New England

October, 2003
Regional Report

Test Your Garden Soil

If you test your soil and add any needed amendments now, the soil will be ready for planting when you are in the spring. Some amendments take a while to break down and become available to plants. If you have a nearby cooperative extension service office, you can take advantage of their low-priced soil test service. If not, you can send a soil sample away to a soil lab, or get a do-it-yourself kit. Most plants prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.5 to 6.8 (a pH of 7 is neutral). New England soils tend to be acidic and frequently require the addition of lime. But your soil can vary from location to location in your yard so if you notice different characteristics of the soil in different beds, test them separately.

Plant Garlic

Plant garlic now for harvest next summer. Purchase garlic sold specifically for planting, or buy organic garlic. Commercial, nonorganic, supermarket garlic may have been treated to inhibit sprouting. Break the garlic head into individual cloves, keeping the largest ones for planting. (Use the small cloves for cooking.) Plant cloves about 3 inches apart with the pointy side up. Try some different varieties to see which you prefer. Mulch the bed well with straw.

Put the Veggie Garden to Bed

Resist the temptation to kiss the vegetable garden goodbye just yet. Any leftover plants that are not diseased can be tilled into the soil to replenish nutrients. Add any diseased plants to the trash. Cover the beds with shredded leaves or straw or leftover compost to add organic matter. And pull any weeds. You'll feel a great sense of accomplishment.

Harvest Brussels Sprouts

If you haven't yet done so, it's time to start harvesting brussels sprouts before the sprouts split. Starting from the bottom of the stem, snap off the round "mini-cabbages" that have formed. To encourage more production, top off the plant so it sends more energy into forming sprouts and less into growing leaves.

Plant Bulbs in Layers

If you have only a small area for spring-flowering bulbs, consider planting them in layers. Dig up an area about 9 to 10 inches deep and plant the large bulbs, such as daffodils, first. Cover them with a layer of soil and plant the next largest diameter bulbs, such as tulips, on top. Cover them and plant crocuses and other small bulbs. Cover them with soil and mulch.

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