Phyllis Both color for BNR

Phyllis Both

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

Welcome to summer … for a while anyway. My few tomatoes are finally ripening. Maybe I’ll be able to can some for next winter. I usually have about 50 quarts by now and I only have three so far.

The emerald ash borer has made its arrival in Sauk County. I just received the notice that they have been found in Lake Delton. Keep an eye on the trunks of your ash trees. Look for half-moon holes in the trunk of your trees. If you suspect the borer on your trees, contact the DNR to report it. If you value your ash trees, you can call an arborist to inject them. This can be quite expensive, depending on how large the tree is.

October will be here before we know it. It is a great time to address drainage and soil problems in the garden by building raised beds. Raised beds solve a multitude of gardening challenges. They can be intensively planted, minimize weeding, and provide an opportunity to create good soil composition. Raised beds can be planted earlier since soil warms faster and creates deep drainage. Another plus is they can be built to allow wheelchair accessibility and can provide seated gardening opportunities with minimal reaching.

There are many materials that can be used to build a bed. Railroad ties and pressure-treated lumber can leach chemicals into gardens. Cinder blocks and concrete tends to create alkaline soil for the first few years. Cedar, stone, or bricks are good choices. Lumber that does not contain arsenic in the treatment is also a good choice.

When I build raised beds in the fall, I line the soil with newspaper then start adding kitchen scraps, plant debris, grass clippings and shredded paper as fill for the beds. Shredded leaves are an asset and I mix all the additions together. I do this all winter and in spring mix in soil. All or most of the organic materials I added in fall will make the garden soil nice and crumbly.

It’s an easy way to compost and never smells bad. If it does, there is too much green material. The ratio should be 50 percent dry leaves or shredded paper, 30 percent grass or plant material, and 20 percent fruit and vegetable scraps. A little high-nitrogen fertilizer can help all the materials break down faster but it is not necessary. Let nature work for you.

Contact Phyllis Both by email at pboth@charter.net or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County UW-Extension office, 608-355-3253.