Upper South

October, 2012
Regional Report

Bring Houseplants Indoors

As nighttime temperatures dip into the 40s, if not lower, bring tender and tropical houseplants indoors for the winter. Check each plant thoroughly for insect pests and treat accordingly, using a homemade or commercial organic spray, according to directions. Remove any dead or yellowing leaves. Some plants can be trimmed to a more reasonable size, if necessary. Water each pot well. Provide the brightest location possible indoors, but don't let the foliage directly touch windows. For most houseplants, an indoor temperature of about 68 degrees F is ideal.

Try Different Ways to Extend the Season

Often, the first frost occurs in late September or early October, only to be followed by several weeks without freezing temperatures. There's no reason to lose flowers or vegetables with that first frost. For the short term, such as for a night or two, cover plants with cardboard boxes, large pots, or old sheets or blankets, removing them during the day. A longer term solution used frequently for the hardier herbs and vegetables is row covers, commercially available fabric designed for this purpose. The old-fashioned solution is a cold frame glazed with glass or plastic.

Plant the Earliest Bulbs

When planting spring-blooming bulbs this fall, put the earliest-flowering ones at the top of the list. These include crocus, Danford iris, snowdrops, glory-of-the-snow, and Siberian squill. Once those are all planted, then start on the earliest-blooming tulips as well as the hyacinths and earlier daffodils, then finish up with the later-blooming daffodils and tulips. A general rule-of-thumb for planting depth is to plant at a depth three times the height of the bulb.

Clean the Summer Vegetable Garden

There is nothing saddder looking than a vegetable garden past it's prime. So don't let those raggedy tomatoes and cucumber vines linger. Pull out and compost all plant debris except anything that was diseased, which should be disposed with the household trash. Rake the area to remove any fallen debris. Plant a cover crop, if desired, or mulch with compost or leaves chopped up with a lawn mower.

Dive Into Fall Vegetables

Meals featuring fall vegetables are just as mouth-watering as those featuring summer's bounty. Whether from your own garden or a farmers' market, the possibilities include sweet and white potatoes, all manner of winter squash and pumpkins, radishes, turnips, parsnips, lettuces in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, arugula, kale, collards, and spinach. What a feast! If some of these are new to you, be sure to give them a try. And, if they're familiar, then try new ways to prepare them.

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