It’s Fall! The Weather’s Great!

October 1st, 2007 by Donna Wheatley Leave a reply »

Here in East Central Mississippi, autumn is in the air (figuratively speaking.) Night temps have fallen into the mid fifties, daytime highs are in the low nineties, or even in the high eighties. Heaven! (You have to have been here for our three solid weeks of 100 degrees plus in August to fully appreciate this.)

So, what’s to do in the garden? Plenty! In the past week I have been digging and dividing daylilies. I grow primarily hybrids, and they benefit greatly from division about every three years. As I lift them, I dig in a half bag of composted manure into each hole, plus a sprinkling of Potash. I never seem to have any trouble finding eager hands for the extra daylily plants. This fall, I am planting a clump of daffodils midway between each daylily clump. That will give me lots of early spring color, but the spring daylily foliage will hide the unsightly daffodil foliage.

Saturday, I did a major overhaul on the half circle bed just off my driveway. This bed is visible from every room on the front of my house, so I try to keep it in bloom twelve months a year. It has a twenty two foot diameter, so it holds lots of plants. I have the outer circumference lined with Korean boxwoods that are sheared into perfect little spheres. As a rule, I don’t care for sheared shrubbery, but I make an exception for this bed. Here’s my plan for spring: The following rows of plants will be planted from the back to the front of the bed, following the circumference of the circle.

Back row: Korean Boxwoods: Boxwoods are greedy little shrubs, so I root prune them once or twice a year. I plunge a good sharp shovel straight down at the outer edge of their foliage crowns to cut their roots back and keep them from sucking up all the nourishment from the flowers planted in front of them.

Two feet in from centers of shrubs: Deep blue old fashioned Bearded Irises: Bearded Irises are a love/hate relationship for me. Their flowers are spectacular for that two or three weeks they bloom in late spring. The fact that they come into flower in an otherwise”dead” bloom time of spring doesn’t hurt either. Their spiky foliage is another plus. But…they can look pretty ratty by late summer and the roots have a nasty habit of rotting. To help keep these problems to a minimum, I lay about an inch or two of composted manure on the soil around them each spring, and again when I divide them (every other year or so). I do not mulch over their rhizomes (this helps the rot situation), and I plant their rhizomes on a “hill” of perfectly drained soil two to three inches higher than ground level. Since I don’t mulch closely around them, I have to patrol them closely for weeds, but since they’re right outside the front door, I bend and pull one here and there each time I pass by. (Helps keep the waist trim, in a manner of speaking.)

Two feet in again: “Beautiful Edgings” (pastel yellow) Daylilies, with clumps of early, mid and late blooming daffodils planted between each clump of lilies. Since it’s October, it’s time to give the daffodils a meal: a good sprinkling of bulb food or bone meal. This really revs up the spring blooms.

Eighteen inches in: Yellow Sonnet Snapdragons. These annuals are about two feet tall and are like yellow torches in April. They need all winter to get a good root system built up so they can really strut their stuff come spring. These need a little cooler temperatures than we are having now, but it should be prime time to plant them (and the pansies) from Mid October until Thanksgiving.

One foot in to front edge of the bed: Blue, yellow, and orange pansies. I particularly like the Majestic Giants II series. They make even bigger blooms than the old Majestic Giants and they bloom longer and heavier than the originals too.

The pansies anchor the bed all winter, but beginning in February, there will be at least one other row blooming behind them through mid-July. I will replace the pansies and snaps with summer bedding plants in mid to late April.

I am also cleaning out the summer flowerpots around my deck, adding fresh potting soil to them, and sprinkling in lettuce, swiss chard, kale, and carrot seeds. I’ll be planting a different type of lettuce about every two weeks throughout the winter, so I’ll have plenty of fresh salads throughout the cold months. Such a pity that the tomatoes won’t keep making at the same time!

Gotta go dig! You do the same!


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