I remember what I enjoy most about Southern living — cool fall evenings, morning coffee on the deck and clear blue skies all day!

Our ornamental grasses are thriving. We planted dwarf miscanthus (maiden grass) to help disguise the electrical box near the street. The muhly grass died last winter and hasn’t been replaced yet. Consider adding ornamental grasses to your landscape. They can’t be beat for color and impact. Another big plus is they are virtually care-free. Shop around — you will be amazed at the array of sizes, textures and colors available locally.

This is a good time to replenish the mulch around your plants and trees. Even a thin layer adds color and vitality to your flower beds. Remember, 3 to 4 inches is best — you don’t want to smother the roots. For trees, go for a donut effect. Leave a hole around the trunk for air and light to get in.

Those pesky leaves that are beginning to fall make nice, free mulch — if you run the lawn mower over them first. Pine straw is another great mulch, if you’re fortunate to have any pine trees left on your property.  

Don’t worry about fertilizing your perennials now. Allow them to go dormant so they can better tolerate the cold. Mulch also helps to protect your precious plants from freeze damage. Yes, cold weather will come to Jones County … someday.

I had a nice chat recently with the owner of Laurel Nursery. He suggested waiting until cooler weather gets here in mid- to late-October to purchase winter annuals such as pansies, snapdragons, cabbage and kale. Cooler temps keep the plants from growing “stretchy” or leggy. Last year, I bought mine too early and they stayed all floppy and never bloomed pretty. This time I’ll wait.

While we’re killing time planning for a cooler future, consider adding a few old-time shrubs to your landscape. I’m thinking of nandina in particular. These hardy plants have been around so long that they get no respect from “modern” gardeners. As Felder Rushing says, “These are so easy to grow, dead people can do it,” because they grow with no care in old cemeteries. Check out the new, dwarf varieties. We planted some in front of the house and there are always pretty leaves to snip off to brighten up the house.

Chives and parsley overwinter outdoors in our area.  To extend the season of bay, mint, oregano, sage and thyme, try potting them up and bring indoors during hard freezes. I keep mint, bay and basil in pots on the deck. They’re too large to bring inside, but it’s easy to cover them if a freeze is predicted. Herbs make fragrant wreaths. Try combining with ornamental grasses or boxwood.  

Pruning is my favorite garden chore. I started cutting on the eleagnus (autumn olive) hedge this week because it has gotten huge! As I cleaned up the mess I had made, I started wrapping the cuttings around themselves in a circle and created a big, pretty wreath!  

IMPORTANT REMINDER: Always wear gloves when working in the soil! A longtime gardener friend of mine told me recently about her experience when gardening without gloves. Gloves sometimes get in the way when working in tight spaces. Soooo, she removed her gloves, just for a minute.

Next morning, her hand was swollen to twice its usual size. She saw her family doctor, who sent her to a bone and joint clinic. The doctor she saw there sent her directly to a hand specialist. 

You can guess the rest of the story. After surgery on her hand, she still needs a procedure to release the tendons, so she can have full use of the hand. She picked up a bacterial infection from the soil, which just happened to be located under a bird feeder!. 

Have a wonderful week in the great outdoors!

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