Middle South

September, 2011
Regional Report

Make Gourd Birdhouses

Gourds make excellent homes for cavity-nesting birds and can go a long way in replacing lost habitat. Now that the growing season is coming to a close, look for bottle gourds at local farmers markets and hang them where they will have good air circulation until they are fully dry. When you can hear the seeds rattle around, drill a hole and scoop out the dried pulp. The size of the gourd and hole will determine the species you attract. A 6-inch-diameter gourd with a 1 and 1/4-inch hole will appeal to smaller birds, such as nuthatches and chickadees, while an 8-inch-diameter gourd with a 1 and 1/2-inch hole will attract wrens and bluebirds. When drilling, be sure to place the hole high enough to keep the babies from falling out.

Grow Salad in Part Shade

If you don't have enough sunlight to grow vegetables, try growing edible leaves. Arugula, spinach, mustard, chard, and leaf lettuces (but not the heading types) can all be grown in partial or light shade with just 5 to 6 hours of sunlight. In general, root vegetables such as carrots need about 8 hours of sun, while crops that flower and then make fruits, such as tomatoes, need 8 to 10 hours or more.

Save Good Seeds

Seed saving isn't hard but it pays to be selective. For example, if you have a number of like tomato plants, use colored twist ties or bits of yarn to mark the ones that are the healthiest and the tastiest, as well as those that produce the earliest and heaviest crops. Then, during the peak harvest, select and save seeds from the plants that sport the most markers.

Plant a Windbreak

If you need to temper the winds around your house or garden, autumn is the best time to plant trees in the Middle South, so begin planning now. Remember, however, that evergreens block light as well as wind and be careful with plant selection and placement. Natives that make good windbreaks include white pine(Pinus strobus), eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), and American arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis).

Remove Strange Sprouts

Stay on the lookout for rapidly growing sprouts and prune them away from the base of roses or other woody plants that have been grafted onto a rootstock. These suckers can quickly overwhelm the more valuable grafted plant and will eventually cause its demise.

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