Lower South

November, 2005
Regional Report

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.

Clean Up After Twig Girdlers

Each fall twig girdlers appear throughout the region in many types of trees including pecan, sycamore, and persimmon. We seldom see the insects but rather find perfectly cut branches about the diameter of pencils around the landscape. This amounts to a minor pruning so no control efforts are needed. Simply collect and destroy the fallen branches since the eggs are deposited in that portion of the branch that drops to the ground.

Get Ready for Pansies

Prepare planting beds for pansies as soon as they are available at garden centers, and once the night temperatures begin to cool. Pansies need well-drained soil and at least a half day of sun. It is best to use transplants because seed is difficult to handle. Water the new plants in well with a soluble fertilizer solution to get them off to a good start.

Harvest Tomatoes and Peppers Before Frost

Pick tomatoes and peppers prior to the first frost. Peppers can be eaten immature, even if very small. Tomato fruit reach a mature green stage from which they will continue to ripen indoors on the kitchen counter. Less mature green fruit won't. To get a feel for the difference, slice through a green tomato. If the knife cuts through the seeds it was not mature enough. If the seeds move to the side and the knife does not cut through them, it was mature enough.

Plant Ryegrass to Protect Bare Soil Areas

New homeowners with bare soil areas may want to plant ryegrass to help hold topsoil in place over the the winter and to keep the "back 40" from being tracked into the house. Cereal rye, on the other hand, makes a good overwintering soil builder for idle areas in the vegetable garden. Sow rye seed at a rate of 8 to 10 pounds per 1000 square feet.

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