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This week in your Massachusetts garden & landscape

Week of October 17, 2016 By Ron Kujawski

Over this past weekend, Jack Frost nipped my nose, my toes, and my tomatoes.

Granted, they were little nips but enough to shut down the tomato factories in our vegetable garden.  Certainly, more potent doses of frost are not far behind.

One might think that I’d be disheartened by this chilling end to the growing season.  Well, I’m not.  In fact, I see this as the beginning of the beginning of another gardening season.

“Huh?  Martha, I think the frost nipped his brain, too!”

One of the advantages of gardening in temperate climates is that we always get a chance to do better the next time. Frost is like an eraser that wipes the slate clean each fall, allowing us to start over without the encumbrance of past failures. The key to doing better the next time, is that we recognize our past failures. So, as I begin erasing the slate, I’ll make notes on what worked, what didn’t, and what I need to do better next year.


  • Start the week by taking a break – a break to enjoy the fall foliage.  Though the persistent drought this year has diminished the impact somewhat, there’s always enough color to make me happy that I live in this part of the world.
  • Make a list of lesser known trees and shrubs whose fall foliage color is particularly brilliant.  A visit to a park or botanical garden is a good place to make such observations.  While everyone appreciates the dazzling colors of maple, birch, and the invasive burning bush, less celebrated plants such as the Persian irontree (Parrotia persica) and Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) are just as spectacular.  These and other deciduous trees and shrubs are readily available at most retail nurseries and can be planted through the end of the month.
  • Dig up and store the tubers of dahlias and cannas.  The tubers of these summer bloomers are not winter hardy.  Also dig up the corms of gladioli and allow them to dry before cutting off the leafy shoots.  Place tubers and corms in a box or bag filled with sawdust, sand, or peat moss. Store them at temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees F.
  • Continue planting spring flowering bulbs right up to the time that the ground begins to freeze.  Not surprisingly, the bulbs will do much better in the ground even when planted late than they will in a paper bag in the garage or garden shed.
  • Include garlic on the list of bulbs to be planted this month.  Garlic may not have a place in flower gardens but it certainly belongs in any garlic lover’s vegetable garden.  In this region of the country, garlic is best planted in fall.  It’s one of the easiest crops to grow.

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