Many types of open-pollinated and heirloom seeds from flowers and vegetables can be collected and dried, either for immediate planting or to be saved for next spring. For flowers, choose varieties that readily self sow, such as love-in-a-mist, nicotiana, dame's rocket, and purple coneflower. Cut these off as the seedpods dry and sprinkle them about the garden where you want them. Some vegetable crops require more effort than others. To learn more, visit these sites:
Pay Attention to the Lawn
With the cooler, damper weather, lawns are once more vigorously growing. Mow weekly, setting the mower at 3 inches in height. Apply a balanced fertilizer, such as 5-5-5 or weed-free compost. This is also a good time of year to de-thatch and aerate the lawn. If there are bare patches, sow grass seed, choosing a high-quality seed mix suitable for the site. Consider whether the area is sunny or shady, as well as the amount of traffic the area receives.
Herbs add flavor and health-giving benefits to food without also adding sodium or fat. Most are easily air dried, or they can be placed on a baking sheet in an oven set at the lowest possible setting. Store dried herbs in a cool, dark pantry, preferably in brown glass bottles. Basil, dill, cilantro, and chervil are among the herbs that lose flavor when dried. These are best preserved by freezing, either in airtight bags or after being processed in a blender or food processor with a bit of water, then poured into ice cube trays. Store the cubes in airtight bags in the freezer.
Harvest Winter Squash
Winter squash are ready to be harvested when they reach their maximum size and weight, and when the skin is not readily punctured with a fingernail. Cut the fruit from the vine, keeping at least an inch or so of the stem. Handling them gently and avoiding picking them up by the stems, spread the squash out in a dry, well-ventilated place out of direct sunlight for two to three weeks to cure. Remove and discard any fruit that shows signs of rot. If caught early, these can be baked and the pulp frozen. Store cured squash in a place with 50- to 60-degree temperatures and a relative humidity of 50 to 70 percent, placing fruit in a single layer on shelves. Under these conditions, squash should last at least three to six months.
Start Fall Cleanup
Yes, it really is already that time of year. The vegetable garden is most likely the area that really needs a bit of tidying. Remove and dispose of all plant material that's finished producing. Any that might harbor insects or diseases should not be composted. There's still time to plant a winter cover crop to grow this fall and be tilled under next spring. It reduces weeds and improves the soil. Keep weeding flowers and other ornamentals and begin removing faded growth.