Coastal and Tropical South

October, 2011
Regional Report

Prune Climbing Roses

Fall offers the best opportunity to get a grip on climbing roses that bloom more than once a year. While the once-bloomers respond well to pruning right after their flowers finish, rebloomers take all summer to open their sequence of buds. Start by clipping off shoots that have overgrown their support structure. Prune out entirely any old canes that no longer bloom, as well as one of any two that are rubbing against each other. Cut the jute string that has held the canes in place and let them sprawl on the ground if it makes the process easier. Take a look at the remaining canes and clip side shoots down to 2 inches. Make necessary repairs and additions to the support and retie the rose with fresh jute string.

Plant Herb Gifts

Believe it or not, the winter holidays will be upon us in mere weeks and you can give gifts of taste and beauty if you begin now. Plant your favorite kitchen herbs in a wide, shallow clay or plastic pot. Gather a collection that includes flat or curled parsley at the center with onion or garlic chives on one side and shallots or another green onion on the other. In between these larger clumps, slip in creeping thyme, small-leafed oregano, miniature basil and beautiful golden sage. Water when the well-drained potting mix feels just dry to the touch, fertilize weekly with a soluble mixed at half-strength and keep the pots in full sun. They will be ready for gifting by Thanksgiving and for clipping, too.

Save Seeds

An otherwise welcome thunderstorm can ruin seed pods that are drying on plants from cleome to angel trumpets and beyond. Survey your garden while it is dry to find the finest seed pods, ones that are fat when green and turn brown evenly. Two strategies work to keep the ripening process going when storms threaten. Clip the stem that has a nearly brown pod and hang it upside down in a dry place with no more light than it was getting in the garden. Or cover the pod with a plastic bag secured to its stem during the inclement weather and remove it as soon as conditions improve. But be careful; if you leave the plastic bag on after the sun returns, the seed pod will rot.

Clean Up Pots and Saucers

Most gardeners recycle their pots and few use the saucers until moving plants onto porches and indoors for the winter. In both situations, basic sanitation now can make the difference later. Not only will pots and saucers look better when they are clean, they will not harbor potential pests and pathogens. First scrub the pots and saucers with a plastic or wire brush in soapy water and rinse them well. Then set up a bucket of fresh water mixed 10:1 with bleach. Put on gloves and dip each pot and saucer into the bleach bucket, swish it around and let it air dry before using.

Stop Mosquitoes

Cases of West Nile Virus are reported monthly, and sadly, the numbers are up from last year in several states. The source of this often tragic illness is mosquito bites, and as we all know, they do not stop breeding and biting in the fall. Make it your mission to combat standing water on your property and in your neighborhood. Drain ditches, keep grass mowed and limit mulch depths to 1 to 2 inches in shady beds to reduce damp hiding spots. Wear long pants and sleeves if possible and apply effective repellents frequently while outdoors.

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