In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
September, 2010
Regional Report

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The red blooms of Turk's cap are a magnet for nectar lovers in the fall garden.

Fall Favorites

We stay wary in our regions in September, the traditional height of the hurricane season. For a sense of constancy, turn to the garden for seasonal charms that defy fear.

Survivors
This year alone, perennials have been frozen with sleet and even snow in some places and cooked by drought and pure heat in others. Now they are stunning, from the simple Turk's cap to tall perennial sunflowers and asters in great heaps. Twin Flower (oblong snake herb) puts on its fall flush of blooms along with Gaillardia, Canna and Salvia. The most maligned of the fall perennials must be goldenrod, blamed for hay fever. Rarely is it to blame, but its bold flowers appear alongside the less showy ironweed that is actually responsible. These plants are easy to grow, multiply readily and, like true perennials, last for years in the garden.

Edible and Calming
The daily chores of growing food offer a calming effect to those whose sense of personal place is closely related to the food they eat. Fall brings ripening merliton, sweet potatoes and cushaw, and time to plant parsley and garlic. Summer's Malabar can continue to produce its thick, sweet greens, accompanied by seedings of true spinach in well-drained, neutral to alkaline soils. Where soils are heavier or more acid, grow spinach and lettuce in containers for better results. Windy conditions may mean watering or misting more often, particularly for young food plants and those bearing now.

The fall flight of aphids is predictable, too, if not so pleasant. Even chives and newly sprouted onion sets can be beset by these suckers. Walk the garden daily; learn to recognize their pinhead bodies and spray or dust with pyrethrin or insecticidal soap at 8 day intervals. Pears and persimmons are ready to harvest at last, another sign that the important things follow a comforting pattern.

Steps to take
Still, it is the height of hurricane season and time to go over the outdoor safety checklist. Look around your property for weak limbs or leaning trees. Large trees that might fall onto a building deserve a close look, and any that have been damaged or diseased may demand a professional appraisal of their safety. Homeowners can often deal with hazardous trees, but serious caution is required. Removing tree limbs is exhausting even for those who make a career of it. Tired muscles can make for slow reflexes, leading to accidents with chainsaws and machetes. Teams of two can relieve each other and keep an eye out. Be smart: let someone know where you'll be working, in case of trouble. Remember that more injuries occur after a major weather event than during it, as people rush to clean up.

Take special care when using power tools in areas that have been flooded. A slip on wet leaves can lead to a dangerous accident when a day's wait would dry the area sufficiently to work in it safely. Be prepared to deal with large amounts of debris if it becomes necessary after a storm.

Use a version of sheet composting to dispose of large amounts of green matter and renew the soil at the same time. In flowerbeds, fencerows and hedge plantings, simply dig a shallow trench, and bury up to six inches of rotten stems, leaves and other green matter. Re-cover with soil. When burying large amounts of green garden debris isn't possible, and the slime factor is gaining on healthy rot, use a stiff rake to turn the piles and sprinkle them with garden lime. The process may go a bit faster if you can add some brown leaves to the pile. As you've heard all your life, prepare for the worst and hope for the best.


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