Upper South

September, 2003
Regional Report

Ready Houseplants for the Move Indoors

The first frost of autumn will soon be here, so houseplants that have summered outdoors need to be readied for coming back indoors. Thoroughly check plants for pests. For good measure, treat all plants with an insecticidal soap or pyrethrin spray. Remove any dead or damaged foliage. Repot rootbound plants or ones that have compacted soil.

Harvest Pumpkins

Pumpkins that are ready to be harvested have a woody stem, hard rind, and deep orange color. Using pruning shears, cut the stem from the vine, keeping a 3-inch length attached to the pumpkin. Cure pumpkins in the sun for a week, then store in a cool, dry place. Pumpkins can tolerate a light frost, but should all be harvested when temperatures dip below 30 degrees F.

Make Time for Fall Planting

Trees, shrubs, and perennials planted in the fall get a headstart on growth next spring. Plant at least four weeks before the ground freezes, which is usually in late November or early December in our region. This is a good time of year to notice which trees and shrubs have good fall color, as well as to note which flowers and ornamental grasses you like when they're in bloom.

Prolong Vegetable Harvest

Use fabric row covers to prolong the harvest period for cool-season vegetables, such as lettuce, greens, beets, turnips, and radishes. These translucent fabrics allow light to pass through, but there is no problem with heat buildup as there is with plastic tunnels. The lighter-weight type provides frost protection to 28 degrees F and has 80 percent light transmission, while a heavier type protects to 24 degrees F and has 60 percent light transmission.

Take Time to Smell the Clematis

Enjoy the sweet autumn clematis, with its billows of fragrant white flowers tumbling along and over fences. Although there are several species that go by this common name, the most widely grown is Clematis terniflora (often listed as C. paniculata). Easily grown with no pests or diseases, sweet autumn clematis can grow 20 feet or more in a year. It blooms on new growth, so prune it back to 8 inches or so in the spring.

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