New England

October, 2005
Regional Report

Plant Garlic

Plant garlic now for harvesting 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.

Hold Off on Pruning

Avoid pruning woody plants now because it will encourage a flush of new growth that may be damaged by the upcoming cold temperatures. Instead, wait until late winter or early spring to prune most trees and shrubs. (Exceptions to this rule are spring-blooming shrubs, such as lilacs and azaleas, which should be pruned after flowering.)

Test Soil for Nutrients and pH

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 time 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 testing 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.

Cover Late Greens

If you haven't yet done so, cover your late crops of lettuce and spinach with polyester row covers to keep them warmer as the night temperatures dip close to freezing. The covers also will keep the leaves from getting damaged by hurricane-related heavy rains.

Stop Cutting Rose Flowers

Hard as it is to do, refrain from cutting any more roses and let the fruits (rose hips) form. This will signal to the plant that it's time to harden off for winter. Don't spread winter mulch around roses until after the ground freezes.

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