Garden Update September 9th

The recent weather change has definitely focused our thoughts on the upcoming fall season. As you start contemplating the last days of summer and the last of the summer vegetables go out to the garden and pinch off all the new blossoms on your vegetable plants. The vegetable plant will then put all remaining energy into ripening or maturing the fruits already on the vine. If you have a pumpkin patch with typical pumpkin varieties, these can be left in the pumpkin patch basking in the rays of the fall sunlight until the vines have withered or yellowed. Pumpkins will also tolerate light frosts.

It is also time to start with garden cleanup. Doing a little at a time will make the chore much easier. In a vegetable garden all plant debris, except perennial vegetables, should be cleaned up and disposed of in the fall. If you are adding garden debris to a home compost pile caution is urged in adding diseased plants. Most home compost piles do not get hot enough to kill pathogens found on some vegetables. Instead dispose of diseased plant debris in the household trash. The same goes for any noxious weeds or plants you find growing in the garden which you do want in your garden next year.

Are you looking to set up your garden up for success for next year? Now is the best time of year to get a soil pH test conducted of your garden soil especially if your vegetable garden was less than successful this year. Soil pH may help explain plant failures and is especially important if you have not had a test in a few years. Over time pH can go up or down depending upon the many actions which take place in a vegetable garden. Vegetables typically grow best in a pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.0 with some exceptions. This time of year results are returned to you in sufficient time to make amendments for the adjustment of pH in early and mid fall. Any amendments will also have sufficient time to do their job for next season. When taking a soil sample read the instructions enclosed with the soil test. Remember the area being tested should be clear of plant debris with dry soil. Contact or stop by the Extension Office to pick up your soil test kit. Read more about soil testing at http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/452/452-129/452-129.html.