Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Lower South

October, 2000
Regional Report

Fertilize Lawns

Early to mid October is a good time to fertilize our southern turfgrasses. Growth has slowed and turf is not as likely to respond with a flush of new growth. The roots are still actively taking up nutrients, however, and can use the extra boost of nutrition. Our southern turf grasses need a fall fertilizer with high nitrogen, low phosphorus, and moderate potassium. Potassium is taken up better when some nitrogen is present and works to build winter hardiness in the grass plant.

Plant Wildflowers

October and November are prime wildflower-planting months. Many wildflowers are biennials and will sprout now, grow very slowly over winter, and really take off and bloom in spring. Lightly till the soil and scatter the seeds. Then rake the area very lightly to avoid covering seeds too deeply, or roll the area with a turf roller to press the seeds into the soil. Water carefully and continue to moisten the area every few days for a couple of weeks.

Control Fall Webworms

Fall is prime time for the fall webworm. These voracious caterpillars are especially fond of pecan, hickory, mulberry, and wild cherry trees. They form webbed nests and defoliate a tree, prematurely causing it to go into winter before it is fully stocked up on carbohydrates. The easiest way to deal with them is to use a long pole to break up their webs and allow paper wasps (their natural predators) to get to them.

Harvest Sweet Potatoes

Dig sweet potato roots prior to the first hard frost. The tops of the roots are exposed to the air through cracks in the soil and can be cold damaged if left in the garden. After harvest, carefully dust soil off the roots. Place the potatoes in a well-ventilated, warm (80F), humid area and allow them to cure for a couple of weeks. Then store them indoors at room temperature.

Plant Cool-Season Flowers

With cooler temperatures, now is the time to start planting fall annuals. Plant snapdragons, cyclamen, primula, stock, and calendula now, but wait a few more weeks to set out pansies and viola. We can have periodic warm spells in early to mid fall, which they won't like. Water plants well, but make sure the soil has good drainage.


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