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.

Finally, Mother Nature has sent summer on its way, but that doesn’t mean we can sit in front of the fireplace with cocoa and cookies. There’s plenty going on out in the garden that needs attending. The creepy crawlers are looking for a comfy spot to spend the winter, so removing leaves, twigs, dead annuals and other debris that will give them a place to hide should be on our list of things to do.

If by chance you lost a shade tree and that gorgeous azalea bed is now subject to sunburn, there couldn’t be a better time to move them or maybe plant some new ones. They should be on sale about now. Same goes for camellias. Just be sure to keep new plantings mulched and moist to prevent winter damage. And while you’re shopping at your favorite nursery keep in mind that it’s also an ideal time to plant a new tree or two in your landscape. Some folks may make fun of our lack of fall color, but there are a few trees that will provide some impressive fall hues. Drummond red maple, crape myrtle, golden raintree, Japanese maple and red oak are a few you might consider.

Before you go home you might want to check on some flowering bulbs. Anemone, ranunculus, calla and Easter lilies can go in the ground now. You have time to refrigerate tulips for planting on Christmas and New Year’s Day. Refrigerate them in a paper bag but keep them away from fruit as the ethylene gas emitted especially from apples will cause them to rot.

We’ve been admiring the smiley-face pansies in the nursery for some time, but resisted purchasing them as they don’t like warm weather – well now is the time! Pansies are heavy feeders and we want their display to be spectacular. A time-release fertilizer in the planting hole is your best bet for an eye-catching exhibit. Avoid feeding with blood meal as some suggest, as it attracts night-roaming critters. A backdrop of yellow snapdragons behind purple or blue pansies will make your neighbors green with envy. If you plant snapdragons you might want to pinch out the tops and force them to take on a more bushy form.

If you need to reset, trim back or plant new spring blooming perennials the sooner the better. Cut the stalks to the ground to encourage root growth.

Those tropical plants that have done so well outdoors this summer need to avoid winter’s temperatures should we by chance have an actual winter. Let’s just err on the side of caution and bring them indoors. If some of the leaves drop off suddenly, don’t panic, they are adjusting to their new environment. It would help to mist them occasionally as they are lacking the humidity they appreciated outdoors in your garden. Be careful with your watering, don’t overdo.

If like me, you enjoy cooking with herbs - dill, cilantro, fennel, mint, oregano, lemon balm, chives, parsley, rosemary and thyme are just a few waiting for you at the nursery.

How about a little motion in your garden? Ornamental grasses will give you some movement in the slightest breeze. They not only have little or no disease or insect problems, but once established need little or no fertilization and survive on minimum watering. Their wavy plumes and eye-catching colors make your landscape attractive and also provide food for wildlife. Two of my favorites are purple fountain grass and Mexican feather grass. They have good color and are of a manageable size. They add texture and movement to your garden all winter – prune them back in late winter or early spring.

Not much to do in the veggie garden this month, but if you enjoy radish, spinach, turnips, peas (English and snap), mustard, beets, cabbage and broccoli (transplants of the latter two), it’s your time to plant. November is guaranteed to keep us gardeners super busy.

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.

Mexican Feather Grass