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Now we are officially in fall. The magic of the wild garden that is the Vineyard in autumn is all about us. Deepening color in foliage and the abundance of golden grasses studded with aster and goldenrod create a tapestry of sometimes overwhelming beauty.
One of the growing areas of inquiry in cover cropping is that of disease suppression. It has been discovered that cover cropping with members of the mustard family can put allelochemicals in the soil that closely resemble chemical fumigants! For example, oilseed radish works to control several types of nematodes (which are soil-borne pests that impair the quality of crops growing where they occur.) It can be sown in fall, at a rate of two pounds per hundred square feet.
The sandplain tapestry. Photos by Susan Safford
Cut off the tops with loppers and set the tubers to dry and cure a few days where they cannot be damaged by further frost. At this point the tubers may be hosed off or left with soil clinging. Individual clumps can be placed in sections of newspaper, the corners brought up around the neck of the clump, and a piece of twine or rubber band used to secure the paper and the ID tag. Place the wrapped clumps in a carton, close it up, and store in a cool, frost-free place.
Because I have fairly large numbers of certain dahlia cultivars to collect from the different gardens we work in, I usually use and recycle the plastic bags that potting soil or manure comes in. I write the cultivar name in magic marker on the outside of the bag, and then collect all of those roots into the bag, soil attached. The bags then go into the cellar until the end of March, when it is time to go over them for division and potting up.
This year's favorites echo last year's: the gallery dahlia series. These dahlias are expensive, but their performance warrants it. Of the three we used, 'Rembrandt,' 'Leonardo,' and 'Salvador,' the first, a girly pink, seems to be most floriferous, but all three are stars. Despite being low-growing plants, all three have usable stems for cutting and they are early flowering.
For lovers of purple dahlias, 'Ted's Choice' is a standout in the garden row in terms of floriferousness. In annual dahlias, the series 'Bishop's Children' performed well in the border, with dark foliage and a beautiful blend of colors in floriferous plants two to two and a half feet high. Further favorites are oldies-but-goodies 'Fascination' with lavender anemone-type blossoms and dark foliage; 'A La Mode,' a formal decorative bicolor of soft apricot and white in the BB category; and 'Ringo,' a bicolor red and white formal decorative (the two colors bleed into each other instead of having distinct edges) that is in the M category.
Saturday is the Harvest Festival at the fairgrounds of the Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society. Admission is free. From noon on there will be hayrides, games and demonstrations, culminating with a potluck dinner open to all who bring a dish to share, and a dance until 10 pm. with the Texas swing of the Blue Strangers. See you there.