Gardening Matters

I was going to start putting my garden “to bed” for the winter this week when I noted that I am having a late bloom on many plants. At the end of August my tomatoes were wilting and many of my perennials were getting straggly and near to death. But then in the last couple of weeks I’ve started re-harvesting tomatoes. My gaura, coreopsis, coneflowers, daisies, butterfly bush, spirea and salvia are coming back strongly. I’ll gladly wait another week or two to call it quits on these plants.

I bought a few new plants in the Dunwoody Nature Center’s plant sale and will have to get them in the ground. And I have a day lily bed in my back yard that is floundering because some trees have grown big enough to shade it out. I’ll move the day lilies to the sunny front yard and put some more shade tolerant white phlox and purple coneflowers in the old daylily bed. These are generally low maintenance perennials, a fact that pleases me to no end.

October is probably the best month for planting and transplanting perennials and shrubs. Although I have been so daring (read stupid) as to put in new shrubs during the awful weeks of July and August, I don’t recommend doing so.

Plants installed in October still have mild weather for a month or more to establish their roots before the usual first frost. Even after a frost they will continue to build a solid root system so that they are ready for new growth and blooming come spring time.

I generally sprinkle a pinch of bone meal in the planting hole. Bone meal will help encourage development of healthy root systems during the winter months.

And finally, it is now the time to plant pansies, snapdragons and ornamental cabbage. Make sure they get plenty of sunshine, especially given that the sun will be lower in the sky in the coming months and more likely to be hidden by tall trees or structures. Don’t ask me how many years it took me to figure that out!

Awkwardly segueing now to another topic, let me tell you about a wonderful book I found last year. The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists by Lois Trigg Chaplain (Taylor Trade Publishing, $17.95) is a treasure trove of over 200 lists of plants for Southern gardens. The lists are built around common conditions that gardeners face.

They have lists for almost any situation or combinations of situations… sun, shade, wet, dry, rocky soil, steep hillsides, early blooming, late blooming, etc.

And then there are lists like “Wait Till It’s Really Warm to Plant These”, “Annuals That Do and Don’t Withstand Pounding Rain” or “Vines That Reach a Long, Long Way.” It’s an amazing collection of very useful lists compiled by a wide variety of gardening experts from across the South. And there is just a touch of whimsy among all the lists and gardening advice to make the reading fun. After your fall planting is done, this will be a great book to browse through during the winter months.

Jeff Coghill has been gardening in DeKalb County for over 30 years and has probably killed at least one of each kind of plant he has tried before getting another one to thrive. He is a gardening volunteer at the Dunwoody Nature Center and works closely with members of the DeKalb Master Gardeners group. He can be reached at gardeningmatters@hotmail.com

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