Tend to garden before first frost hits

September 5, 2012 

The month of September offers some of the best weather of the year for outdoor living. Don’t stop watering and feeding your container gardens now — you still have six weeks of frost free weather to enjoy your summer plants.

This is a good week to harvest extra fruits and vegetables and bring them to your local food bank. To really be a hero, wash and clean any produce and present it in smaller containers ready to go home with your neighbors in need.

Here are a few reader questions that need addressing:

My question is about spiders. I am finding them inside my new house and also all around the patio and deck. They are making webs on my front porch as well. I hate spiders. What is the best spray to use to get rid of them? I am a first time homeowner and need to know the timing of when to spray pesticides to keep all bugs away. — R.T., Tacoma

My sympathies for your spidery fears, but you’ve fallen into a web of deceit and misinformation. Most spiders in our area are harmless and actually good for the garden. You are seeing a lot of spiders and webs this month because it is nearing autumn. The best way to handle them building webs outside your house and on the porch is with a broom. Poke the broom into the web so that the spider grabs hold along with the webbing. Then brush him off onto the grass or garden. If you use a broom, you won’t need to worry about pesticide residue, allergy to the chemicals used in pesticides and destroying the natural balance of insects on your property. You can even paint a broom black and use it as part of your Halloween decorations — which could also include some natural spider webs. Hang in there — when winter arrives the spider “problem” will go dormant.

I have a really cool plant with strappy leaves and a narrow, bottle-shaped bloom made from many tiny flowers. I have emailed you a photo. What is this weird plant and will it come back next year? — J. Email

Congratulations. You are the owner of a Eucomis or Pineapple lily. This half-hearty bulb from South America looks like the top of a pineapple in bloom but is not related to the fruit. The bulb will flower each August and the bloom will last for months — even as a cut flower. It needs well drained soil to survive our wet winters and a mulch or one-inch layer of bark chips on top of the soil to protect it from the cold. You can also grow Eucomis bulbs in pots. September is a good month to plant these bulbs in your garden for blooms next year, or you can save and plant the bulbs in the spring. Look for the bulbs or plants in bloom now at local nurseries and garden centers. Five years ago when I planted my first Eucomis they were considered rare and unusual — but now I see them for sale at many local nurseries. I am happy to say my own Eucomis are still alive and blooming after five cold winters in Enumclaw.

Should I renew and reseed my lawn now or wait until spring? I have mole holes, mice tunnels, moss and weeds. Also my lawn is turning brown. — L.R., Buckley

I vote to go after the gold and spend some green this month to renovate the lawn. You must improve your soil if you want a lawn that will stay green up next summer and grow thick enough to crowd out the weeds and moss. Aerate, fertilize, lime, then add topsoil on top of the old lawn to level it out. Finally, after all this work you can reseed with a blend of improved, patented grass seed varieties especially chosen for our climate. Look for grass seed that says “Northwest blend” and avoid the less expensive grass seeds labeled “play ground mix.” If all this sounds like too much work, you can hire a professional to aerate and top-dress your lawn with new soil. Then spread the fertilizer and lawn seed yourself right on top of the new soil. Your old lawn will push up through the new soil to help protect the seeds and you’ll have whole new lawn by spring. Moles, voles and mice are best controlled with traps.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. For gardening questions, write to her at PO Box 872, Enumclaw, WA 98022. Send a self-addressed stamped envelope for a personal reply. She also can be reached at her website, binettigarden.com.

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