Upper South

October, 2008
Regional Report

Clean Up Judiciously

There's no one-size-fits-all set of directions for cleaning up perennial beds in the fall. It's best to know the specific needs of the different plants. There is also some disagreement among gardeners as to whether it is best to cut back perennials in the fall or early spring. Those in favor of spring cleanup like the extra winter protection that the top growth offers, plus birds use the dried seed heads as winter food. On the other hand, a clean, tidy garden going into winter gives a feeling of well-being. Generally, it's fine to cut back plants that have "world weary" appearance. Wait a bit longer for fall-blooming ones. Other than that, it's up to you.

Bring Houseplants Indoors

It's about time for the first fall frost in our region, so it's imperative to bring in tender tropical plants that have been summering outdoors. Take time to inspect each plant for pests and diseases, and treat accordingly. Although spring, with its natural encouragement of new growth, is the best time to repot, don't hesitate to perform this task now if a plant needs it. Regular watering is the key to successfully growing plants indoors. Plants stressed from irregular, infrequent watering are more susceptible to pests. Another easy way to maintain plant health is to use a water-soluble fertilizer with each watering.

Give Amaryllis a Rest

If amaryllis bulbs were summered outdoors in pots, bring them in before the first frost. The foliage should be yellowing. Cut off the leaves, set the pot in a cool (55 to 60 degrees F) spot, and stop watering. It doesn't matter whether the location has light or not. After about 10 to 12 weeks, bring the potted bulb into a warmer spot with bright, indirect light and begin watering. One or more flower stalks should appear in several weeks. Keep evenly moist and fertilize regularly until next fall.

Edit Your Garden

Autumn brings an opportunity to step back and look at your yard to see what is working and what isn't. This is a good time of year to consider adding some hardscaping, such as fences, walls, walks, decks, patios, or arbors, as contractors are usually not as busy as in the spring. With care, it's also possible to successfully move plants now. It's important to keep the plants well watered after moving them and to mulch.

Buy Bird Food

Stores that specialize in products for feeding wild birds often have specials early in the fall on bird feeders, seed, and other items for feeding wild birds, so now is a good time to stock up. Some places will even store it for you. The best all-around choice is black oil sunflower seed. Add a small proportion of a mixture that has white millet predominating, as this is preferred by ground-feeding birds. Nyger seed brings in finches, while peanuts and mixed nut mixtures are favored by woodpeckers and nuthatches. Plain suet is a better choice than the blocks that contain other ingredients.

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