New England

September, 2007
Regional Report

Prepare New Strawberry Patch

If your strawberry plants are older than three years, consider pulling them out and starting over with new plants in a different location next year. Fruiting declines after three or four years, and diseases can take hold. Choose a new location this fall and mix composted manure or leaf mold into the soil several inches deep, and add a layer on top of the soil, too. Cover the bed with straw to keep weed seeds from sprouting and encourage earthworms to work the soil. Keep the straw in place for the winter and remove it in spring to warm the soil for planting with certified disease-free plants.

Improve Next Year's Blueberry Crop

If your blueberries didn't produce a decent crop this year, it might be time to improve the soil. First, do a soil test, and if the pH is above 5, carefully scratch some finely ground sulfur into the soil around plants to lower the pH to the 4.5 to 5 range. If you get the soil tested at a lab, they will give recommended quantities of sulfur needed. Then top-dress the plants with compost or leaf mold and add a 3- to 4-inch layer of wood chips for winter mulch.

Give Amaryllis a Rest

After spending the summer growing foliage and replenishing the bulb, your amaryllis needs a rest. Bring it inside into a cool, dark spot and stop watering for a couple of months. When you see new growth beginning, or when you are ready to start the flowering process, bring the pot inside, refresh the top inch of soil, and begin watering. Take care not to overwater, especially if there's no growth yet. Different varieties have different bloom cycles but in general your bulb should bloom in about 10 to 12 weeks.

Preserve Herbs

Don't let your culinary herbs go dormant before you cut some leaves for kitchen duty this winter. Cut stems of oregano, rosemary, dill, sage, thyme, and marjoram and group them in bundles secured with rubber bands. Hang them upside down in a dry place indoors, and when they are dry, store them in airtight containers, such as Ziploc bags or canning jars. For best flavor, don't crush the leaves until you are ready to use them. Tarragon, chives, and basil are better frozen in ice cube trays with water or olive oil. Store the cubes in Ziploc bags.

Acclimate Tropicals for the Move Indoors

Houseplants that have summered outside need a slow transition back inside. Move them to a shadier location to get them used to lower light levels of winter. Wash the leaves and inspect for insects. Bring them back inside well before temperatures dip to 40 degrees so they suffer less setback. Water sparingly and hold off on fertilizer because their growth will be slowing down. They will inevitably drop some leaves but this isn't cause for alarm.

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