Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Upper South

October, 2008
Regional Report

Make More than Jack-o'-Lanterns and Pie

No doubt, pumpkins are both the quintessential fall decoration and dessert, but they also offer other possibilities. Sugar, or pie, pumpkins have a sweet, tender flesh that is rich in beta-carotene and easy to cook, and not just for desserts, either. One of the easiest ways to use pie pumpkins (or any kind of winter squash) is to peel, seed, and cut into 2-inch pieces, then toss with onion quarters, olive oil, and fresh sage or other herb leaves and roast for 30 minutes or so at 450 degrees F. Use this as a side dish or toss with rigatoni and a crumbled, soft cheese like ricotta or fresh goat cheese.

Clean Up and Protect Fruit Trees

Minimize the damage from insects and diseases next year by cleaning up around fruit trees this fall. Rake the leaves and remove the dried fruit. Weed around the trees, cut off any suckers at the base, and apply a fresh layer of organic mulch. Keep the mulch at least several inches from the base of the tree. To protect from rodent damage and sun scale this winter, wrap the base of trees less than five years old with expandable, coiled white plastic designed for this purpose.

Feed and Water Woody Plants

Fall is a good time to apply a complete organic fertilizer to trees and shrubs. For hollies, rhododendrons, and other acid-soil plants, consider using Espoma's Holly-Tone; for other plants, try Plant-Tone. Wait until the plants are dormant and divide the fertilizer application into three parts, applying one-third in late October, another third in late November, and the final third in late December. Follow the manufacturer's directions for the recommended rate. In the absence of adequate rainfall, continue watering plants set out this year, especially evergreens, until the soil freezes.

Remove and Destroy Pests

Check evergreen trees and shrubs for bagworm cases, which contain eggs that will hatch next spring; remove and destroy any that are found. Also, check tree twigs for egg cases of eastern tent caterpillar. These are dark, shiny, and usually occur on branches pencil-size in diameter. In the vegetable garden, gather up the tomato and squash vines, bean bushes, and any other dead material that might harbor insect or disease pests. If possible, burn them. Otherwise, dispose of as per regulations in your area. Do not compost.

Keep Planting Bulbs

Depending upon the weather, spring-flowering bulbs can continue to be planted until the ground freezes. That said, don't wait until the very last minute, and the earliest-blooming varieties should already be planted.


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