The wildfire smoke may be around for a while longer. While it’s unhealthy for creatures great and small, here are a few good things the smoke is doing for your plants. First: As the wildfire plants burn, a family of chemicals called karrikins are released. Karrakin molecules enter seeds and send a signal to the genes essentially saying, “Hey, there’s no more canopy, so don’t go exposing yourself.” The genes then turn on a switch that make plants extra sensitive to light and prevent them from growing too tall and thin. The result is a bushier more compact plant. Second: Smoke diffuses light, and that helps prevent sunscald and bloom bleaching. Three: The extra carbon dioxide from smoke can help plants make sugar to feed themselves.
Even if the smoke remains, the heat will soon be leaving us. Summer annuals will regroup and produce one last burst of bloom and growth before the cold sets in. You can help plants accomplish this by thoroughly removing all dead leaves, spent blooms, and maybe even giving a slight haircut to plants that seem stretched or leggy. Now is a good time to check for any pests that may have settled in. If you lost all of your petunia blooms but the foliage still looks great, chances are you just have a case of budworm. If treated, the petunias should re-bloom and produce flowers until first frost. Summer baskets and containers are probably on their way to becoming root bound. This means the roots are running out of room to grow. You’ll have to be diligent and careful about feeding and watering plants, since there is no more soil for roots to pull nourishment and water.
Fall is a great time of year to be in the garden. It’s time to plant cool weather veggies and get a jump start on spring color by planting spring blooming perennials. Cheer up a deck or patio with some colorful mums, pansies, violas (my favorite performers for winter), and gerbera daisies. Help us celebrate “Eat Local Week” September 13th- 22nd, by planting some hearty culinary herbs and veggies that will supply you with something edible well into the frosts. Stop by the greenhouses and stock up!