University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Fall News Article


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

Taking cuttings of annual flowers, planting, and sowing cover crops are some of the gardening tips for our region this month.

As you remove spent plants from your garden beds, sow a cover crop such as winter rye. This will help reduce weed infestation, minimize erosion and compaction from fall rains, and will add nutrients and organic matter to the soil when it is tilled under next spring.
Take cuttings of favorite geraniums, coleus, begonias, and any other annual flowers that you want to overwinter for replanting next year. You can also bring these plants indoors for the winter if you have a sunny spot. Several popular bedding plants are perennial in warm climates and can be brought indoors as houseplants if you don't wait until the weather gets too cool.  Gradually move the plants into shadier locations so they are better adjusted to the reduced light levels when you move them indoors.

Don't let weeds go into fall dispersing seed all over your garden. It's time for a last ditch effort to pull or mow weeds. It's not even too late to spread mulch in the vegetable garden to smother weeds. Spread damp newspapers and top with hay or straw. Then in spring you can rototill it all under to add organic matter. Hay contains more nutrients than straw but it also contains some weed seeds.

Now is the time to be realistic about which plants have time to ripen their fruits before frost. To encourage plants to devote their energy to the melons, squash, and tomatoes currently growing, pinch off the ends of vines and any excess flowers that don't stand a chance of maturing. Also pinch off the tops of brussels sprouts. When the daytime temperatures no longer rise above 65 degrees F, it's time to pick the green tomatoes. Wrap them in newspaper and let them ripen indoors.

Ready houseplants for winter by checking them for insects, trimming off dead foliage and stems, and repotting if necessary. Gradually move them into shadier conditions to get them used to less sunlight before bringing them inside when nights dip into the 40s.

As long as the soil temperature stays above 40 degrees, roots continue to grow, so there's plenty of time to plant. Take advantage of fall sales even if you don't have your new bed prepared yet. You can always bury the plants -- pots and all -- in the garden until spring when the new bed is ready.

Visit the National Gardening Associationís web site ( for more information on gardening and regional reports.

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