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Before getting too far into fall, pack summer away right

A little organization now can make next year easier

Pepper seeds and list
Pepper seeds don't last long. As I sorted, I made
notes on which ones need to be reordered.
(Photo: Kathy Morrison)



The air is ashy and smoky again, and the weather's hot. Not a good day to be outside in the garden -- at least not for very long.

A gardener stuck inside in early October can pout, or can turn around and look at the remnants of spring and summer gardening. Is everything still where it was dropped or abandoned? Organize that mess, even with all its wince-inducing memories, and next year will be a lot easier.

Since the busy winter holidays interrupt my garden year, I tend to forget where I've put things, what I ran out of, what I might need earliest -- and sometimes even which varieties of seeds I prefer. So here are some of my recommendations for organizing for spring and summer 2021:

Seeds

Gather all those half-full packages of seeds, and organize them by vegetables, flowers and herbs. First, toss any that are getting too old to use again, especially peppers, which tend to degrade significantly after two years. Tomato seeds can last up to five years, in my experience. Most other flowers and vegetables fall in between.

Make a decision on any variety that was a disappointment: Do you want to try it again, perhaps in another spot? If not, toss it or put it in a pile to donate to a community garden or school. If you do save it, mark the package somehow, perhaps with a B to note that this variety is on the bubble.

Packages of favorites also should be checked: How close are they to empty? My Juliet tomato seed supply is good, for example. But the Big Mama tomato seeds are running low -- and those are a Burpee exclusive, so I'll have to put in an order there.  Since many of the seed companies have restocked since the big spring rush, you might be able buy new seeds now. But be sure to file the new ones away in the right place or you might find yourself buying even more in January. (Ask me how I know this.)

Finally, store your spring and summer seeds in a cool, dry place so they will still be viable when you pull them out again.

Empty pots and seed starting equipment

The best approach is to clean all these items now with a bleach solution (1 part regular bleach to 9 parts water). Soak for 10 minutes, then rinse with clear water and air dry. That will get rid of any lingering pathogens, and the pots, packs and trays will all ready for next year.

However, a quick and (literally) dirty way to stash everything is to stack it up by size and store it away. A large trash barrel with a lid is useful for outdoor storage; a big cardboard box works for garage storage or some other place where it won't get wet. While sorting, toss any trays, containers or other items which have split or gotten crunched over the summer. Any containers saved still will have to be cleaned to be re-used, but this will at least get them out of the way for now.

Empty Smart Pots and other fabric grow bags can be left out to dry completely and then stored flat. They can be washed in the washing machine first, on the delicate cycle, or hand washed, but don't put them in the dryer to dry.

Also make a note on which seed-starting medium you used, whether you liked it (and where you purchased it) or want to try something new. File the note with your seed collection, or stock up on that now while fewer people are shopping for it.

Fertilizers and sprays

Here again, assess what you have, what needs to be replaced and what needs to be tossed. Even if you're still using these products during fall planting, it doesn't hurt to check what you have. And it's also a good time to see whether you have the right supplies for dormant season spraying, such as for peach leaf curl. That first spray period (around Thanksgiving) always sneaks up on me.

Check all the lids on bottles to make sure they're on tight. I lost half a bottle of chelated iron one year because I didn't screw the lid on correctly. Ick. And please d on't dump spent or unwanted liquids down the sink or into the gutter; dispose of those according to label directions.

Boxes and bags of fertilizer supplies should be stored away from animals at all times. Bone meal in particular seems to entice both wild and domestic animal explorers, but other organic products might, too. Pack the products into a large tub or tote, preferably one with a lid, and put it away where they can't reach it.

Tools and other stuff

We gardeners use our tools all year, but autumn's a good time to check them for rust, burrs on blades and general wear. What needs replacing? Anything with seasonal use -- fruit pickers? tomato cages? shade cloth? -- should be put away. We go so many months without rain that it's easy to, er, store everything outside. Remember that even autumn morning dew can rust tools, so clean up and stash them appropriately.

OK, good work! Now let's hope the latest round of wildfires is contained soon and we can all return to our fall planting. And if you missed Debbie's post on fall planting, you can find it here .





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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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