Lower South

October, 2004
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

Fall Aster
Fall aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, formerly Aster oblongifolius) is a dependable performer in the lower south. Each fall the 2- to 3-foot, mounded plants are covered with 1-1/2-inch, lavender flowers with yellow centers. This perennial insists on having good soil drainage, and detests being overfertilized and overwatered. For a stunning fall show plant them in front of purple-blooming Mexican bush sage or yellow-blooming Mexican mint marigold. They also make a good cutting flower, adding a sea of lavender in an arrangement.

Clever Gardening Technique

PVC Arch Tunnel for Winter Protection
Here in the south our growing season is long and can even extend through the winter with just a little extra protection on our few really cold winter nights. A PVC arch tunnel can protect tender seedlings or a semi-hardy row of veggies. Take sections of 1/2-inch PVC pipe and stick one end of each pipe into the soil along one side of the bed. Then bend each pipe over the row and stick the other ends in the soil to form an arch over the planting bed. As an alternative to pushing the PVC into the soil, drive short sections of rebar partway into the soil and slip the PVC pipes over them. Place these arches 4 feet apart down the row. Then run a single PVC pipe along the top of the arches and secure it to each arch with twine or duct tape. Next, cover the row with clear plastic and secure the edges with soil. Leave the ends open during the day to allow heat to escape, and close them at night, using bricks to hold them down.

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