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Signs of fall: pests and bulbs     Send a link to a friend

By John Fulton

[September 04, 2007]  Many signs of fall are readily apparent. There are flocks of blackbirds, dog day cicadas singing and, of course, those gossamer spider parachutes everywhere. Fall has other signs pertaining to gardening as well.

This particular fall is starting very dry. In fact, if you haven't been watering a little bit, most things are done for all practical purposes. The dry weather, coupled with the heat, has served to bake vegetables and flowers alike. Water and mulch have been the saving graces of this year.

Many of the existing plants may yet be saved. Water and mulch may yet bring them around. Many of the flowers would be well served by deadheading or simply cutting back severely. Other plants, such as tomatoes, have had diseases and insects to help cause problems for them. The diseases, such as septoria leaf blight, dry out leaves from the bottom of the plant up. Once infected, only a fungicide such as mancozeb will help. Long-term rotation of more than three years in an area with no tomatoes will also help this situation.

Many of the insects, and their relatives, have been commonplace and troublesome this year. Problems such as aphids, mites and whiteflies tend to do the most damage in a dry year. Part of the reason is that they suck plant sap. Sap tends to be in shorter supply in dry weather, and especially dry, hot weather. Plant sap also becomes slightly more concentrated in sugars during the type of summer we've had. A little bit less water makes the sap a "super fuel" for the insects and mites feeding on it. Of course, hot weather speeds the life cycle of these insects as well. Control can be rather simple in the garden and flower beds. Insecticidal soap does a great job on most of the small insects. Of course, you have to get the soap on them. Whiteflies pose more of a challenge because of their mobility, but insecticidal soap is one of the best options. Other products such as oil of neem and many of the synthetic pyrethroids should also do a good job.

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Fall gardening is also an option. Best bets this late in the season are leaf lettuce, mustard greens, radish and spinach. Everything depends on the weather. Of course! If moisture and temperatures hang in there for the fall, you can replace the grocery store items with homegrown for at least a couple of weeks. Many times, fall-seeded spinach will survive the winter. This may give you an exceptionally early start for next year.

We can also plant spring flowering bulbs. We may be a little on the early side, but it takes time to plan, obtain and plant bulbs. It's always better to have a bulb in the ground than to try to hold them for another growing season if the weather turns sour on us. Pay particular attention to some of the less common bulbs or colors.

Summer flowering bulbs should generally be dug after the first killing frost, since they aren't hardy enough to survive the winter in the ground.

Enjoy the fall weather while it is here. Fall is a great time of year, and we all know what is coming next.

[Text from file received from John Fulton, University of Illinois Extension, Logan County Unit]

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