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Checking Soil Acidity and
Other September Gardening Tips

By Charlie Nardozzi, Senior Horticulturist ,
National Gardening Association, and  
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor, University of Vermont

Checking your soil acidity or pH, keeping new plantings well watered, and
freezing end-of-season tomatoes are some of the many gardening activities for
this month.     
     
Check that pH

If you need to raise or lower the pH of your soil, add the required amendments
-- such as sulfur or lime -- this fall because they take some time to work. Take
soil samples from different parts of your yard and garden and test them
separately so you can apply what's needed for each particular use.  Extension
test kits are available from local offices and many garden stores.
     
Water Well

Plants that are still developing new root systems need ample water in the fall
before they go dormant. Roots grow until the soil temperature gets down to the
low 40s (degrees F), so moisten the entire root zone once a week unless you
have a soaking rain. Moisten means to water well.  A good soaking less often
promotes deeper roots better able to withstand stress.
     
Tomato Deluge

Don't let excess tomatoes go to waste. Plum tomatoes and cherry and grape
minis dry fairly easily in the oven. Slice them in half lengthwise, set them on a
baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil and sea salt. Roast them in a 250-degree
oven until they are no longer juicy. When cool, pack them in freezer bags.
     
Keep Legumes Where they Are

Legumes, such as beans and peas, have the ability to take nitrogen from the air
and use it for their own benefit. Rather than pulling up the spent plants and
adding them to the compost pile, why not keep that nitrogen where it's needed
by chopping up the vines and tilling or digging them into the soil.
     





Help for Amaryllis

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.
     
Prepare for Frost

With frost likely this month, prepare to cover plants at the last minute. Make
sure the cover extends all the way to the ground to hold in the heat, and try to
prop it above the foliage so the leaves don't freeze. Old shower curtains and
sheets are handy for this, as are light fabrics available at complete garden stores
sold for frost protection.
      
Plant New Trees & Shrubs

The sales are on. There's still plenty of time to plant trees and shrubs.  Root
growth will continue into late fall or early winter, and plants won't have the
heat of spring or summer to dry them out. Be sure to water well at planting
time and every week until they go dormant. If you don't have a spot ready for
your new additions, submerge them in the vegetable garden -- pot and all.
     
Order Bulbs

If you haven't ordered spring-flowering bulbs for fall planting, such as daffodils
and tulips, you can find these this month in many garden stores.  If you have
deer and other wildlife, think daffodils as these wont be eaten by them.  
Photo Courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1076662