Upper South

November, 2011
Regional Report

Prepare for a Living Christmas Tree

Commemorating the holidays with a live Christmas tree that goes from inside your home to the garden is a wonderful family tradition. For the greatest chance of success, dig the hole now before the ground freezes. Fill with leaves and cover the hole and soil that was removed with a tarpaulin. When planning for a living Christmas tree, remember that it should be kept indoors for only about week before planting outside.

Protect Fruit Trees

Bright sunny winter days, even very cold ones, can cause the bark on young fruit trees to expand and becomes damaged. To prevent this install the white plastic tree wraps specifically designed for this purpose. An alternative is to use white paper tree trunk wrap or paint the trunks with white acrylic paint. To keep rabbits and other rodents from chewing the bark, also consider installing wire mesh around the base of the trees. While doing this work, clean up all dropped fruit and other debris from beneath fruit trees.

Mow, Rake, Compost

If you haven't already done so, mow the lawn for the last time, setting the mower blades lower than usual. Finish raking leaves, either adding them directly to the compost pile or shredding them to make leaf mold. Made solely from shredded, composted leaves, leaf mold acts as a superior soil conditioner, increasing the water retention of soils, and also improves soil structure. Rake the shredded leaves into a pile at least three feet wide and tall, moisten, cover with a plastic tarpaulin, and wait six months to a year.

Be Inventive with Kale

Kale is often at the top or near the top of super foods lists, and autumn is the ideal time to serve it more often, as frost sweetens the flavor. Besides lightly steaming or briefly braising kale and serving it as a side dish, try serving it in other ways. Remove the center stem and use it in a green smoothie. Serve it for breakfast topped with a poached egg. Or, make kale chips by stemming, tossing with a bit of olive oil and salt, then baking until crisp in a 350 degree F oven for 12 to 15 minutes; toss with some lemon zest after removing from the oven.

Start Paperwhite Narcissus

Forcing paperwhite narcissus into bloom for cut flowers or display in containers during the upcoming holidays is a fragrant, spirit-lifting tradition. Start several batches at two weeks intervals to have them in bloom during the months ahead, as it take four to eight weeks after potting for flowering to begin. Set bulbs in several inches of small pea gravel, with half the bulb exposed. If the container does not drain, add a small amount of crushed charcoal. Add plain water and wait. To keep the stems from flopping, after the shoots are 1 to 2 inches tall, pour off the water and replace with a solution of one part 80 proof liquor to seven parts water.

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