Upper South

August, 2010
Regional Report

Know When to Pick Melons

Homegrown melons, sweet and luscious, are one of the crowning achievements of gardening, but knowing when they're at the peak of perfection is an acquired skill. For the types of cantaloupes, honeydews, and other muskmelons with netted skin, look for them to turn yellowish and easily fall off the vine. For smooth-skinned types, they will lose their fine hairs and feel waxy but will need to be cut from the vine. For all types, the blossom end will smell fruity and lush. For watermelons, the tendril nearest the fruit starts to shrivel and turn brown when it's ripe. Also, where it rests on the soil will be yellow.

Win the Cabbageworm Battle

Late summer and fall food gardens abound with cole crops, such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, and cauliflower, which also means that you're providing dinner for cabbageworms. These small, light green caterpillars grow up to be small yellow-white butterflies. The best way to protect crops is with a floating row cover, installed when planting and left in place. Organic products that are effective include spinosad and products containing Bt, or Bacillus thuringiensis.

Put Bulbs on Your Radar

Before you know it, fall will be here and time for planting spring-flowering bulbs. So where would some tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths announce spring best in your yard? And don't forget the wonderful "little" bulbs, like aconite, snowdrops, scilla, crocus, and dwarf iris. These are great planted near a doorway or where you can easily see them from a window in the house. While you're planning and buying these bulbs, be sure to get a few fall-blooming crocus, whether the true crocus or the giant-flowered colchicums.

Harvest Seed of Flowering Annuals

If you favor serendipity, let annuals that readily self-sow, such as cleome, cosmos, four-o-clocks, nicotiana, and love-in-a-mist, do what they naturally do, that is, self-sow. But, if you prefer to exercise a bit more control and self-determination, gather the seed before the seed heads start releasing the seeds this summer. As they turn brown, clip them into paper bags. Set the bags on a porch or in the garage. Depending on the stage they were picked, seeds will either immediately fall to the bottom of the bag, or do so in about a week. Once most of the seeds have fallen, place them in a labeled container. Either scatter where you want them in the garden this fall or next spring, or start them indoors.

Repair or Renovate Lawn

From mid-August to mid-September is the prime time for lawn renovation, planting, re-seeding. Whether you're doing a large area or just a small patch, prepare the soil well. Choose a high-quality grass seed mixture that is right for your site, such as for shade, sun, or high-traffic. Mulch with straw and keep the area lightly damp until growth starts, then water at least once a week as the grass becomes established.

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