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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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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Feb. 18:

It's wet to start the week. When you do get outside, between or after storms, concentrate on damage control:

* Keep storm drains and gutters clear of debris.

* Clean up tree debris knocked down by wind and rain.

* Where did the water flow in your garden? Make notes where revisions are necessary.

* Are any trees leaning? See disturbances in the ground or lawn around their base? Time to call an arborist before the tree topples.

* Dump excess water out of pots.

* Indoors, start peppers, tomatoes and eggplant from seed.

* Lettuce and other greens also can be started indoors from seed.

* Got bare-root plants? Put their roots in a bucket of water until outdoor soil dries out. Or pot them up in 1- or 5-gallon containers. In April, transplant the plant, rootball and all, into the garden.

* Browse garden websites and catalogs. It’s not too late to order for spring and summer.

* Show your indoor plants some love. Dust leaves and mist to refresh.

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