Gardening in El Lago

Trowels & Tribulations in a Suburban Garden - September 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.

Thank goodness summer is in the rear view mirror, or soon to be. And what a summer it has been. Makes one wonder why folks live here on purpose. Probably like me, you had difficulty keeping the landscape watered. Every once in a while, Mother Nature gifted us with a sprinkle or two, but not enough to keep the landscape flourishing without our help.

September is the time to get serious about planting perennials, especially natives, and hardy shrubs. They need some time to create a strong root system before they are forced to perform when the sizzling Texas Gulf Coast summer arrives – and you know it will.

I know you’re salivating over the pansies in the nursery. These smiley faces have been forced to bloom in order to catch your attention. But they will sulk as soon as you get them home and in your flower bed. It’s still too warm for them to be comfortable. Hold off for a month or two, you’ll be glad you did.

All summer you’ve been deadheading the roses in order to convince them to increase their number of blooms, but it’s time to put down the pruners. Leave the faded blossoms to produce seed pods, a/k/a rose hips. It’s the signal to go to sleep for the winter months, and be ready to perform again in spring.

When it comes to fertilizing the St. Augustine, we have been exclusively using an organic fertilizer for the past two years, and what a difference it has made. Its 6-2-4 formulation has given us a thicker, greener, healthier and more attractive lawn. A feeding in April when it’s starting to grow (or after the second mowing) is the ideal time for fertilizing. We’re getting ready to apply a second light application later this month. Not enough to encourage lush top growth, but just a little ‘snuggle-in’ winter snack. I need to have a talk with a neighbor who hires a lawn service to care for their lawn on a regular basis. This service is putting down chemical fertilizers and herbicides that with rain or physical watering, ultimately reaches Galveston Bay. Our lawn looks just as good at much less expense, and isn’t polluting the Bay. Oh, did I mention this organic fertilizer doesn’t burn if you accidently put down too much? (P.S. This fertilizer is sold by a local Boy Scout Troop whose scouts knock on your door early in the year. This fertilizer is also sold by nurseries and hardware stores in their gardening department, but supporting our local scouts is a good thing in my opinion - and they deliver!)

Although St. Augustine is the most shade-tolerant grass for our area, you may have a lot of shade beneath your landscape trees and the St. Augustine is showing bare spots. You might want to plant some ground covers. Consider peacock gingers, wedelia, ajuga, ruellia or ardesia. One spring I gave a clump of ardesia to a relative. The next spring she complained to me that it had taken over her flower bed! I explained “That’s why it’s called a ground cover.”

Later this month you might want to plant daffodil bulbs. Please don’t plant them in rows like toy soldiers. Toss a handful onto the place where you want them to bloom, and plant each one where it landed. They particularly look eye-catching when blooming randomly beneath your landscape shrubbery. Our favorite nursery probably has plenty of spring blooming bulbs in stock. Pick up some tulip, muscari (grape hyacinth), crocus and hyacinth bulbs. Put them into a paper bag and refrigerate them for at least 4-6 weeks before planting. When you do plant them, don’t put down blood meal or bone meal as some suggest. This attracts night roaming critters that will dig up your bulbs.

For you veggie gardeners, the month of September is ideal for planting pumpkin, radish, spinach, turnip and kohlrabi. Toward the end of the month, plant seeds of beets, collards, lettuce, peas (both English and snap) cucumber, mustard, and transplants of cabbage and broccoli. As you can see, fall is an ideal time for veggie planting. You’re probably asking yourself why you put away the shovel.

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.

Katy Ruellia