Coastal and Tropical South

October, 2012
Regional Report

Grow Root Crops

Root crops will grow in our regions, as long as you pay attention to timing, variety choice, and soil preparation. Planting time begins this month. Sandy soils may need extra trace element fertilizer while heavy soils need raised beds or garden soils well-amended with ground bark and compost. Be sure to thin seedlings to 3 inches apart, even if it hurts to do it.

Make Indoor Hydrangea Bouquets

Your hydrangeas may still be in bloom if they are the reblooming type, or the flower heads may have dried already on the shrubs. You can use both of these for indoor decorating where vases containing water is not practical, such as in offices or hospitals. Fill a vase with fresh hydrangea flowers and let them dry indoors. Over the course of several weeks their natural colors will fade to light tan. Clip the dried heads and fill a tall glass vase for a striking buffet centerpiece. And of course, you can use spray paint to doll up these papery beauties with metallic or holiday colors.

Decorate with Gourds

Snakes, swans, and apples may not be the usual gourds that you think of, but fall ripens these gourds in addition to classic dipper, birdhouse types, and luffas. Use fresh gourds for decorating all fall, keeping the fruits out of direct sun to prevent color changes. Cut from the vine when the green fruit is the size you want and dry out of the sun. If you harvest fresh gourds with 3 inches of stem attached they will survive longer indoors or on the front porch. Let one or two gourds dry on the vine until fully mature. You will hear the seeds rattling around inside when drying is complete. Yes, you can save the seeds and plant them next year.

Grow Wildflowers from Seed

Daytime and nighttime temperatures decline at least a few degrees this month, making it a good time to sow seeds of popular wildflowers like coreopsis, coneflowers, and rudbeckias. After a rain, use a stiff-tined garden rake to loosen damp soil and rough it up just enough to plant seeds without burying them too deeply. Use the back of the rake to recover the seeds and tamp soil down lightly, just enough for seed to make good contact with the moist soil. Mulch lightly and look for seedlings in about a month to six weeks.

Store Sweet Potatoes

There are a few vegetables that do not fit into most home gardens. For example, few of us grow sweet potatoes because they take up so much space, but we do love to eat them. Buy a box or two now for best flavor, and store them yourself in a dark, indoor closet. Sweet potatoes lose much of their sugar when exposed to heat, light, or refrigeration. Later in the season, after the potatoes have been refrigerated in storage, those bought in grocery stores may not be as sweet as those you store yourself.

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