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On latest Farmer Fred podcast, hear master gardeners' tips for fall

Advice for the vegetable garden, orchard, roses -- and late-summer produce

Washed, cored and sliced, these Rugby tomato halves at this point can be frozen or, with maybe a little salt or olive oil added, roasted. Check out the tomato-saving tips in the Garden Basics podcast.

Washed, cored and sliced, these Rugby tomato halves at this point can be frozen or, with maybe a little salt or olive oil added, roasted. Check out the tomato-saving tips in the Garden Basics podcast.

Kathy Morrison

If you were able to attend the most recent Open Garden Day, you witnessed the flurry of activity by the UCCE master gardeners staffing the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center. It's nearly autumn, which is an important transition time for backyard gardening.

"Farmer Fred" Hoffman, himself a lifetime master gardener, was on site for his popular "Garden Basics" podcast. He talked with some of the FOHC experts about how they're preparing the gardens for the cooler days ahead. Oh, and he talked to me, too, about one of my favorite topics: tomatoes, and what to do with them as the season winds down.

If you want to skip ahead to the podcast, you can find it here:

Otherwise here's a quick recap of the master gardeners and their topics:

-- Gail Pothour, in the Vegetable Garden, discusses changing over the vegetable beds, including restoring the soil in advance of planting cool weather vegetables. She notes that the melon vines were being trimmed back, to focus the plants' energy on ripening the last melons of the season.  She also adds a tip on growing a quick cover crop: buckwheat.

-- Quentyn Young, a project leader in the Orchard, talks about finishing up the summer pruning, the trees' changing water needs, and the maintenance of the citrus trees. He notes that the Orchard Team is going to try something new next year: growing bananas!

-- Anita Clevenger,  who is an old-rose expert and a project leader in the Water-Efficient Landscape, discusses rose care and maintenance for this time of year. She covers deadheading, rose hips, pruning schedules, and the use of alfalfa pellets, among other topics.

My segment primarily concerned ways to save what's left of the tomato harvest. Hint: It helps to have some room in your freezer.

Separately, Fred talks to retired horticulture professor Debbie Flower about "When do pesticides expire?" It includes particular discussion about the shelf life of Bt (bacillus thuringiensis), a bacterium used to kill caterpillars.

Fred Hoffman's garden advice also is found in "Beyond Basics: The Garden Basics with Farmer Fred Newsletter." In another look at fall garden preparation, he posed this question to master gardener Susan Muckey: If the worms in your vermiculture system could talk, what would they tell you this time of year? Susan's a vermicomposting specialist and she has a binful of excellent advice.

Just a note: The next Open Garden Day at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center is Wednesday, Oct. 11,  from 9 a.m. to noon, 11549 Fair Oaks Blvd., Fair Oaks. It's a great opportunity to talk to the master gardeners in person.


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For week of Nov. 26:

Concentrate on helping your garden stay comfortable during these frosty nights – and clean up all those leaves!

* Irrigate frost-tender plants such as citrus in the late afternoon. That extra soil moisture increases temperatures around the plant a few degrees, just enough to prevent frost damage. The exception are succulents; too much water before frost can cause them to freeze.

* Cover sensitive plants before the sun goes down. Use cloth sheets or frost cloths, not plastic sheeting, to hold in warmth. Make sure to remove covers in the morning.

* Use fall leaves as mulch around shrubs and vegetables. Mulch acts as a blanket and keeps roots warmer.

* Stop dead-heading; let rose hips form on bushes to prompt dormancy.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location – and definitely indoors overnight. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they’ll bloom again next December.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Plant spring bulbs. Don’t forget the tulips chilling in the refrigerator. Daffodils can be planted without pre-chilling.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers and plant such spring bloomers as sweet peas, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Plant trees and shrubs. They’ll benefit from fall and winter rains while establishing their roots.

* Set out cool-weather annuals such as pansies and snapdragons.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins now. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb.

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