Autumn crocus (Colchicum sp.) is one of the shining lights of early autumn.
* Cut down and dispose of garden plants that are infected with powdery mildew and other diseases. Disposing of those plants now can help reduce re-occurrence of the disease next year. However, don’t toss these onto a compost pile. Rather, create a separate pile of infected plants and then cover with soil. Alternatively, dig a hole and bury them.
* Dig and divide peonies to create more plants for the garden, or to trade with friends who may have varieties that you do not. Peonies are long-lived, almost trouble-free plants. That’s why they can often be seen around old farmsteads. About the only precaution to take when replanting a peony is to be sure that the top of the rootstock is no more than two inches below ground level.
* Shear back the yellowed or browned leaves around autumn crocus to allow for a better show of this fall bloomer. “Crocus in bloom now?” you might ask. Though it looks like one, autumn crocus is not a true crocus. The spring bloomer belongs to the genus crocus, which is in the iris family. Autumn crocus is of the genus Colchicum, which is in the lily family.
* Work some compost or a natural fertilizer into the soil where spring flowering bulbs are to be planted.
* Don’t worry about planting daffodils and other bulbs in areas that are now shaded by deciduous trees and shrubs. As long as these areas are in full sun in spring when the bulbs are blooming, they should do fine.
* Squeeze in another planting of radish. They mature rapidly and should provide at least one more crop before the onset of frigid weather. I prefer to plant radishes now since they are less likely to be infested by root maggots than are spring and summer plantings.
* Pull up or cut down old corn stalks but only after they are fully dry. However, don’t discard them. They have many uses. Each year we set out bunches by the roadside for the taking, most likely for fall decorating. Other uses include; feed for animals, compost, and mulch (when chopped).
Ancient civilizations took the autumnal equinox as a signal to begin preparations for the onset of winter. Over the next month or so this column will cover many of those preparations. However, I also take the arrival of fall as a signal to begin seed collection. Propagating plants by seed can be a lot of fun, not to mention that it can save a lot of money. So, I scan landscape and garden for trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, herbs and vegetables with mature seed capsules or seed heads. These I cut off and place in labeled paper bags for drying. Once the seeds are released, I store each type in small jars, most of which I keep in the refrigerator until ready to germinate in spring. Generally, I avoid collecting seeds from hybrid plants since I never know what those seeds will produce.