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Well it is hard to believe that we are in November and the day and nighttime temperatures are getting cooler. This change in seasons gives us an opportunity to do a few things in the garden the high temperatures of summer would not allow us to do. Weeding the garden, thinning out the rows of our new seedling plants, and adding mulch to our garden and landscape are all things I like to do as cooler temperatures prevail. This week I want to share with you a few steps to make your garden work easier and your crop output the best you have seen this year. I will also go over a few things you need to do this month to make your home and garden a showplace for the winter months which lie ahead. Let’s start in our vegetable garden.            

            Now is the time to remove garden weeds. I know, everyone hates to weed the garden but as our temperatures fall, weeds start to grow just as well as our vegetable crops. Weeds take essential elements and nutrients away from our plants and if left unchecked can strangle out our vegetable crops. Be systematic, start at one end of the garden and work your rows to remove even the smallest weeds. Some people have tools that may help them in the removal of weeds but I still do it the “old fashioned way” I tell my kids to do it! When they listen to me this works great but when they do not, I do it myself. I carry a one gallon pail to put the pulled weeds into once I pull them from the ground. I used to just throw them in a pile and then I would scoop up the pile when I was finished and throw them in the trash. Unfortunately, this led to new weeds which would grow up in the spot I laid them so I stopped that process and moved on to using a container for the weeds. After the weeds are pulled you need to thin your seedling plants.

            If you have planted rows of beets, cabbage, lettuce, kohlrabi, collards, or mustards, you will need to thin your rows. If you are like me I tend to put a few too many seeds in the row to be sure I have a good crop. As these plants start to grow they will tend to crowd each other out which reduces the size of the plants and your yield. By thinning these crops to the healthiest seedlings and by providing proper spacing, you will ensure a better than average harvest. Spacing will depend on the type of plants you planted. I like to put row stakes in to remind me what varieties I have planted and the spacing that was on the package. Use this information as you thin your plants.

            Sometimes, I prepare a second bed that I will use to transplant some of the seedling plants that I have pulled through thinning. This gives me a few more weeks of production after my original plants have been harvested. This method is also used by people whom like to stagger their crops by two or three weeks to prolong their harvest. I highly recommend this approach and have had excellent success especially in milder winters. This also helps to spread out your vegetables to a separate location. If you have an insect or fungal problem in your primary garden and you lose some of those plants, you will have a backup garden that will still produce vegetables for you. Of course this will all depend on the size of your garden and how many plants you want to grow. This same process can be used if you plant in containers.

            Once your beds or containers have been weeded and thinned, you need to add fertilizer to feed your plants. I like to use a good quality granular fertilizer that contains both micro and macro nutrients. The micronutrients are the chlorine, iron, manganese, zinc, boron, molybdenum and copper. The macro nutrients are nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium and sulfur. Each of these elements is responsible for different aspects of plant growth. Most complete fertilizers will contain many of these elements and will feed your new plants slowly over a long period of time. Apply the fertilizer over the new planting with a hand held rotary spreader at a rate of 2-3 pounds per 100 square feet.

            After the fertilizer has been applied evenly you should add mulch around your new plants to conserve water and help prevent your plants from drying out. I like to use a new product I have found called Sweet Peet. Sweet Peet will add organic matter back to the soil throughout the year and encourage beneficial earthworms. Sweet Peet is available at many local garden centers. Apply this mulch over the garden about 3-4 inches deep. Mulching also protects the tender roots from cold weather so you will receive an added benefit. Next, be sure to water the garden on a regular basis and watch out for the signs of early fungal diseases. Now we need to move to the lawn areas for some helpful tips.

            Lawns are starting to go dormant and slowing their growth as cool temperatures move in. This slowing gives an opportunity for weeds to grow in our lawns. These weeds are called winter annuals because they are aggressive growers during the winter and slow down as temperatures start to rise. If you have bare areas in your lawn or weak areas of turf you can halt the weed growth by over seeding with rye grass. Whether you have Bahia or St. Augustine grass you can use the Rye grass to fill in these bare or weak areas. Apply at least 7-10 pounds of ryegrass seed per every 1000 square feet of turf grass you have. Be sure to use a rotary hand held spreader to evenly spread your seed. Ryegrass will start to sprout in just a few short weeks and if we do not get any rain you should water to help this process. Be sure you do not use any herbicides during the time the ryegrass is growing as herbicides may kill the ryegrass. Once temperatures start to warm in the spring the ryegrass will begin to die.

            Roses should be in full bloom now but they do need attention. Keep watching your plants for black spot fungus and Thrips. Black spot is a fungal problem that affects the leaves and stems of rose bushes. Look for round spots on the leaves or black discolored areas on the stem of roses. You will need to control this fungus by spraying your roses every two weeks. Use a fungicide such as Daconil or Bayer’s Advance Three Way Rose spray. This product will keep your roses disease free and will aid in the control of the Chili Thrips. Remember to spray the upper and lower sides of the leaves for best results. You should also do a final feeding of your roses with a good 8-10-10 fertilizer. You only need a light application of fertilizer so do not over do it! 

            The last thing I want to tell you about is something people are seeing a lot of now, brown citrus fruit. Brown colored fruit is caused by two separate problems. The first problem which causes brown fruit is the citrus mite. The citrus mite feeds on the orange rind as the orange develops and grows. Their feeding causes a stippling of the fruit which tends to make the orange rind take on a brown color. Although the fleshy part of the fruit is not injured, the discoloration of the fruit skin is an eyesore. Citrus mites can be controlled by spraying the tree with malathion and oil during the growing process. Routine applications are needed every two months to prevent this problem.

            The second problem which causes fruit on citrus to turn brown is called Melanose. Melanose appears as reddish-brown to black bumps on the leaves, stem, and fruit. These bumps have a sandpaper consistency on the leaves. When left uncontrolled, extensive areas of scar tissue develop on the fruit which may crack as the fruit enlarges. Infection occurs soon after petal fall. I recommend you spray your tress with a citrus copper or a fungicide after petal fall in the spring and retreat at least twice during the growing season.

            All of the suggestions I give you are designed to help your garden prosper to give you the most fruit and vegetables at harvest time. Try to follow my recommendations the best you can and remember, without plants we would not be here.     

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