Gardening in El Lago

Trowels & Tribulations in a Suburban Garden - November Issue

By: Donna J. Ward, Certified Texas Master Gardener (Note: This is a reprint of Donna's article that appears in the La Ventana del Lago.)

READY - SET - GO..... You've been chomping at the bit to plant pansies since your September calendar announced the Autumnal Equinox, but it still felt like summer through much of October and those smiley faces don't like sizzling summer temps any more than you do. Now is the time to head on down to your favorite nursery. Have you heard of one of the newer varieties of pansies - the 'Matrix'? It comes in 22 vibrant colors and branches fully to support its multitude of blossoms. They love our cool winter months - grow 6 - 8 inches tall, and with their 3-1/2 inch blooms they are certainly eye-catching. Give them a sunny, well drained spot and space them 6 - 8 inches apart. Don't fertilize them with blood or bone meal which is often recommended, as our night-roaming critters will destroy the bed, instead sprinkle time-released fertilizer into the planting hole.

Hopefully you didn't forget to clean up all of those dead annuals and other garden debris - probably like most of us you ran out of time. But it's not too late to eliminate hiding places for the creepy crawlies to spend the winter. Dump all of those dead plants, twigs, leaves, etc. onto the compost pile. If you keep turning the pile, by spring you'll have a great soil amendment to add to the veggie garden or flower bed.

I know you like things to look neat, but restrain yourself and don't remove the faded rose blossoms. Leave them on to help the rose bushes snuggle in for their winter nap.

Fall is an ideal time to feed the St. Augustine, but you know how I feel about bags and bags of various fertilizers in the garage. A light feeding of a 15-5-10 works for me - notice I said "light" - too much promotes top growth; we just want it to stay healthy though a few months of winter.

Our nurseries have a large selection of trees that are just waiting to become a part of your landscape. The attached tags should give you eventual size, location and photo of a mature specimen. A tree planted on the west side of your house will lower your A/C bill by providing shade during the hot summer, and in the winter when the leaves have fallen the sun can warm your home. Planting now will give them time to develop roots and become well established before the onset of our inevitable hot summer. If there's not enough room for a tree, consider a trellis planted with an annual vine. Morning glories or moon flowers grow easily from seed in spring and will rapidly cover a trellis with heart shaped leaves and a mass of blossoms. They die down in winter and allow the sun's rays to pass through the lattice. It's also the optimum time to prune oaks and other shade trees from now until the end of January. Hire a professional - owning a chain saw and a pick-up doesn't qualify, and those types are numerous.

For those of us who have a bit of Farmer Brown in our DNA, November provides the best conditions for planting some cool weather crops. Transplants of broccoli, cabbage and beets are available now along with seeds of spinach, radish, mustard and a variety of peas, both English and snap. You just might make the green giant even greener with envy.

That's enough to do at least for the time being.

Did you know that Trowels & Tribulations is published on the city site ( on the first of the month? Under Our Community you will find Trowels & Tribulations listed below Gardening in El Lago.

Morning Glory