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Village of AsharokenThe small but powerful Village of Asharoken

October 2010 Gardening Article:    "Rustling Around in the Garden This October     By Joan G. Hauser

During the spring and summer, leaves manufacture most of the foods necessary for tree growth by using chlorophyll, a chemical that absorbs energy from sunlight. This "green" chemical disguises the other colors present in each leaf by its abundance.

At the base of each leaf is an abscission or "separation" layer of cells containing small tubes that carry water into the leaf and food back into the tree. In the fall, as daylight periods grow shorter, the cells of this layer swell and form a cork, cutting off the flow of nutrients between leaf and tree. Without water to renew it, chlorophyll disappears. The other colors will now be able to appear in the leaf. Eventually, the abscission layer severs the tissues that support the leaf, the tree seals the cut, and leaves fall, leaving behind a scar.

Preserve your own autumn leaves.
Preserve your own autumn leaves.
Experts at the Cornell Cooperative Extension say that this year, trees that look green and healthy will turn their usual colors as the season approaches--approximately mid-October here. Trees that have undergone drought stress from our long hot and dry summer may be already prematurely losing their leaves.

Saving the most magnificent, brightly colored leaves from your trees is a project that will enable you to enjoy their brilliant hues all year long. There are several different ways to preserve fall leaves. You can use your microwave, drying one leaf at a time by placing it between two paper towels and turning to high for 30 seconds. Check and if not completely dry, let it go for 20 or 30 seconds longer. Keep your eye on it as leaves can catch fire if they become too dry.

A box lined with silica gel can be used. Cover the bottom with 1.25 inches, Place the leaves individually, and cover them with the same amount of gel. Set microwave at defrost or in the middle of your settings for 2 to 3 minutes per half pound of gel.

The old-fashioned but still effective way to press leaves is to place them between double paper towels inside the pages of a heavy book. Separate leaves by at least 10 pages and stack other books or weights on top. In a week, your leaves should be dry.

Another way to preserve leaves is with a coating of wax. Place each leaf between two paper towels and iron with a dry iron for approximately 5 minutes on each side. Once the leaf is completely dry, place it between two sheets of waxed paper, making sure the waxed side is facing the leaf. Cover with another sheet of waxed paper, wax side down and iron till the wax melts, about a minute at mid setting. While the paper is still warm carefully peel back the waxed paper.

Once leaves have been dried, you can use a clear spray varnish to further preserve them. They can be framed,used to decorate picture frames, gift wrap, or stationery, simply placed under a glass topped table, or scattered to add an air of elegance to your Thanksgiving table.

Planting bulbs in the fall yields a reward in the spring.
Planting bulbs in the fall yields a reward in the spring.
1. Plant spring flowering bulbs from early October till November
2. Take cuttings of geraniums, coleus, wax begonias, impatiens and other annuals for indoor pots.
3. Pot parsley, chives, and oregano for indoor herb gardens; take cuttings of rosemary and root with hormone. Clean up perennial beds by cutting stems back to 3 to 4" high.
4. Bring houseplants back inside.
5. When the foliage dries up or after the first frost, dig up tender bulbs such as begonia, canna, dahlia, and caladium. Leave soil on and store in clumps on slightly moistened peat moss or sawdust in a cool place.
6. Divide overcrowded perennials in early- to mid-October.
7. Continue mowing lawn as long is grass is growing.
8. Trim dead and broken branches from tree and shrubs.
9. Clean up and dispose of all dead iris foliage.
10. Mulch young trees and shrubs with well-rotted manure, leaves, wood chips, or peat moss.
11. Prune late summer-blooming shrubs such as abelia, althea, butterfly bush, clethra, hydrangea, hypericum when they are dormant.
12. Prune and fasten climbers against wind damage.

Potted geraniums can spend the winter indoors.
Potted geraniums can spend the winter indoors.
Annual geraniums are actually pelargoniums. The best way to keep them for next year is to take 3 to 4 inch cuttings from the top of the plants to start new ones. Remove the leaves from the bottom third and insert the cut end of the stem in damp perlite, peat, or sand. Place out of direct sunlight and water as needed. Cuttings should have roots one-half to one inch long in about six weeks, when they can be transplanted into four-inch pots of potting soil. Grow them in a sunny window, watering when the soil feels dry. You can also preserve whole plants bare root by digging them up before the first frost and tieing them in bundles. Hang them up by the root end and store in a cool moist area where temperatures are around 45°F and 80% humidity. Whole plants can also be potted. A soil mixture of 1/3 each of sand, peat, and soil is good. Cut back the tops of the plants to about half and water when soil is dry.