Upper South

September, 2005
Regional Report

Harvest Winter Squash and Pumpkins

The storage life of winter squash and pumpkins is reduced with accumulated exposure to night temperatures in the 40s, so harvest as soon as they are mature but before frost. Use pruning shears to clip the stem from the vine, keeping 1 to 2 inches of stem attached. Brush off all soil before storing. Handle as carefully as possible to avoid bruising or puncturing the skin. Use less-than-perfect specimens as soon as possible. Store the others in a dry, cool, but frost-free place with good air circulation.

Clean Up the Vegetable Garden

Mow any weedy areas around the food garden to reduce places insects can overwinter. Remove garden refuse and compost it, preferably shredding it before adding it to the compost pile. Destroy diseased plants. Insects that overwinter in the soil can be deterred by tilling the soil in the fall. To protect against erosion, mulch the area or sow winter rye or oats as a cover crop. Prior to sowing the cover crop, work compost or well-rotted manure into the soil.

Fertilize Lawn and Mulch Leaves

Apply a late-fall application of soluble nitrogen fertilizer to the lawn in order to keep the lawn green longer this fall, promote good root development during the winter, and help with early-spring greening. Use the mulching attachment on the mower to provide leaf mulch for the lawn. Research has shown that doing this will not harm the grass and will improve the soil.

Prepare for Frost

The average fall frost date for our region is early to mid-October, However, this is often followed by several weeks of above-freezing temperatures when you can still enjoy the garden if you've protected the plants. Floating row covers, old bed sheets and blankets, tarps, plastic grow tunnels, and anything else that comes to mind can lend protection from early light frosts. Put the protective covering on in late afternoon and remove soon after sunrise.

Plant Bulbs

Spring-flowering bulbs can be planted until the ground is frozen, but the earlier the planting, the better the root development and subsequent flowering next spring. Root growth continues until soil temperatures drop below 40 degrees F. If all the bulbs can't be planted at once, plant the earliest-blooming bulbs first, followed by the later-blooming ones.

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