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Henry Clay, horticulturist
Enhance your home in October
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    Cooler temperatures and reduced humidity make gardening activities more pleasurable as summer fades and fall arrives. Linked with this period are a number of important horticultural activities that will enhance patios, yards, and gardens for the coming year. Some of these activities include:
    - Change-out patio planters. Faded plants and frost susceptible plants can be discarded from patio containers now in favor of more hardy plants that extend the gardening season through fall, winter, and early spring. Pansies, dianthus, blue salvia, and petunias all do well in our area of the state.
    - Divide and transplant perennials. Many of our better perennials can be lifted and divided this month. Examples include daylily, stokesia, galardia, Mexican petunia, iris, coneflower, phlox, and certain salvias. Containerized perennials, ready for planting also find their way into garden outlets at this time of year. Planted now, these plants make strong root growth during the fall and early winter leading to satisfactory blooming next spring and summer.
    - Think spring flowering bulbs. Spring flowering bulbs are planted during October and November in our area of the state. Ample time is available to order bulbs for later plating and to shop locally for the more readily available types at nurseries and garden outlets. Tulips, daffodils, amaryllis, crocus, galanthus, bulbous iris, lycoris, and other minor bulbs are fall planted in order to have spring bloom. Tulips need special treatment. Tulips seldom get enough cold weather in our area to cause the flower stems to stretch properly. Store bulbs in the refrigerator for six to eight weeks before planting to give them the required “cold time.”
    - Control tea scale. Tea scale affects camellias, sasanquas, dwarf burford hollies, cariss hollies, and other broad-leaf plants. A fuzzy, whitish mass on the under side of leaves plus yellowish blotches on the top of leaves is a dead give-away of this pest. Left uncontrolled, vigor of plants can decline. Spray underside of leaves with volck or similar oil to control this pest during the fall when temperatures are below 55 degrees and above freezing.
    - Try bulbs in pots. Spring flowering bulbs create quite a show when forced into bloom in pots. Special, low profile bulbs pots or even discarded hanging baskets work quite well for such use on patios or balcony gardens. Bulbs such as daffodils, crocus, hyacinths, and tulips are ideal. Special social mixes work quite well as a potting medium. A handful of crocus or six to eight larger bulbs for six-eight-inch pots are ideal. Pot in late October and keep soil mix moderately moist over winter. No saucers please, as bulbs need good drainage. This is a fun project for kids.
    - Avoid heavy pruning now. Cooler temperatures often prompt homeowners to cut back and shear shrubs during the fall. Avoid heavy and “skin head” shearing at this time of the year. The reason for this advice is that pruning prompts new, tender growth that is easily killed by early frost and freezes. Sheering will remove flowerbuds already formed on azaleas, Indian hawthorne, and other spring flowering shrubs. Just as important, late shearing leaves plants in a very unnatural “skinned” appearance for the next six to seven months. Cutting back shrubs and shearing nonspring flowering shrubs should be delayed until late February or early March.
    - Kids garden project. Kids like to garden, too. A fun project is to seed radishes in a ten to twelve inch pot. Radishes are a quick crop – four to six weeks. Artificial soil mixes work well. Sow seed thinly, cover sparingly and water after sowing with a fine spray. Water two times a week as radishes begin to sprout. Avoid letting seed dry out initially. Of course, place pots where ample sunlight is available.
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