Lower South

October, 2008
Regional Report

Harvest Sweet Potatoes

When a frost or freeze is forecast, go ahead and harvest sweet potatoes. The tops of the roots are exposed to the air through cracks in the soil and can be cold damaged if left out in the garden. Store the roots in a warm, moist location for two to three weeks for "curing," then move them to a cool, dry location for long term storage.

Plant Naturalizing Bulbs

Now is a good time to plant naturalizing bulbs, which are those species adapted to our climate that return dependably for years of beauty and enjoyment. Narcissus, oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida), spider lilies (Lycoris), amaryllis, and rain lilies (Zephranthes) are among the time-tested choices. Work a few inches of compost into the soil prior to planting.

Start Cuttings to Overwinter Tender Plants

Now is a great time to start cuttings from cold-tender landscape plants that will soon be killed by the first hard freeze. Select shoots that are in between succulent and woody. Take cuttings about 4 inches long, remove leaves from the lower portion of the cutting, dip in a rooting compound, and place in a moist chamber in a bright area but not in direct sunlight. Most species will root in a couple of months. They can then be transplanted into containers and overwintered in a greenhouse, sunroom, or other bright indoor location.

Fertilize the Lawn

Apply 1/2 to 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet to your lawn in early to mid-October. To determine how much it takes to make a pound of nitrogen, take the first number on the fertilizer bag and divide it into 100 to get the pounds of your fertilizer to apply.

Protect Tender Plants from Hungry Pests

Fall is caterpillar season. Sprays containing Bacillus thuringiensis are effective, natural, low-toxicity choices for preventing caterpillars from turning your vegetables or flowers into "Swiss cheese." Tender plants such as cool-season greens are a favorite target of caterpillars, beetles, and aphids. Spread a lightweight row cover fabric over the row after planting, leaving extra slack in the cover to allow room for plants to grow. Secure the edges with boards or soil and the plants will grow virtually pest-free right up until harvest.

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