September 2011
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?


This scene from North College Street in Auburn shows how invasive vines like wisteria can take over.

Persistent Perennial Weeds

Now is the time to attack poison ivy, wisteria, kudzu, privet, briers and other woody weeds with a vengeance. Often lots in new developments edged by disturbed ground and woods often harbor some potentially noxious weedy plants. Don’t let what starts as a small weed patch get out of control by ignoring it. It doesn’t take long. Woody weeds respond to herbicides like Roundup® well in early fall, while the plants are storing energy in the roots. It makes them easier to kill completely than spring-sprayed plants.

Beets and beet greens are perfect fall vegetables.


Root Crops

Fall is the best season for root crops like carrots, beets, turnips and rutabaga. Soak beet seeds overnight for best germination. They are tough and hard to sprout. Keep carrot seeds covered with a board to help them stay cool until they sprout; they don’t sprout in too-warm soil. Keep the seedbed moist by watering every day and reduce watering the seedlings sprout as needed. Make sure to thin root crops on time because crowded roots will not grow to full size.


Now is not a good time to prune evergreen hedges or shrubs because new growth appearing may not have time to harden off before frost arrives. The same goes for fertilizing that might encourage new growth.

Seed Saving

Save seeds of favorite annual flowers from old blooms by letting the flower heads mature. Zinnias, marigolds, tithonia, sunflower, moonvine, cypress vine and cosmos are easy to save. Cut the seedheads from the plant when dry and store in an airtight container until next spring.


Plant this fall to enjoy a winter full of salad greens from your raised bed garden.

Salad Garden

Now is a good time to set up a raised bed garden and cover for a winter full of salad greens. Get a wide sheet of row cover from your favorite Co-op or mail order source so it will be on hand for protection from cold when you need it. You can set out Swiss chard, parsley and arugula now, but wait until the weather gets cooler to plant lettuce. Early lettuce usually ends up bolting during Indian summer days in September. Also, sow seeds of endive, spinach and other salad greens. All of these plants will thrive in the cool weather of fall. When freezing weather threatens, protect them with the row cover and they will keep you in greens all winter long.

What’s Your Landscape Worth?

There is financial value in a well-designed landscape. Properly-placed deciduous trees reduce house temperatures in the summer, allowing air conditioning units to run more efficiently. According to the EPA, trees shading homes can reduce attic temperatures up to 40°. In winter, leafless trees let the sun warm the house.

Years ago Clemson University found "good" or "excellent" landscaping can improve home values from four to seven percent over homes with "average" landscaping (which may be interpreted as no design). The Society of Real Estate Appraisers adds that landscaping increases the speed of the sale, too. There is no doubt a good landscape design makes a house more appealing and livable.

Good landscape design uses hardscape, color and texture to create beautiful spaces.


To improve the landscape, the key is bringing in a professional designer, because it all starts there. A good designer is talented and trained to see potential in spaces and will work with you to create what you want: a low-maintenance entrance, outdoor room, party area, more curb appeal, etc. Consider hardscape items like arbors, walks, fences, patios and walls first. Then spend your money on the big items like trees, specimen plants and slopes that need stabilizing. A good design can be implemented in stages. It’s okay if your landscape areas are bare a year or two, neatly covered in mulch (if erosion is not a problem) until you get around to it or can hire it done. Once you have a good design on paper, you can implement it in stages over time to stay on budget.

It is common in our industry for landscapes to be overplanted—too many plants crowded together for instant effect without focusing on the design features. That is often because it provides the homeowner with a satisfying, instant effect. But plants grow and within three to five years you have an overgrown landscape. Work with a designer who knows the growth potential of plants and be patient if the initial installation looks a little sparse. It will save you money up front and headache in the long run. To find a good designer, ask for references and a design portfolio. Today many garden designers and landscape architects have websites where you can see samples of their work. If you see a beautiful landscape while out driving around, knock on the door to see if they will share the name of the designer. Most gardeners are happy to talk about their place. Don’t expect it to be cheap. Good designers are professionals. I’ve seen gardeners simply just get a plan on paper and implement it in stages as time and money allow. When finished, you have a comprehensive look.

About 10 years ago, a Money magazine survey reported money invested in excellent landscaping had a recovery value of 100 to 200 percent. Money well spent may come back to you. Even if it doesn’t, the value is a landscape you can enjoy.

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