Gardening in El Lago

Trowels & Tribulations in a Suburban Garden - March 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.)

Do kids still fly kites? When my boys were little March meant taking their kites to the local park's huge open area and letting the wind carry the colorful kites upward as high as the yards and yards of string would allow. I think March now means - How can I get more Facebook friends this month than I did in February? But for we older folks, especially those interested in one of America's best-loved hobbies is what's on our 'to-do' list now that spring is knocking on our door? Well, I'm glad you asked, but first some interesting statistics. Millennials (ages 18-34), are the fastest growing population segment of food gardeners. Who would have guessed? Among all age groups, food gardening and flower gardening were the most popular gardening activities last year. In the gardening population about one out of three households planted vegetables (36 percent) and a few less planted flowers (34 percent). Veggies beat out flowers!!! Americans spent an estimated $3.6 billion growing vegetables, fruit, berries and herbs and $2.7 billion on flower gardening.

But before we start planting there's a lot of cleaning up we need to do. Most of our yards look like a plant cemetery - the cold winter certainly left its mark on our landscape. If it's brown, cut it off is my advice, but don't be too anxious to yank everything out of the ground. I suspect it didn't stay cold long enough to destroy most root systems. If it's not showing green by next month, start shopping for its replacement.

Looking for a little color to plant now? Coleus, lantana, plumbago, verbena, salvia, hibiscus, bluebells, marigold, penta, impatiens just to name a few.

Trees should be fed this month along with your shrubs and roses. The flowering shrubs should be fed after they have bloomed. You know me, I'm not for filling the garage with bags and bags of different fertilizer formulations. Unless you're talking about some finicky plants such as azaleas, roses, camellias and hibiscus, a good old 15-5-10 is my formulation of choice.

If you haven't already, consider joining that 36 percent of gardeners who planted vegetables last year. Believe me there are plenty to go into the ground in March. Set in transplants of broccoli, cabbage, peppers and eggplant. Some of us already had corn planted and a tomato plant or two. You might have had to cover those tomatoes when we had a cold night, but they now have a head start and will produce as long as the night time temps don't get too warm. I don't know why, but those little grape and cherry types produce longer than the 'slicers.' Time to put in cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, mustard greens, radish, summer squash, kohlrabi, collards, wax and snap bush beans, lima pole and snap pole beans, and southern peas. If you still have some room, put in pumpkins and watermelon. Being a Yankee I'd never heard of a southern peas, but found out soon enough that black-eyed peas, purple hull, crowder and cream peas fall into that category. All of these can be eaten either fresh or dry. Harvest them before the pods begin to turn yellow and the seed is still tender, or allow them to mature and use them as dry shelled beans.

When you have finished your gardening chores, cleaned and put away the tools, load up the kids or grandkids and take them and their kites and head for McNair Park. We have a great open space that is ideal for kite flying.