November 2016
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?


Prune vines such as trumpet creeper in fall or winter when they are easier to manage.

Pruning Vines

Pruning vines is often easier in fall and winter when the vines are dormant and the tangle is thinner or even leafless. Cut out rambling or tangled growth and shoots that have reached places where they are not welcome. It is okay to selectively prune overgrown wisteria, yellow jessamine, Lady Banks rose or other spring-blooming vines, but remember you’ll also be cutting off their blooms. Also, keep in mind that Chinese and Japanese wisterias are invasive plants. Consider replacing them with Amethyst Falls (Wisteria frutescens Amethyst Falls), an American native wisteria that blooms a little later and isn’t as aggressive as the common Chinese and Japanese species.


Did Your Fall Lettuce Bolt?

Early fall can be tricky for lettuce because hot weather will cause the plants to bolt, or go into their flowering stage, growing tall and producing somewhat bitter leaves. If this happened to your lettuce, you can try planting again and covering the plants with a cold frame or row cover to keep them growing as the weather gets cooler. Starting with plants would be faster, but it’s not too late to start seed under cover. You may also cut the existing tall plants off a couple of nodes above the ground and see if they sprout a few decent-quality leaves in the cooler weather.

Small Alpine strawberries make up for their size with flavor.


Little Berries, Big Flavor

The lesser-known Alpine strawberry is prized by gardeners and chefs for its intense, perfumed flavor. Although very small, the berries make up for their size with a unique taste that might be described as a cross between strawberry and pineapple. Unlike typical larger strawberry plants, these prefer some afternoon shade or only dappled sunlight. They do not produce runners; therefore, they are easier to cultivate at the edge of a garden bed or in containers. Just be sure to keep them moist and out of hot, afternoon sun. Plants will bear continuously though the early summer and then sometimes again in the fall, taking a break in the heat of summer. The best and biggest crop is the spring crop with fruit getting a little smaller and sparser as the weather heats up. You may have heard of "pine berry"; that is a white form of the Alpine strawberry.


Fall Leaves = Better Garden

One of the simplest and 100-percent free ways to improve the soil in flower beds and the vegetable garden is to simply mulch the garden with chopped leaves. The fine pieces of leaves that break down quickly will add organic matter to the soil and encourage earthworms, ground beetles and other beneficial critters that break the leaves down into rich organic matter. Running over the leaves with a mower combines clean up and chopping into one easy step.


Japanese Maples for Fall Color

Fall is a good time to shop for Japanese maples so you can see their autumn leaf color firsthand. Moonfire and Bloodgood emerge red in the spring, gradually fade to green through summer (especially in the shade) and turn brilliant red again in the fall. The cut-leaf types generally need more shade and are more susceptible to drought because their leaves are so fine. Japanese maples are well-suited for urban landscapes as their mature sizes range from over 30 feet tall to weeping dwarfs of 2-3 feet tall. Because there are multiple forms and colors to choose from, look around for varieties that grow in the Deep South and have shown to be heat tolerant. Many Japanese maples are grafted and slow-growing, so they may seem pricey. The faster-growing selections are closer in price to other trees.


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