Lower South

October, 2003
Regional Report

Prepare Beds for Cool-Season Color Plants

Prepare garden beds for winter color annuals before planting. Mix in a couple of inches of compost. The results will be worth the extra time and effort. Mulch new transplants after planting to deter winter weeds and moderate root-zone temperatures.

Collect Leaves for Composting

Leaves are valuable assets in the garden, either as mulch or when converted into compost. Gather and stockpile fallen leaves and pine needles or use them to build a compost heap. Lay down a 6-inch layer of leaves and a 4-inch layer of grass clippings or other green material. Cover with a light sprinkling of garden soil, and wet the layer with a hose. Repeat layers until the pile is at least 3 or 4 feet tall. A cup of fertilizer can substitute for the green material to provide the necessary nitrogen for decomposition.

Plant Cool-Season Flowers

Plant cool-season color bedding plants now. Pansies need well-drained soil and at least a half-day of sun. Other annuals to set out as transplants now include ornamental kale and cabbage, snapdragons, stock, sweet alyssum, pinks, sweet William, and calendulas. Seeds of poppies, larkspur, and wildflowers also can be planted now for a riot of spring color.

Dig and Store Caladiums

If you wish to save caladium tubers for another year, dig them before the first frost and allow them to dry in a well-ventilated but shaded area. After 7 to 10 days, remove the leaves and dirt, then store in dry peat moss, vermiculite, or similar material. Pack so that the tubers do not touch each other, and dust with an all-purpose fungicide. Store them in an area where temperatures won\'t drop below 50 degrees F.

Harvest Sweet Potatoes

When a frost or freeze is forecast, go ahead and harvest sweet potatoes. The tops of the roots are exposed to the air through cracks in the soil and can be damaged by the cold if left out in the garden. Store the roots in a warm, moist location for two to three weeks for curing, and then move them to a cool, dry location for long-term storage.

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