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Though it won’t officially be autumn until Sept. 22 in the Northern Hemisphere, once Sept. 1 arrives, gardeners know that summer is winding down and the fall season tasks must begin.
What are some of those tasks?
If you have an apricot tree, it is time to prune it, as growth has ceased for the year. You want to do this before your tree begins to go into winter dormancy. Why prune now instead of in winter? Dormant-season pruning can expose your tree to disease, in particular the damaging Eutypa Dieback, as the fungal spores that cause the disease are only spread during rainy weather. Prune now, during our dry season, and your tree won’t be at risk.
For more information on preventing this disease, see the article by University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor for San Benito County Bill Coates: lodigrowers.com/download/pest_management/fungi/Eutypa/Coates_Eutypa_1994.pdf.
If you have other deciduous fruit trees besides apricots, summer pruning is recommended for them also, but for different reasons, especially better control of size. While pruning in winter encourages rampant spring growth, pruning soon after summer growth has ceased won’t have the same effect. Pruning now will ensure that you can more easily keep the trees on the small size for ease of care and to fit the available space.
For more on this topic, Matthew Sutton (fruit tree expert and owner of the local company Orchard Keepers) recommends The Home Orchard, a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Publication. You could also consult local orchardist Orin Martin’s wonderful book “Fruit Trees for Every Garden: An Organic Approach to Growing Apples, Pears, Peaches, Plums, Citrus, and More,” available in local bookstores. And for yet another great reference on backyard orchard culture, visit wholesaler Dave Wilson Nursery at davewilson.com/home-garden/backyard-orchard-culture/.
Do you plan to put in a winter vegetable garden? Though it may seem too early, with tomatoes and other summer veggies still going strong, now is definitely the time to get started on that project. Take local seed woman Renee Shepherd’s advice: plant seeds now for winter vegetables including potatoes, leafy greens, Cole crops such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts, carrots, onion family members including garlic, beets, peas, spinach and some herbs – don’t wait until the fall rains begin and the soil is becoming cold.
If started now, your young plants will be off to a good start well before cold temps and shortening daylight length slows growth considerably, creating stronger plants that can better cope with challenging winter weather. Read Renee Shepherd’s advice on planting for what she calls The Second Season at reneesgarden.com/blogs/gardening-resources/gardening-for-a-second-season.
The damage caused by Citrus Leaf Miner is making its annual appearance in our area. Now is the time to protect your trees from this pest which causes curling and malformed foliage with tiny trails visible between the leaf layers. Fall is when this insect does its worst damage, attacking the tender new foliage as it emerges in the annual autumn flush of growth. Before the damage begins, you’ll want to apply an organic spray containing Spinosad, such as Captain Jack’s Dead Bug or Monterey Garden Insect Spray. (Spinosad is approved for use on organic gardens by the Organic Materials Review Institute.) Reapply it every two to three weeks or so for continued protection until no new leaves are appearing and the existing leaves have hardened off.
To avoid harming honeybees, which are having enough trouble already, apply the Spinosad late in the evening after the honeybees have stopped foraging for the day. By morning when they again become active, the Spinosad will have dried and will pose no threat to the bees.
Garden tips are provided courtesy of horticulturist Sharon Hull of the San Lorenzo Garden Center. Contact her at 831-423-0223.
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