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Southern Gardening - Potpourri for November

November has sneaked up on many of us and it proves to be a busy month. First of all there is Veteran's Day on the 11th and Thanksgiving on the 23rd. As far as getting into the fall mood, I will leave the artificial pumpkins, fake fall leaves and other fall looking decorations in place while adding some pilgrim figures etc. for Thanksgiving. Another great plant you can use in fall decorations is pyracantha berries which should be plentiful in November. Sumac with its crimson long flower heads are now seen everywhere, even on the side of the road. In fact a flower arrangement of the sumac, goldenrod, and purple ironweed makes a stunning bouquet. Also to add more color, we could add pots of Chrysanthe - mums and Crotons. Then do not forget placing your American flags and bunting out for Veterans Day, which Canada calls "Remembrance Day".

November is also a great time to re-pot household and outdoor plants. Some - times we forget that the soil in these pots just loses its macho plus the plants become root bound. Even though we fertilize and water, it is not enough when what we need to do is just take out the soil, cut back matted roots, and then re-pot. Re-potting can be time intensive so this task just needs to be scheduled. Make sure you have everything needed when you set out to accomplish this work. I make sure I have sterile soil, plenty of fertilizer, garden clippers, rubber gloves, and extra pots if I divide the plants. If you have a large pot garden with huge two feet in diameter pots or bigger, no need to empty the whole pot out unless the drainage is bad and the soil smells sour. Take out the top foot of dirt, break up the bottom dirt, and then add more good soil. Next water in, add fertilizer and replant. If you are working with smaller pots, I would empty out all of the soil and start over. Make sure that you place some gravel at the bottom for good drainage. Some of the easier plants to re-pot are asparagus fern, foxtail fern, Chinese Evergreen, and any perennial. Remember, if you wind up with more plants than you want, heel them in with some good soil and share with neighbors and friends.

In our location, we usually do not have a hard freeze until after late December or a little later. This means that begonias, geraniums, petunias, dusty miller, and pentas will be fine. Just prune where necessary, fertilize with liquid Miracle Gro and keep watering when needed. Some people have decided that once we have temperatures in the 70's and 80's in the fall, no need to water. Wrong. I severely cut back the begonias, pentas and geraniums when I know a hard freeze is in the forecast and bring them in. Dusty Miller will not mind the freeze. As an experiment last year, I had a pot of petunias which I mulched heavily, cut them back, and they came back in the spring. We think of petunias as annuals, but these petunias lived on to see another season.

PLANT OF THE MONTH---CROTON (Codiaeum variegatum)

There are some people who have a prejudice against this plant. I myself in the past could take it or leave it. But for fall foliage, this one needs a standing ovation. There does not seem to be a shortage of Crotons in Montgomery and the surrounding area. Although they are more costly now, the cost has not increased that much when you figure in the long life of this plant. Crotons hail from Africa and thrive in the hottest, driest and sunniest part of your yard. It may need an occasional pruning to thicken up the leaves. The glossy leaves with a color combination of green, yellow, burnt orange, and red labels Croton a showy plant. It mixes well with pots of colorful Chrysanthemums. And the more sun it is exposed to, the brighter the colors. This plant is perfect for our river region area as it loves high humidity. Although it has few pests, mealy bugs can be a problem, so just mist with a weak alcohol and water solution a few days apart.



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