Coastal and Tropical South

October, 2008
Regional Report

Vitex Care

Chaste tree can look a bit ragged now, but more flowers await your signal to get blooming. The bees will forgive you for a quick deadheading. Look behind the flower cluster that has begun to fade to see a set of leaves smaller than the ones below on the same stem. Clip below those modified leaves and compost the debris.

Add to Compost

Though few rules of composting are hard and fast, the pile will rot faster and be more nutritious when it's done if you do a few things. Freshly raked fall leaves are an obvious choice, but balance that with at least some green. A 3:1 brown to green ratio is good; the green can come from lawn clippings, kitchen waste, and spent flowers and plants. Chop the green matter into pieces no larger than one square inch for efficient decomposition.

Limb Up

Overgrown and sometimes even scraggly shrubs can make nice small trees. That's in contrast to the huge task it can be to remove a holly, gardenia, or loropetalum that has way outgrown its appointed space. Step back and look at the plant to imagine a nice canopy atop sleek trunks instead of a blob. Start at the bottom and remove everything but that vision.

Lettuce Care

You may be plucking leaves from the lettuce patch for tonight's salad, and that's good. If the plants have holes or chewed leaves, though, seek the source and exclude them. Slugs and snails can be lurking under the mulch, caterpillars hide in the folds of the plant and under its leaves. Keep the mulch down to less than an inch and thin out a plant or two for better air circulation to reduce the slugfest. Pluck off the caterpillars daily and drape white growcloth over the plants to slow down the egg-layers and reduce the next outbreak.

Flowers for Fall Planting

Lots of gardeners wouldn't know it's fall without pansies, snapdragons, and ornamental cabbage and kale. Other choices abound, however, beginning with petunias and nasturtium. Go beyond them to discover dianthus, cornflowers, and candytuft. Plants of petunia and dianthus are generally available, and the others are easy to grow from seed in the garden.

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Special Report - Garden to Table

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