October 2008
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

What About Bald Cypress?

Fall is the ideal time to plant trees, so if you need a landscape tree to beautify your property put it in the ground soon so the roots have time to get started while the top is dormant. This gives trees and all landscape plants a great head-start. One great tree few people think about planting is a bald cypress. This native is a great choice to punctuate a pond or plant just about anywhere on your property. An incredibly adaptable species, it can tolerate both wet feet at water’s edge or dry land. In fact, it even makes a great urban street tree where soils are compacted because the same adaptation to little oxygen in wet soils ensures its survival in heavy soil too. Bald cypress lives for a long time, has pretty bronze fall color with a perfect pyramidal shape at first and is relatively pest-free.

 It’s a Good Time to Start Groundcovers

Looking for ways to reduce grounds maintenance around the house? The right selection of groundcover might do it. If you choose a ground cover suited to the site — sunny or shady, wet or dry — and doesn’t run out of control, it can reduce mowing and pretty much take care of itself once established. A sweeping mass of dense groundcover can visually pull together trees here and there in your landscape and put something nice in areas too shady to properly support grass. Once established, many groundcovers don’t need any more maintenance than a yearly trim. Fall is an ideal time to plant these to give them a good start before spring. Two hardy choices are shore juniper and liriope. Stay away from ivy because it tends to take over and run up trees. The trick to establishing groundcovers is planting them closely enough they fill in quickly so you won’t have to battle weeds for too long. If your needs are bigger than your budget, it is better to plant just one section at a time than to try to spread the plants out so far apart they take years to fill in. An initial mulch of three sheets of newspaper covered with bark or pine straw should keep most weeds except nutgrass and bermudagrass to a minimum the first year. Stay on top of the weeds until the plants grow dense enough to block week growth.


 Enrich Your Vegetable Garden

Your vegetable garden will be more productive if you take care to add nutrients and organic matter to the soil by cover cropping this winter. Try seeding clover over the bed now. You can whack it down really close and plant through it in spring, or turn it under into the ground and let it break down for a couple of weeks before planting. It will add nitrogen and organic matter to your soil. Decomposed organic matter is a great sponge to hold water and help plants make it through drought.


Pollinator Partnership


If you are concerned about encouraging populations of native bees, bats, beetles and other native pollinators on your property, check out the website sponsored by the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign and the Pollinator Partnership, at http://www.pollinator.org/index.html. It’s a very helpful resource that includes everything from resources for managing property to providing habitat for pollinators to the latest information on legislation affecting this subject.

 Pansies Pair with Lettuce

The bright green leaves of lettuce make good companions for pansies in a garden or containers. Buttercrunch is one of the hardier, popular types, so it will last longest in the garden. If you don’t use pesticides, you can even add pansy flowers to salads for color.

 Calamondin – Pretty in a Pot

Although grown more for its looks than its harvest, calamondin makes a great potted plant. In addition to being ornament, you can use the sour fruit as a different twist to lemon in tea. Plants will bear on and off throughout the year. The small tree is about as cold-hardy as a Satsuma orange, so it will even grow in the well-drained ground along the Gulf Coast. Plants are usually of bearing age when you buy them, but if you should decide to grow your own from seed of a purchased fruit, it takes two to three years for the tree to begin bearing. Calamondin is native to China, but introduced in 1899 by plant explorer, David Fairchild. If you enjoy tropical plants, Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami is a worth the drive should you ever be in Miami or the upper keys. Dr. Fairchild contributed to the commercial development of mango and avocado in South Florida in the early 1900s.

Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Garderner’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.