Gardening This Weekend: September 29, 2016

We’ve taken our first lean into fall’s cooler weather finally this week. Following early-week rain showers, and with occasionally brisk breezes, it’s been a welcomed change.

But as the weather has started to change, so have our tasks. Here are the most significant things you’ll want to tackle in the next several days.


• Tulips and Dutch hyacinths. These bulbs don’t get enough cold winter conditions in Texas soils, so you must “pre-chill” them for a minimum of 45 days in the refrigerator at 45 degrees. Do not plant them until mid-December. Warm soils early in the winter can reverse the effects of your pre-chilling.
• Daffodils and grape hyacinth bulbs. They do not require pre-chilling. Choose daffodil varieties that have the best odds of coming back and blooming again year after year. Smaller and earlier-flowering types are your best choices. Carlton and Ice Follies are two exceptional types. Avoid the disappointment of King Alfred, Unsurpassable, Mount Hood and other big, late-flowering hybrids.
• Pansies, pinks, ornamental cabbage and kale and snapdragons. It’s almost time to replace tired summer color with these cold-hardy beauties. Get specific suggestions for your area by talking to a Texas Certified Nursery Professional. Prepare planting soils very carefully. I’ll have a story on these plants here in the next week or two.
• Dig and divide spring-flowering perennials such as iris, daylilies, oxalis, pinks, thrift and Louisiana phlox, Shasta daises, coneflowers and others.
• Trees and shrubs as nurseries put special fall sales on now. This is singly the best time of the entire calendar year to plant new nursery stock. It gets 7 or 8 months of lead time to develop good roots before next summer’s heat rolls back into town.
• Ryegrass for overseeding permanent turf, also as a temporary way of covering bare ground until you plant permanent grass in April. “Perennial” rye is the better choice for urban lots. It looks better, and it’s a lot easier to keep. The seed does cost a bit more, but it’s money well spent. Do not bother overseeding if you applied pre-emergent weedkillers a month ago.
• Last call for sowing spring wildflower seeds, including bluebonnets. They must germinate and grow in fall’s warm spells to be established by spring. Plant where grass will not compete.

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• Dead and damaged branches from shade trees while you can easily distinguish them from healthy ones. Once they’re all bare, you can’t tell them apart.
• Dead and drying stubble from perennial gardens to keep things tidy.
• Remove erratic shoots from shrubs, but save major reshaping for late winter.


• Last call for final feeding of turf for 2016. High-nitrogen fertilizer for sandy soils. All-nitrogen fertilizer for clays. In all cases, half or more of nitrogen should be in slow-release form.
• Same fertilizer you apply to lawn will also benefit your trees, shrubs and groundcover beds as they store nutrients for best early spring growth.

On the Lookout

• Conditions right now are perfect for brown patch development in St. Augustine turf. See related story this issue.
• Fall webworms (see this issue) and armyworms (see last issue) are showing up all over Texas. Neither presents major threats to the plants it’s attacking, but controls may be justified.
• If you’re seeing damage to tree and shrub leaves, and if the plants are deciduous, there is little reason to spray for any pests that may still be feeding actively. Those leaves will be falling within four to six weeks anyway. (There could be occasional exceptions.)

Posted by Neil Sperry
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