonseed meal in early to mid-April and again one month later. Harvest in late June to early July. For detailed information, including a how-to video on growing and planting garlic go to the Grow It Eat It section on our website, then look under vegetables.
Question #3: The American hollies in the front of my home are dying. The leaves are turning yellow and then falling off. Some of the branches are bare. What can be happening and what can I do to stop it?
Answer #3: You do not provide much information for a diagnosis. However, considering that we are having a late season drought what you are describing is not unusual. As you may recall we experienced abundant rain earlier in the spring and summer which is now followed by an extended dry period. At this time you should prune out any dead branches and water the hollies deeply. If we do not get any significant rain keep them watered until the ground freezes. By late spring they should put out some new growth.
“Ask the Plant and Pest Professor” is compiled from phone and email questions asked the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC), part of University of Maryland Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland. To ask a home gardening or pest control question or for other help, go to http://extension.umd.edu/hgic Or phone HGIC at 1-800-342-2507, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.