Harvesting, curing black walnuts
Black walnuts are ready to be harvested when the hull can be dented with your thumb. You can also wait until the nuts start falling from the tree. Either way, it is important to hull walnuts soon after harvest. If not removed, the hull will leach a stain through the nut and into the meat. The stain will not only discolor the meats, but also give them an off flavor.
There are several ways to hull walnuts including running them through a corn sheller or pounding each nut through a hole in a board. The hole must be big enough for the nut, but smaller than the hull. An easier way is to run over the nuts with a lawn tractor. This will break the hull but not crack the nut. Note that walnut hulls contain a dye that will stain concrete, your hands or about anything else it touches. Wear gloves as the stain is almost impossible to remove.
Wash hulled nuts by spreading them out on the lawn or on a wire mesh, and spraying them with water or placing them in a tub of water. If you place them in a tub, the good nuts should sink. Those that float are probably not well-filled with kernels. Next, dry the nuts by spreading them in layers no more than three deep in a cool, shady and dry place such as a garage or tool shed. Drying normally takes two weeks.
Clean up iris beds this fall
Iris are known for a couple of common problems: a fungus disease known as iris leaf spot and an insect named iris borer. Though both cause problems in the spring, now is the time to start control measures. Both the fungus and eggs of the borer overwinter on old, dead leaves.
Remove dead leaves and cut back healthy leaves by half this fall to reduce populations of these pests. Also remove other garden debris from the iris bed. This can significantly cut down on problems next spring.
Fall planting of asparagus and rhubarb
We sometimes receive questions as to whether asparagus or rhubarb can be moved in the fall. Though these crops are traditionally transplanted in the spring (mid-March to mid-April), a fall move can be successful. Wait until the top has been browned by frost and then cut back to the ground. Water well after planting to ensure good root/soil contact. Mulching would be helpful on the rhubarb to prevent the plant from heaving out of the soil during the winter, but asparagus requires no such treatment as it is planted much deeper.