Upper South

October, 2012
Regional Report

Give Rhubarb A Boost

Rhubarb is easy to grow, even with neglect, but plants will produce more abundantly when composted manure is spread around the plants in the fall or spring. Just be sure to keep the manure away from the center of the plant. A new planting of rhubarb can be started in the fall as well. To keep plants growing their most vigorously, consider digging and dividing the roots every four years or so, making sure that each root division has at least two buds.

Spare Some Perennials

As you continue cleaning the garden this fall, cutting back the dead foliage on perennials, be sure to spare the tops of those that provide winter interest visually, plus those with seed heads that will feed the birds. Ornamental grasses head the list for plants that offer beauty during the winter, but other plants, such as sedum, also are good to keep in the garden for the bleak days ahead. Echinacea and rudbeckia are both excellent seed sources for birds. Cut the tops of any of these plants back to the ground in late winter or early spring.

Look for Sales on Bird Seed

Stores often have special sales on bird seed and other wild-bird feeding supplies at this time of year, so it makes sense to stock up on whatever you're able to safely store. Metal trash cans are useful for keeping seed and suet safe from rodents. If raccoons are a problem in your area, setting a concrete block on top is usually a deterrent. Try to provide a variety of foods for the birds, including black oil sunflower seed, nyger seed, a high-quality seed mix, and peanuts. This is also a good time to thoroughly scrub bird feeders, letting them dry in the sunshine on a warm day.

Get Long-Term Storage Success with Winter Squash

Hopefully gardeners gathered their ripened winter squash and pumpkins before frost arrived or bought some at a farmers market. The rind should be hard enough that you cannot make a dent in it with your fingernail. Let them cure for about ten days in a warm, dry place with good air circulation. After curing, dip each one in a mixture of one part bleach to ten parts water to kill fungus and bacteria. Let them dry, then store in a single layer in a dark, dry, well-ventilated area with temperatures of 45 to 60 degrees F.

Rake Leaves Again and Again

Don't wait until the last leaf has fluttered down to the ground to rake leaves. By that point, a thick mat of leaves may have developed that will smother the lawn grasses. Instead, rake the leaves at least once a week, if not more often. Use them for mulch or to make leaf mold, ideally shredding them first. The easiest way to shred leaves is by simply running the mower over them.

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