By David Nagel and Lelia Kelly
Extension Horticulture Specialists
Begin collecting material now for those handsome fall and winter decorations.
This could include milkweed seed pods, cornstalks, hydrangea blooms, grass seed heads, nuts, cones, coneflower seed heads, globe amaranth, goldenrod, ironweed, iris seed pods, even old wasp nests and interesting branches, lichens or fungi.
The list could go on and on. Take the kids or the grandkids for a “fall foraging foray” into the woods and fields to gather interesting materials. Be sure to squirt the “little squirts” and yourself with insect repellant or you may bring home some invited guests!
Use what you collect as a free style bouquet, arranging your collection of cones, pods, acorns or whatever around the base of the bouquet container to spruce up a table, sideboard or other countertop. Attach items to a grapevine or straw wreath using a hot glue gun or florist wire. You could just pile your collection of nuts, cones and fungi in a crystal or other decorative bowl and use that as a centerpiece. Add a little moss from the woods and presto you have a nice addition to your fall home décor.
Don’t forget to check out the local farmers market for the dried corn stalks, hay bales, potted mums, gourds, pumpkins, winter squash, Indian corn, broom corn and other great fall items to use for decorating. You can even eat the pumpkins and squash when you get tired of your fall display!
Kale is the new salad darling of foodies. We now have kale cultivars that are meant to be eaten raw, when the leaves are less than 6 inches long. Kale is replacing spinach as the nutrient-dense salad green of choice.
You can grow the new varieties of dinosaur kale like Black Magic or the older Black Elephant Kale, Black Tuscan kale or Lacinato as your source of salad greens or just grab any of the curly vegetable kales like Vates or Winterbor and harvest then small. Some folks have also been eating mustard leaves in their salad for years.
Caterpillars are searching for green, tender vegetation to eat. Pick them off by hand or spray an insecticide to keep them from eating your newly emerged fall vegetables.
The lack of rainfall these last few weeks has slowed bee activity. Place a pan of water in the shady part of your vegetable garden for bees to forage and squash, cucumber and other cucurbit fruit set will probably improve.
Don’t forget the Fall Garden Day at the Verona Research station on Sept. 28 and the Fall Garden Fest at Crystal Springs Oct. 18 and 19. Gardeners wishing to get into selling fruits and vegetables need to mark their calendars for the Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association convention. The educational meeting and trade show will be held Nov. 14 and 15 at the Silver Star Resort in Choctaw. More information about the tours and other activities associated with the convention can be found at http://www.msfruitandveg.com/
Fall armyworms can march across your lawn and devour all of the leaf tissue in a short period of time. Investigate newly brown areas to see if you can find these yellow-striped caterpillars at the edge of the area. Some gardeners think that the armyworm damage is not worth preventing since the grass is going dormant anyway, but the loss of a week’s growth at this time of year may weaken the root system and make the grass more prone to cold temperature injury this winter.