University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

  Fall News Article


Charlie Nardozzi, Horticulturist and
Leonard Perry, UVM Extension Horticulturist
Patching bare spots in the lawn, planting garlic, and rooting flower cuttings are some of the gardening activities for this month.

Early fall is a good time to patch bare spots in your lawn -- the cooler temperatures encourage good germination and root growth.  Weeds aren’t germinating then either to compete.  Prepare the area by raking thoroughly, loosening the topsoil if it is compacted, then adding a thin layer of compost or topsoil. Cover newly seeded areas with row covers or a light scattering of straw to keep birds from eating the seed, and keep it well watered.

As long as lawns are growing, keep mowing.  With the cooler days later in the fall, grass will remain vigorous, especially if there is rain.  As during the summer, don’t mow when grass is wet, if possible.  This ensures a better cut, avoids clumps of wet grass, and is easier on your mower.  The end of this month, or early next, with your expected last mowing, mow slightly lower.  This avoids tall grass over winter, which mats down and can lead to disease in spring.

Later this month and into next is garlic planting time. Don't plant garlic from the grocery store, because it may have been treated to prevent sprouting, and it may not be adapted to your growing region.  Place orders now for garlic for planting this fall, or buy when available at your local garden or feed store. Plan to plant your garlic shortly after the first hard frost -- this will allow the garlic enough time to develop strong roots before winter.  Make a note to cover later in fall with a light layer of straw mulch.
Root cuttings of some flowers such as coleus, geranium, and thicker-stemmed herbs, such as sage, to bring indoors over the winter. Cut a 3-inch section of stem, remove the bottom half or two thirds of the leaves, and place in moist soilless mix, vermiculite, or sand. Place the entire container in a loosely tied plastic bag to maintain humidity.  Other flowers and herbs can be dug, potted, and kept indoors in a bright area to extend their life well into fall. 

Begin preparing houseplants for the move indoors. If possible, acclimate them over the course of a few weeks to the dryer, warmer, darker indoor conditions by placing them in a transition area such as a porch. Inspect plants for pests before bringing them indoors.  Now, too, is a good time to repot if needed, using a houseplant potting soil, not regular garden soil.

Avoid pruning woody plants and roses now; it will encourage a flush of new growth that may be damaged by the upcoming cold temperatures.  Instead, wait until late winter or early spring to prune most trees and shrubs. Exceptions to this rule are spring-blooming shrubs, such as lilacs and azaleas, which should be pruned in spring after flowering. You can prune off branches that break in the wind or from other causes.

Continue harvesting warm season crops of beans, peppers, and tomatoes, and be prepared to cover the plants in case an early frost threatens. If covered, these heat-loving plants may survive a light frost. Use floating row covers, which are designed to hold the heat in, or take your chances covering plants with old sheets, cardboard boxes, or whatever else you can find. Extend the covers to the ground.  Once done, or plants die from frost, clean the garden.

(Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening consultant, and garden coach (    

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