Upper South

October, 2007
Regional Report

Buy Birdseed

Stores specializing in feeding wild birds often have specials at this time of year on seed, suet, and other items for the birds in winter. Some of these places even store the seed for you; that is, you pay a discounted price now and pick it up later. The essentials for bird feeding are black oil sunflower seeds and suet cakes. To attract goldfinches, consider nyger seed. Both peanuts and mixed nuts attract woodpeckers and nuthatches. Seed mixtures containing white millet, cracked corn, and sunflower seeds are the favorite of ground-eating birds like mourning doves.

Let Amaryllis Go Dormant

If potted amaryllis have summered outdoors, bring them inside before the first frost. Set the pots in a dark, cool but not freezing place, preferably at about 55 degrees F for six to eight weeks. Stop watering and allow the plants to go into their natural dormant phase. As the foliage yellows, cut it off at the top of the bulb's neck. After the dormant period, bring pots into normal indoor temperatures and bright, indirect light. Replace the top half inch of soil with fresh potting mixture and water well. Water sparingly until growth starts, then keep the potting mix evenly moist but not soggy.

Dig Tender Bulbs

Some of the bulbs once considered tender in our region, such as cannas and gladiolus, often survive our winters. However, if you have varieties that you especially don't want to lose, it makes sense to dig these along with other summer bulbs that are killed by freezing weather. These include tuberoses, dahlias, caladiums, and tuberous begonias. Dig before the first frost, cut off the tops, and spread the bulbs out on a screen in a warm, dry place. When the bulbs are dry, clean and store in a cool but not freezing place.

Bring Houseplants Indoors

Houseplants need to be brought indoors before the first frost. Inspect them for signs of insects. To be on the safe side, treat all of them with a houseplant spray such as insecticidal soap. Because the lower light conditions of fall and winter mean less active growth, many gardeners wait until spring to repot houseplants into fresh soil, but if some plants are severely rootbound, don't hesitate to give them fresh soil and a bigger pot. Provide the best light possible indoors, and water and fertilize regularly.

Harvest Mature Green Tomatoes

Salvaging the last of the tomato crop when frost approaches is an autumn ritual with many interpretations and varying degrees of success. If you've been canning or freezing tomatoes for weeks now, the process may seem to be more trouble than it's worth. Still, most gardeners cannot bear to see anything go to waste, so pick the tomatoes that are the most mature. Place them one layer deep in a wooden or cardboard box, then cover with newspaper and place in a warm, dark place. Add an unpeeled banana to the box to hasten ripening. Another method is dig the entire vine, remove all leaves, and hang it upside down. Or, make green tomato preserves.

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