* October is the best month to plant fall annual beds. It is cooler for the transplants and gives their roots time to become established before winter cold hits. Try mixing dwarf snapdragons with pansies for color and parsley, rosemary, kale, mustard and Swiss chard for background color. Make sure your beds have good drainage. Plant poppy, cornflower and larkspur seed now for early spring annuals.
* If climbing roses are in an exposed location, tie them up firmly with broad strips of rags or padded foam tape so the wind will not whip them against the trellis and bruise the bark.
* Don’t prune roses this late as new growth would become subject to winter injury. The rose garden should be raked and cleaned, removing all fallen leaves and mulch to prevent black spot and other diseases next year. Replace mulch after the ground has frozen. Continue spraying for fungus.
* Clean up around perennial flowers, such as peonies. If left on the ground, leaves and stems can harbor diseases and provide convenient places for pests to spend the winter.
* Cut down stems and foliage of herbaceous perennials when the leaves begin to brown. Leave 3 inches of stem to identify the plant’s location.
* As you clean out the flower beds, mark the spots where late emerging perennials will come up next spring to avoid damaging them while working the beds.
* October and November are generally considered the best months to plant trees and shrubs. Garden centers and nurseries usually stock a good selection of woody plants now. Select some accent plants for your landscape that will provide autumn colors. Trees that turn red include Aronia, dogwood, red maple, red or scarlet oak and sourwood. Shrubs with spectacular fall foliage include viburnum, fothergilla, hydrangea, blueberries, Itea and Amsonia.
* Plant trees at least 6 feet away from sidewalks and concrete pools so growing roots do not crack the concrete.
* Small imperfections, such as nicks and loose skin, should not affect the quality of most bulbs. Store bulbs in a cool area (below 65 degrees Farenheit) if unable to store, plant immediately.
* To minimize the look of open spaces between new shrubs, plant a low-growing evergreen ground cover.
* Cut back perennial herbs to encourage well-branched growth next year.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
* Tomatoes need an average daily temperature of 65 degrees Farenheit or more for ripening. If daytime temperatures consistently are below this, pick fruits that have begun to change color and bring them inside to ripen. Use recipes that require green tomatoes or place a ripe apple in a closed container with green tomatoes to encourage the tomatoes to turn red. Ripe apples give off ethylene gas which causes tomatoes to ripen.
* Cure pumpkins, butternut, and Hubbard squash at temperatures between 70 to 80 degrees Farenheit for two to three weeks immediately after harvest. After curing, store them in a dry place at 55 to 60 degrees Farenheit. If stored at 50 degrees Farenheit or below, pumpkins and squash are subject to damage by chilling. At temperatures above 60 degrees Farenheit, they gradually lose moisture and become stringy.
* A final weeding of your strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries will help keep weed problems down to a minimum. Strawberries covered in the fall with a spun-bonded polyester material and uncovered in the spring just before bloom produced up to 60 percent more fruit than plants given the conventional straw or hay mulch cover.
* Make a note of any particularly unsatisfactory or productive varieties or crops. Such information can be very useful during garden-planning time in the spring.
* Clean up home orchard and small-fruit plantings. Sanitation is essential for good maintenance. Dried fruits or mummies carry disease organisms through the winter to attack next year’s crop.
* If there is a threat of frost at night, harvest your cucumber, eggplant, melon, okra, pepper and summer squash so the fruits are not damaged by the frost.
* Hot peppers store well dry. Pull plants and hang them up, or pick the peppers and thread on a string; store in a cool, dry place.
* Do not apply quick-acting fertilizers while tilling the soil in the fall; nitrogen will leach away before spring. Materials that release nutrients slowly into the soil, such as rock phosphate or lime, can be worked into the soil in the fall.
* When removing disease-infected plant parts/debris, do not place refuse on the compost pile. The disease pathogens will live in the compost pile and can be transmitted with the application of compost to other garden beds, unless compost temperatures reach above 180 degrees Farenheit and decomposition is complete.
* Kudzu, poison ivy and other weedy vines are more susceptible to chemical control this time of year. Be sure to follow the directions, and protect other plants from drift of the spray.
Information about Extension Solutions for Homes and Gardens can be found on the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/cherokee or by contacting the Cherokee County Extension Office at 100 North St., Suite G21 in Canton at (770) 479-0418. The Georgia Extension Master Gardener Program is a volunteer training program offered through county offices of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.