Marianne Binetti

Marianne Binetti: Preparing for fall means preparing for slugs

The middle of August brings three chores for your gardening to-do list:

1. Now is the best time to bait for slugs. Dry weather may mean you don’t see these slimy creatures but all of the slug eggs that were laid earlier in the summer will begin to hatch as soon as the nights grow longer.

Baiting for slugs and snails in August will keep the population under control for the fall gardening season. New slug baits are pet and vegetable safe so invest in slug control now.

2. Now is the time to dig, divide or transplant early summer perennials such as iris, poppies and pulmonaria or lungwart. Do not move peonies or shrubs until fall when the weather cools and the rain returns.

3. Prune those raspberries. Raspberry plants that gave fruit in June will have yellow canes this month and those can be cut all the way to the ground. Everbearing raspberries still giving fruit can be harvested until they stop producing berries. Then cut back the oldest canes by one half.

Q: I am growing dill plants and want to store the seeds for winter use. How does one harvest and store dill seed? – B.P.

A: Dill is easy to grow, and both the foliage and seeds can flavor food. To harvest the seed, cut the flower umbels or clusters when the oldest seeds in the bottom of the cluster start to turn black.

Place the entire seed head in a shoe box and store in a cool, dry spot. In a few weeks, shake the ripe seed onto paper and pour the seed into a glass container with a tight-fitting lid for storage.

Q: I am growing several types of basil. One has beautiful purple blooms. Must I clip off the flowers of the basil plant to keep the leaves coming? – H., Email

A: You can remove half of the basil blooms and enjoy the purple majesty of the other half. But if you allow your basil to flower in late summer, it will take a vacation from making new foliage, and your fresh supply of basil will dwindle. Keep your basil plants well watered and fertilized in hot weather, and you can be enjoying new foliage and making pesto until the first frost.

Q: My neighbor told me not to fertilize my roses in August or they will die in the winter. Is this advice true or false? – Anon

A: False. Feeding roses late in the summer will not cause them to die, but it can make them more susceptible to an early frost because feeding promotes tender new growth.

To keep your roses in bloom all autumn, you should continue to deadhead – remove the faded flowers – from hybrid tea roses and other varieties that are repeat bloomers.

Some roses such as climbers, species and old fashioned varieties only bloom once in the summer. These will not rebloom no matter what you do, so don’t feed the “once and done” roses this month as they can slip into winter dormancy with ease.

Roses are thirsty plants and they will attract more disease and insects if you allow the roots to dry out.

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