Gardening in El Lago

Trowels & Tribulations in a Suburban Garden - October 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.

I don’t have a degree in meteorology, and I certainly can’t predict the weather, but I’m thinking that maybe Mother Nature is sending a message. I’ve noticed and perhaps you have also, that the acorns falling from our oaks are larger than usual. She could be predicting a hard winter, but I prefer to believe that we had such abundant rainfall this year, that our trees are healthy and at their peak. Cross your fingers that I’m right!

We are still realizing horticultural disasters resulting from the February Freezeamageddon. For years there have been several clumps of surprise lilies in the back garden and it’s always a delight to see dozens of blossoms surprise us without any advance notice. This year we had only one solitary blossom in late September!

Fall is one of the most enjoyable seasons in Texas, especially when it comes to gardening. This may be the year you want to make some major changes to your landscape. Maybe some plants have outgrown their spot, or some haven't performed as well as planned. First step is to get a good gardening book written for the Texas Gulf Coast. Generalized publications are useless for this area. Next step is to determine just what type of exposure your plants will have - sun, shade, partial sun or partial shade. Here's a guideline to help you make that determination. In summer, the sun is most intense between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. so:

Light shade is 2 or 3 hours without direct sunlight on the plant, or a slight pattern of shade during all of this time frame such as shows through open trees.

Partial shade is 4 to 5 hours without direct sunlight on the plant, or a dappled pattern of sun and shade within this time frame (such as under a tree whose leaves allow sunlight to filter through all day in a changing pattern).

Full shade is all day shade, with only indirect or reflected light – no direct sunlight.

Dense or deep shade is very little indirect or reflected light and absolutely no direct sunlight. When you get to the nursery you’ll notice that each plant (hopefully) is tagged. A good grower’s tag will tell you the plant’s eventual size, its best sun or shade exposure, and quite often include a photograph of an optimum specimen. Fall is an ideal time to put in more landscape trees and shrubs. They can spend the next few months establishing a strong root system before spring makes demands for blooms or top growth. After you have made your choices, all that is left to do is get out the shovel.

I know we don't want to talk about it, but fall clean up needs to be done before cold weather arrives. Creepy-crawlies are checking out the real estate for a place to spend the winter. Get rid of all vegetative debris that will give the critters a place to hide. Rake up the dead annuals; put them and those fallen leaves into the compost pile along with veggie kitchen scraps. Toss on a handful of garden soil, a light sprinkle of any granular fertilizer and keep it moderately damp. You are turning it at least weekly - right?

Remember that tulip and hyacinth bulbs need at least 6 weeks of refrigerator chill time before you plant them between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Toss them into a paper bag, but don't put them into the crisper drawer. Some fruits give off ethylene gas that will cause the bulbs to rot.

If you didn’t get around to the veggie garden there’s still time to put in transplants of cabbage, broccoli, seeds of beets, turnips, lettuce, mustard, peas, radish, spinach, and if you hurry – seeds of kohlrabi and pumpkin. You’re going to be busy for a while.

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.

Monday Miscellaneous