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Shorter days, cooler nights

JoAnne Skelly

Perhaps like me, you don’t want to hear that fall is in the air, but the days are definitely getting shorter and the nights are cooling off. Soon we will have our first frost. For much of this area, Sept. 15 brings the first killing freeze. Surprisingly that’s only two weeks away. In Washoe Valley where I live, I look for a frost around Sept. 1.

Spring temperatures stayed cool into June this year, so many of us had a late start growing veggies. I’m already keeping my eye on the nighttime temperatures, so I can put blankets over my tomatoes and cucumbers when the frost hits. Since we often have a lovely warm October, if I can get the veggies past the first freeze, I may get ripe tomatoes yet. They are so close. I also pay attention to whether the night is really still and clear, sure signs of possible freezing temperatures.

With August running out, it is time to slowly reduce the amount of water given to trees and shrubs. They need to be hardened off to be ready for the upcoming cold weather. You don’t want new growth developing now or the low temperatures will damage it. Freeze-damaged new growth weakens trees and shrubs inviting in diseases such as rose canker. Another way to avoid encouraging new growth is to wait until after a hard freeze to fertilize trees, shrubs and lawn.

Fall is the best time to plant, whether it is a new lawn or new trees, shrubs or perennial flowers. The soil is warm and the air is cool so new roots can grow quickly without heat stress. If you have been thinking of landscaping, put on gardening gloves and dig in some new trees. I’m not planting trees or shrubs, I’m planting late vegetables in my garden right now. Until Sept. 1, I can plant beets, collard, kale and chard. I may even try spinach, although that is supposed to go in by mid-August. In October I will plant garlic cloves and onion bulbs.

Although the growing season will soon be shutting down, I look forward to cool autumn days to do my outdoor gardening chores, such as turning the compost pile, raking leaves, and putting the flower beds to rest. I actually like to rake leaves.

JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.