Pick Up Dropped Fruit
To reduce problems with apple maggots, codling moths and plum curculios next season, pick up and destroy fallen apples. Gather up dropped peaches to help control plum curculios and brown rot next summer.
Look for Signs of Cedar-Apple Rust
Red or orange spots on the leaves of apples or crabapples are signs of a fungal disease called cedar-apple rust. This fungus spends part of its life cycle on apples and part on junipers. Often if you turn infected leaves over, you'll see tiny yellow-white tube-like fruiting structures extending from the underside of leaf spots. These are sending out spores at this time of the year to infect susceptible junipers and red cedars (which are actually junipers, in spite of their name), forming brownish galls that eventually erupt with orange, jelly-like "horns" the second spring after infection. These in turn send out spores to infect apples and round it goes. The best defense against this disease is to plant resistant varieties of apples, crabapples and junipers. Try to leave several hundred yards between apples and junipers. Protect apples and crabapples with sprays of registered fungicides in the spring.
Plant Cover Crops
As areas of the vegetable garden become empty, protect the soil over the winter and add organic matter by planting a cover crop. Annual rye grows quickly and can be planted as late as mid-fall. It usually dies over the winters in New England, but still provides some protection from soil erosion. Winter rye planted in September or even early October will also grow until the ground freezes. It survives the winter and is tilled under in early spring, as soon as the ground can be worked. Crops can be planted 2 to 3 weeks after it's tilled in.
Pick Winter Squash When Ripe
Pick your winter squashes when they have fully developed the color for their particular variety, when the rind is hard enough that you can't dent it with a fingernail and when when the stem turns hard and begins to shrivel. But be sure to pick squashes before the first hard frost. Cut squashes from the vine, leaving 2 inches of stem. For the longest storage, cure squashes in a warm, humid spot for about 10 days, then store at about 50 F.
Make Leaf Mold
Even easier than making compost, but not for the impatient, leaf mold is made simply by piling fall leaves inside a corral of wire fencing. Shredding the leaves first and turning the pile every six months will speed the process some, but because fall leaves are low in nitrogen, decomposition will take place slowly over a period of six months to two years. Leaf mold is a great soil amendment, helping to increase water retention, improve soil structure and provide habitat for beneficial soil organisms. It also makes a great mulch.