Upper South

October, 2005
Regional Report

Clean and Repair Tools

As the gardening season winds down, take the time to clean all hand and power gardening tools. Wash and thoroughly dry hand tools, then rub wooden handles with linseed oil. Sharpen all blades and use steel wool to remove any rust. Clean power tools of plant material and soil and sharpen blades, then check spark plugs and replace as necessary. Clean or replace air filters, drain and replace oil, and either use up all the gas in the tank or add gas stabilizer. Store both hand and power tools in a weather-proof garage or shelter.

Store Gardening Supplies

Store liquid fertilizers and pesticides in an area where the temperature will not fall below 40 degrees F. All containers should be well labeled and placed away from food, out of reach of children, and (preferably) in a locked area. Organic granular fertilizers often attract mice and other pests; they're best stored in metal cans with well-secured lids. Extra seeds are best saved in vacuum storage bags placed in a refrigerator. Keep a record of what seeds you have to make ordering seeds for next year easier.

Dig and Store Tender Bulbs

Although gladioli and cannas are often hardy in our region, to be sure they survive, it's best to dig them up when their leaves start to die, along with dahlias, tuberoses, and other tender bulbs. Wipe off excess soil, then place them in mesh bags that can be hung in an area that stays at least 40 degrees F. An alternative is to store them in barely moist peat moss or wood shavings.

Pick Green Tomatoes

Tomatoes can be protected from light frosts with an overnight cover of burlap or an old sheet, which should be removed during the day. Any mature green tomatoes that haven't ripened by late in the season can be brought indoors to ripen. They can be placed in either darkness or light. An alternative is to pull up entire plants and hang them upside-down from a hook in the garage or basement.

Clean Up the Vegetable Garden

After a really hard, killing frost, clean up the vegetable garden by removing all summer-season plants. Cool-season crops will continue producing for awhile. Plants that were disease-free can be added to the compost pile; all others should be destroyed. Remove, clean, and store all stakes, trellises, and other garden equipment. If the soil is dry enough, till in compost and aged manure, then sow a cover crop or lightly mulch.

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