October 2012

Time for fall cleanup


Leaves started falling early this year because of the hot dry weather. And, recent freezing temperatures turned many perennials, annuals, vegetables and herbs to mush.

Must be time for fall cleanup.

Start with the worst looking annuals and herbs — impatiens, coleus, sweet potato vine and basil are among the most susceptible to cold temperatures. In the perennial group, hostas most likely took a hit.

It’s best to get these mushy plants cleaned up pretty quickly. A quick cleanup reduces the chance insects and diseases will find save harbor in the soil.

Downy mildew on impatiens leaf. Photo courtesy Purdue University Plant & Pest Diagnostic Laboratory.

This year, gardeners and growers throughout the country battled a fungus called impatiens downy mildew, which turns the underside of the plant’s leaves white or gray.

If this happened to you, do not plant bedding impatiens (I. walleriana) in the same place next year. This disease only affects bedding impatiens. New Guinea and SunPatiens are not bothered by the disease.

Trade off with begonia, torenia, coleus or another annual that tolerates the same low light condition that impatiens loves. Many tropicals, including some gingers, also make good shade plants.

Besides a white mildew on the undersides of leaves, other symptoms include collapsed centers on the impatiens or all of the flowers will be on the tips of the plants. Avoid planting impatiens where there was disease for at least five years. Don’t compost any diseased impatiens.

Next, clean out the frost-damaged tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables. Some veggies, such as lettuce, spinach, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, can usually handle pretty low temperatures. To protect fall vegetables, cover them with a cloth sheet when frost is predicted at night and remove the covering in the morning.

To cut or not to cut

Whether to cut back perennials in fall is a matter of personal preference. Many of them, such as the seed heads of coneflowers and salvias, serve as a food source for birds in winter. Many seed heads also are attractive in the winter landscape.

If the perennials have been diseased or infested with bugs, cut them back and dispose or compost the trimmings. If you are concerned about perennials self-sowing, cut them back.

This is also a good time to apply a 2- to 3-inch layer compost or rotted manure to the vegetable bed and other gardens.



Doug Tallamy returns to Indiana with his native plant message

October 13, 2012
8:30 AMto3:00 PM

Photo courtesy Doug Tallamy

Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, returns to Indiana in October to discuss his favorite subject — native plants and their role in our ecology. He will be the keynote speaker for Adventures in Gardening in Hendricks County, Indiana.

What: Adventures in Gardening, a seminar for all gardeners, sponsored by the Hendricks County Master Gardeners.

Who: Speakers will be:

  • The keynote speaker is Doug Tallamy, author and professor of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware. Tallamy’s book, Bringing Nature Home, explains why native plants are important in the home landscape and recommends which ones to use and how to use them.
  • Ellen Jacquart, director of stewardship of the Indiana chapter of the Nature Conservancy, will identify the invasive species on properties and how to get rid of them.
  • Hendricks County Pollinator Project highlights the importance of pollinators and their role in food, flower and fruit production.

When: 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012.

Where: Hendricks County Fairgrounds Auditorium, 1900 E Main (Old U.S. 36), Danville, Ind.

Hendricks County Master Gardeners Adventures in Gardening 2013: $35 if received through Sept. 22, 2012; $45 if received Sept. 23 through Oct. 5, 2012. Includes continental breakfast, lunch and materials.