Middle South

October, 2011
Regional Report

Take Stock for Next Year

Before cold weather sets in and frost does away with warm season annuals and herbaceous perennials, inventory the garden and take photographs for a winter and spring reminder of which plants did well and which struggled with conditions or fell victim to pests and diseases. Also jot down garden chores that need to be scheduled or structures that want repair. When the time is right for transplanting, pruning, painting, ordering seeds, selecting new garden plants, and carrying out other chores, you'll have a handy record of what needs to be accomplished.

Plant Ground Covers

Autumn is the best season to establish many plants, including ground covers, especially in areas that could be affected by winter and spring rains. Good slope stabilizers include juniper, liriope, cotoneaster, and jasmine. Depending on the steepness of the incline, you might also want to consider a wider range of options, such as Lenten roses, daylilies, and sedums.

Protect Young Trees

As their easy food sources disappear, consider safeguarding the bark of young trees against hungry rodents. Plastic tube-shaped tree guards, 12-inches tall, should do the trick. Or make your own guards out of corrugated plastic drainpipe.

Care for Perennials

Put away the fertilizer and allow perennials to go dormant so they can survive the cold season. If disease or insects were a problem during the growing season, rake away dead foliage before adding a 2-inch layer of mulch, such as shredded leaves. This light layer of mulch will help conserve soil moisture, moderate soil temperature, protect the root system, and reduce heaving.

Dig and Store Summer Bulbs

Caladium, tuberous begonia, and other summer bulbs (used here and in the trade as a catchall name that includes rhizomes, corms, and tubers) should be lifted this month for storage. Allow bulbs to air-dry for several days in a well-ventilated area out of direct sun, where the temperature is roughly 70 degrees. Then remove all foliage before packing in peat moss and storing in a cool location. Less tender bulbs such as dahlias and cannas usually survive Middle South winters, but you can also dig and store them as precaution against the possibility of extremely wet or cold weather.

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