Even though our long summer drought has been interrupted by recent rains it is good to be aware that wasps and other stinging insects are irritable and defensive at this time of year. Dry weather, shorter days and a small supply of nectar all added together make them ready to sting if you invade their space. Try to stay away from blooming plants during the hottest and sunny part of the day and move with slow deliberate motion. Usually they are more tolerant of your presence early in the day and after the sun is lower in the sky.
Signs of autumn are ever where. Cicadas are serenading us in the evening, birds are starting to form flocks and some trees, like dogwoods and sassafras are starting to show fall color. Many trees that are drought stressed have begun to drop leaves already. This is a defense strategy. If you have fewer or no leaves, you use less water. Usually if foliage turns yellow and drops cleanly from the branches it is a sign that the roots can’t support the foliage, but it will usually live. On the other hand if the leaves turn brown during the growing season but don’t drop the plant is dead. The shorter days also signal some plants such as asters and chrysanthemums to form buds and bloom. These plants are called photoperiodic. That also explains why some plants bloom in the spring. Plants that bloom regardless of day length are referred to as day neutral.
If you grow a vegetable garden, more than likely it is looking pretty tired by now. If you take the time to pull up spent crops and clean up the space and prepare the soil, you can sow seeds of many salad crops such as leaf lettuce, arugala and radishes. Turnip greens, Mustard and kale can be sown now too. If you can find plants of cabbage, broccoli and brussell sprouts at a garden center plant them as soon as possible. Most of these plants do better in the fall than in our unpredictable spring weather. Some will produce until a killing frost and others, depending on the severity of out winter may produce until next spring.
Remember you need to keep a newly seeded garden moist until the plants are established. Usually weeds are a little less troublesome in fall and winter and of course it is a great feeling of accomplishment to grow something you can use on your Thanksgiving table.