Question: Can I prune my roses and crepe myrtles now? I don’t like to do that work in the late winter when it is cold outside.

Answer: As a general rule, no. You can keep snipping off the rose blooms when they fade, but do not prune the woody branches now. The rule of thumb for most woody perennials is to avoid pruning during August, September and October. Pruning late in the summer can stimulate a new flush of growth that will be damaged in the winter because it did not go dormant in time. It is better to wait until well into November, after it gets cold outside, to start doing this work.

If you go to the Virginia Cooperative Extension webpage at you can enter pruning calendar in the search box found at the top of the page. They have an excellent and very easy-to-use calendar that tells when to prune almost all flowering perennial woody plants.

By the way, non-flowering shade trees can be pruned at any time of the year without any adverse effects. Just remember to limit the pruning to no more than 1/3 of the live branches.

Likewise, this also is a time to avoid fertilizing or feeding woody perennial plants. Feeding at this time of year also can initiate new growth that will be damaged by the cold weather coming later.

Question: When should I stop watering and feeding my vegetable garden? I am still getting a few things from the garden but it has really slowed down.

Answer: There is really no need to feed the summer vegetables any more this year. Between the shorter days, longer shadows and the coming cooler temperatures, these plants will be giving up before long.

However, as long as the plants are producing food for you, and you are willing to continue caring for the garden, you should continue to water at regular intervals when it does not rain.

My wife loves fresh tomatoes from the garden. There have been a few years where the fall weather was milder than normal and we were picking a few tomatoes from the garden into the first week of November. There were not very many tomatoes, but there were just enough to justify the continued care. And don’t forget to keep pulling those weeds as well.

Question: I have a buckeye tree planted in my yard. This one has the red flowers I the spring. I have notice that all of the leaves have turned yellow. Should I be concerned? Is my tree sick?

Answer: This is a red buckeye doing what red buckeyes do. These trees change color and drop their leaves long before any other trees in this area. I suspect there are some red buckeyes that already have dropped their leaves. So, don’t worry, it will be back next spring,

Another tree that has an interesting way to enter fall dormancy is the paulownia tree. It has very large, elephant ear-like leaves. These leaves stay green until the frost bites them. Then, within a few hours, all of the leaves turn brown and drop off.

Question: My crepe myrtles have finished flowering and now there are those bunches of seed pods at the tips of the branches. Do I need to cut those off?

Answer: Gee, I hope not. I have four crepe myrtles. Two of them are within easy reach but the other two are about 25 feet above the ground. You really do not need to cut those seed pods off. Some gardeners do it anyway to keep the plant attractive but it isn’t necessary. Just don’t commit crepe murder by heading the whole plant back so drastically that it loses the interesting winter bark.

Comments: Remember this is the time to start feeding the lawn with a turf type fertilizer that was made to use on a lawn (not 10-10-10). If your lawn is a dry as mine, you might want to hold off until we get a little rain before making that first application. Once your vegetable and flower gardens are done for the season, remember to remove all debris and dead plant material. Good sanitation can prevent disease problems next year.

Enjoy your garden.

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For questions or suggestions for this column, email

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