Many gardeners spend their entire allowance buying plants, tools and gardening supplies. We are always looking for ways to improve our gardens and make gardening easier.
Here are a few suggestions for several products that could prove useful this fall.
▪ Floating row covers: Row covers trap heat and can extend the growing season for several weeks. Some thicker versions offer frost protection down to 28 degrees.
We had hot spells in July and late August that caused tomatoes, eggplants, squash and peppers to drop flowers and stop setting fruit. Cooler-than-usual September weather and longer, cooler nights have led to a late season renewal of flowering and fruit set with a later fall harvest. Placing floating row covers over plants when nighttime temperatures drop below 55 degrees in October can have you serving fresh summer vegetables for Thanksgiving dinner.
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Better-quality, slightly-thinner row covers transmit more light. Those with at least 70 percent light transmission are best suited for our climate. Row covers also offer some protection from pest insects including bagrada bugs and leaf-footed stinkbugs that have recently arrived, serious pests of ripening fruits and vegetables.
Row covers can be trimmed with scissors to fit your plants, and prices run around $20 for a 50-foot length.
▪ Beneficial nematodes: If you’re seeing bigger birds (jays, red shafted flickers) poking their beaks into your lawn, you may have a problem with grubs and cutworms.
The grubs of several types of beetles including hoplia beetles (the half-inch-long beetles that chew holes in the petals of white or light-colored flowers in spring) overwinter in lawns and grassy areas. Tiny predatory beneficial nematodes, mixed with water and sprayed onto lawn surfaces in October, will consume the grubs below the soil surface before they metamorphose into destructive beetles. The nematodes are host specific and do not kill earthworms, plants or beneficial microorganisms.
Beneficial nematodes are sold live, usually through catalogs, and arrive in the mail. They must be kept cool and our fall temperatures can be hot. If ordering through a catalog, pay extra for fast delivery, check your mailbox often, and get the packet of nematodes into the refrigerator as quickly as possible. The nematodes can stay in the refrigerator for up to a month. The price for a package of 1 million nematodes to treat 3,000 square feet is about $25.
▪ Compact compost tumblers: When compost is turned daily, the decomposition process really speeds up. Composter tumblers used to be huge, clumsy machines that were difficult to turn, but newer models are much smaller and lighter. Some have wheels so that the tumbler can be easily moved and the compost dumped onto the desired spot; some have two bins so that while compost in one bin is processing with no further additions of materials, materials can be added to the other bin for later processing.
The compact tumblers are truly small; some models are only 20 inches high and 26 inches wide and deep. A one-bin model can hold 50 gallons of compost and a two-bin model will hold 25 gallons in each bin, making them ideal for composting kitchen scraps for a family of four or for rapid composting of small batches of fall leaves. Prices range from $170 to $260.
Send Elinor Teague plant questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com (“plants” in the subject line).