The people's voice of reason

Potpourri for October

When I was young, growing up in South Alabama, when October came around, our thoughts turned to all the fun things that would be happening. The county fair was always a big attraction, not only for all of the rides, but for funnel cakes, cotton candy, caramel popcorn, boiled peanuts, and the prize bulls. Of course, just walking around and people watching brought smiles to our faces. Usually, around that time rodeo events would have entertained us. Those were simpler times, but very nostalgic.

Our gardens in the fall can be spectacular with bursts of bright colors such as the yellows and oranges of mums and marigolds, I do not waste my garden space planting mums in the spring, cutting them back in June so they will not bloom then, and waiting for their fall bloom. Just go out and purchase the finished product and plug them in at will. A swath of mums in the beds, or in pots may be all your garden needs to transition to winter. If you see small plants in 4” pots, do not purchase thinking they will “spread” or fill in. These would have to planted very close together for a good effect. I have used these smaller mums indoors with several per contained. Because they are planted and not cut flowers, they should last for at least a month. The great thing about fully grown mums is that they give your the instant garden effect. There is only one variety which I have found to die back earlier than others and that variety is called “yellow jacket”. Mums do give the garden the perfect fall flavor.

I believe we have experienced the hottest and driest summer that I can remember. Tomatoes languished, and were poor producers, even though they had plenty of water. I had to pull them out in August, which in normal times, I could just cut back severely, fertilize and have tomatoes all fall. These were all heirlooms, so I did save the seed and hope for more clement weather next year. I did notice when I was purchasing tomato plants this spring that the newer varieties boasted “heat tolerant”. I probably will try a few of these plants next year. And I may plant tomatoes in an area some shade.

I love using perennials whether we are starting new beds, or whether we add them to already established beds. These are long lived, sometimes living 5 years or longer. Now we cannot grow peonies in Montgomery, but they have been known to live up to 75 years. It does take perennials about 2 or more years to completely mature. When planting them in the beds, they need to be about 15 to 18 inches and in drifts. So we need to use fillers around the perennials in order to avoid one of the most dreaded looks for a flower bed—large swatches of bare ground. Annuals serve this purpose admirably, and there are no shortage of these plants. For the fall/winter beds, some good choices would be dianthus, pansies, snap dragons (the rocket variety or the dwarf variety), and alyssum to name a few. Next spring, try seeding your beds with cleome, zinnias, and larkspur amongst your perennials.


These bulbs are some of the best loved of all spring bulbs. These are many species, all in the Iris family and many species bloom fall, winter spring and summer. Their bulbs are small button like corms, which are easy to grow. With a height of about 4 to 6 inches, they make great ground covers. These are some of the earliest of bulb bloomers, and grow well in full sun to partial shade. In our area, the plants go dormant in the heat, and reappear in cooler temps. Their colors include bright yellow, blue, purple, white with hints of blue. All varieties do well in our Zone 8, so if you have not tried them, now is the time.



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