In the Garden

Skip the mums

It's mums everywhere one looks. Their shiny, foil-wrapped pots are stacked high in fancy display pyramids at the nursery and crowded in the gardening sections of every home improvement behemoth. They even show up outside of some grocery stores. And, yes, they're pretty enough, and they'll afford blooms for several weeks after most everything else is winding down. Still, they're the stuff of old guard gardeners.

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Your greener gardening to-do list

The little things we do in our gardens now can make a big difference later. Here are some of the most important fall tasks to get you started...

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The other eco bulbs

Less expensive than those curvy compact fluorescents and every bit as good -- if not better -- for the environment, spring-flowering bulbs have a rightful place in our gardens, and now's the right time to plant them. Of course, I didn't always see the value in fussing with bulbs, corms, tubers, and rhizomes. Packaged in plastic, mesh bags and piled high in nearly every big box store, they seemed like a lot of trouble to me. After all, what's the point in carefully planting something that blooms only for a very short time?

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Time to cover up

Whether you've got 100 square feet or several acres to work with, if you don't periodically replenish the soil's nutrients, you're going to have an abysmal crop. I should know, since this was easily the worst garden I have ever grown. Ever. See, it had been a while since I'd added organic matter to my little plot of land, but, considering the soil once looked as rich and dark as coffee grounds and produced fantastically well, I thought I could get by with being lazy this season. For my lack of effort, I was rewarded with calcium-deficient tomatoes, which rotted at one end before the other was even fully ripe, stunted and misshapen cucumbers, and altogether absent broccoli florets. The fact that I didn't water any of the plants regularly simply exacerbated the problem.

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Organic gardeners have more to sneeze at

If you steer clear of synthetic fertilizers and insecticides, compost religiously, and dig up your garden beds by hand, you're certain to have more earthworms than non-organic gardeners will. That's a good thing overall, since earthworm activity naturally loosens and aerates deep layers of the soil, and earthworms make soil nutrients more readily available to your plants. But, earthworms can be troublemakers, too. Turns out they have a lot to do with the tall stands of giant ragweed presently in bloom -- and, by extension, the accompanying hay fever many of us must suffer through.

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Issue 25

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