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

Mulching bulbs, planting trees and shrubs, and dividing iris are some of the gardening activities for this month.

After you plant bulbs, spread mulch on top to help keep the soil warmer longer to allow for more root growth this fall. Roots will continue to grow until the soil temperature drops below about 40 degrees (F).

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.

If you haven't yet done so, cover late crops of lettuce and spinach with polyester row covers to keep them warmer as the night temperatures dip close to freezing. The covers also will keep the leaves from getting damaged by heavy rains.

Hard as it is to do, refrain from cutting any more roses and let the fruits (rose hips) form. This will signal to the plant that it's time to harden off for winter. Don't spread winter mulch around roses until after the ground freezes.

The sales are on. There's still plenty of time to plant trees and shrubs, and the prices are right. Root growth will continue into late fall, 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.

Ok, ok, so maybe the weeds have already taken over. Don't give up. Get them out of your garden or else they will make it doubly hard for you next spring. Since bare soil invites weeds, cover bare soil with mulch, such as layers of wet newspaper covered with straw, compost, or manure. This will control late fall and early spring weed growth and provide organic matter.

Spread winter mulch once the ground has frozen. If you mulch too soon, it will keep the soil warmer longer, which can delay dormancy in plants that you want to go dormant so they aren't caught by surprise when winter arrives.

Lift iris clumps with a shovel and break them apart. Save the plumpest, firmest rhizomes, and discard the old, leafless ones. Trim the leaves to about 6 inches long. Let the rhizomes air dry overnight before planting. Separate large daylilies, leaving at least three plants per clump. Trim leaves to about 6 inches long and replant.

Other gardening tips for this month include planting bulbs for spring bloom, storing onions and leeks just above freezing, and taking time to observe fall foliage colors in your landscape and nearby.  Visit the National Gardening Associationís web site ( for more information on gardening and regional reports.

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