The Ugly Pumpkin
You can carve pumpkins with all kinds of personalities and faces. Take a cue from this fellow showing his teeth at one of the world’s largest pumpkin exhibitions in Ludwigs-burg, Germany. For folks whose talents don’t lie in drawing, there are dozens of patterns available online. Just do a search for ‘jack-o-lantern patterns’ and you’ll find many, some for sale and some free
Broccoli, collards, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts tolerate a surprising amount of cold. If you planted these for fall, don’t worry when a frost is predicted. The plants will tolerate temperatures in the 20s. Just be sure they are well watered in the time leading up to the cold. Because fall is often dry, be sure to give them one to one-and-a-half inches of water weekly, preferably using a soaker hose or drip system so there is no waste. These plants develop fast; fertilize with a liquid plant food every two to three weeks unless you worked in a timed-release granular at planting. As the weather gets cooler, the sugars will build up in the leaves to make your fall crop the tastiest of all. Enjoy their frost-kissed flavor
Parsley Does Double Duty
The cold-hardy leaves of parsley are great for your vegetable or herb garden, but do you use them in flower beds? The dark green foliage can’t be beat as a partner to winter flowers like violas and pansies. Even when they wilt during a hard freeze, the leaves usually bounce back as they thaw. Get a flat of them now and sprinkle them in your beds for a rich winter green or use them with flowers in containers
A longtime gardener taught me to sow seeds of early spring flowers like bachelor’s buttons and poppies by mixing the seeds into little mud balls of clay soil and tossing them wherever you want to the plants to grow. During the winter, rain will break up the mud ball and the seeds will be in place when the conditions are perfect, which take a lot of pressure off the gardener. To make a mud ball, take a small, palm full of seed and a small handful of red clay. Knead the two until the seeds are mixed into the clay and roll it in your hands to make a ball. Leave them to dry for a couple of days, then they are ready to toss. My friend used to keep extras in the freezer, too
Collect Seeds of Pass-Alongs
Now is a good time to collect seeds of pass-along annual summer flowers like zinnia, morning glory, bidens and old-fashioned cockscomb. You can store the entire seed head or separate the seeds from the seed head. Either way, make sure they are dry before storage. Put the dry seeds in a container that breathes like a box or paper bag and keep them in a cold, dry place. Flower seeds from the plant of a loved one passed along to friends can make great Christmas gifts, too. Decorate envelopes to make seed packets with a picture, drawing or message to the recipient
Go Woody Plant Shopping
Autumn is an excellent time to get serious about adding trees and shrubs to your landscape. You can look around to make choices based on what you see of their fall color, fruiting or even flowers. Most of us tend to buy in the spring and pick up items that are pretty then, so when autumn rolls around the landscape often shows it. Add some items to your yard that are pretty in the fall. These include trees and shrubs with berries (beautyberry, pyracantha, hollies), flowers (sasanqua camellias) and leaf color (spirea, oakleaf hydrangea, Chinese pistache). Listed are a few examples, but there are dozens more. Begin planting late this month as the weather cools. Keep them watered because it’s easy to forget in the nice weather; the roots need moisture to take hold in their new location.
Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Garderner’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.