August 2010
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

Remember Bulb Orders


If you pinch yourself every spring because you did not order daffodils or other spring-flowering bulbs when you had the chance, now is your chance. If you want to plant enough bulbs to really make an impact, you’ll need dozens if not hundreds. I know someone in the Atlanta area who has planted over 1 million on his acreage over the last 25 years (he’s in the landscape business, so it comes naturally). Order now from mail order sources and keep records so you’ll know what you ordered if you want to add more next year. One of the very best daffodils for Alabama is Ice Follies, which has creamy petals and a yellow cup (center). The stems are sturdy and it comes back year after year in all but the warmest parts of the state. February Gold and King Alfred are two good yellows.


Knock Outs Can Get Knocked Out

Are the Knock Out Roses you planted several years ago looking puny? These roses, which some professional are dubbing "the new azalea" because they are planted in mass everywhere, do actually need a little attention. They are fantastic roses, but could lose their punch after a few years without a little winter care. I’ve heard a few gardeners even mention theirs got some leafspot last year. Although these shrubs are planted and left to grow and grow year after year, they need a good hard pruning every year or two. I’ve heard William Radler, the backyard hobbyist who bred Knock Outs, urging gardeners to cut them back like you would a hybrid tea every year or two to remove old wood and keep the tops strong and healthy. So if your three or four-year-old Knock Outs are getting leggy, too tall or showing signs of weakness, take note. Now is NOT the time to cut them back, but it is the time to take a close look and make a note to prune hard in February or March.

Old CDs Keep Away Birds

Some gardeners find old CDs keep birds away from the garden. The flickering reflection and movement of the disk as it hangs from some clear fishing wire is enough to drive the birds elsewhere to peck. Try this to protect precious fall tomatoes.

Fall Vegetables Don’t Wait

If ever there is a time when timing is important, it is for the fall garden. Because what awaits your plants is shorter days and increasingly cooler weather, it is important to get them started on time so they can grow well before it gets cold and dark. August and September are the months to plant fall items in Alabama, so get out the football schedule and see which day is free for planting. Fall tomatoes should have already been set out, but if you live in South Alabama you can still squeeze in a crop of an early maturing variety.

Broccoli, cabbage, collards, onions, kohlrabi, lettuce and Swiss chard are a few good items to start from transplants. Sow seeds of root crops: beets, carrots and turnips; cover them with a board if needed to help cool the soil until they germinate. Watering is crucial, too, because the weather is hot. Put your sprinkler on a timer as "insurance." For help with a planting calendar, check out the Alabama Gardener’s Calendar from the Alabama Cooperative Extension website


Nice Fence Idea

This fence idea came from the property at Biltmore House and Gardens in North Carolina. Long limbs form the cross pieces screwed to treated posts. Adding the wire mesh makes is it a good rabbit barrier for a garden, too.



The big, tall dahlias you planted in spring should be getting taller and ready to bloom soon. Be sure to stake them to keep the big flower heads from pulling the plants over in wind or rain. Use bamboo or other sturdy, tall stake and tie the stems with soft ties. Dahlias are a great cut flower. Nothing else can beat their range of color, shape and size. If you’d like to see an assortment of prize winning blooms in this stunning group of flowers, check out the dahlia show that is part of the American Dahlia Society’s National Show in Chattanooga on Saturday, September 25, at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo hotel.

Get more details by linking to event information at the Dahlia Society of Alabama’s website:

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