Upper South

September, 2009
Regional Report

Shop and Plant

Fall is a great time for planting container-grown trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses, roses, and perennials. Planting now gives plants a headstart on next year. Just pay attention to rainfall, and keep the new transplants well watered. Remember to set plants at the same depth as they were growing in the container and incorporate compost into the soil used to fill around the plant. It also pays to apply an organic mulch after planting.

Harvest Potatoes

When to harvest potatoes depends on the variety and when they were planted. Once you see the foliage dying down, though, then it's time to harvest. If you plan on storing your potatoes, the skin should be thickened. For this to happen, the tops have to be dead. Choose a dry period, and, using a spading for, dig a foot or more from the main stem. Let potatoes dry for a couple of hours on top of the ground, then spread out and cure for one to two weeks in a dark, dry spot. Store at 50 to 60 degrees F. and 60 to 70 percent humidity.

Keep Trimming

Spent daylily stalks, slug-eaten hostas, mildewed phlox leaves. These and other ills give your garden a ragged-looking appearance. Take the time to tend to these various unsightly problems, and, even as fall approaches, your garden will be much more pleasing. Plus, it will give you a head start on fall garden cleanup. Don't be afraid to cut off the entire plant if it looks ugly. Be sure to remove weeds, too, so that they don't go to seed and make more problems next year.

Plant and Divide Peonies

Fall is the best time to start new peony plantings. Although it's generally not recommended to move peonies, if the clumps have become overcrowded and sparsely blooming, then fall is also the best time to dig up and divide. Dig up the plant with as many roots intact as possible. Carefully remove the soil around the roots, then gently hose the root mass until the reddish buds, or eyes, show. Use a sharp knife to cut the root mass into sections, each with 3 to 5 eyes. Plant in a site with full sun and well-drained soil, setting the eyes 2 inches below the soil surface.

Plant the Earliest-Blooming Spring Bulbs

The diminutive early-blooming bulbs, like winter aconite, snow crocus, snowdrops, and reticulated iris, are the first bulbs to be planted in the fall. One way to determine if it's time to plant bulbs is when the night temperatures drop below 50 degrees F for two consecutive weeds. The goal is to have your bulbs develop strong root systems before the cold temperatures set in. Work a good organic compost or well-rotted cow manure into the when planting, then mulch with this material. Plant bulbs at a depth two to three times their length. And, remember, pointy end up!

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