Gardening This Weekend: September 28, 2017
Hopefully you’ll have a little time this weekend to tend to your plants. Here are some of your prime tasks, at least as I’d judge them.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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. These 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.
• Dig and divide spring-flowering perennials such as iris, daylilies, oxalis, pinks, thrift and Louisiana phlox, Shasta daises, coneflowers and others.
• Remove erratic shoots from shrubs, but save major reshaping for late winter.
• Dead and drying stubble from perennial gardens to keep things tidy.
• 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.
• This is almost the last call for final feeding of turf for 2017, especially if you’re in the northern half of the state. 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
• 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.)
• Watch patio pots, hanging baskets for insects, diseases. Deal with them outdoors, so you won’t be bringing them inside over the winter.
• Conditions right now are perfect for brown patch development in St. Augustine turf. It’s still been too warm for it to develop so far this week, but as temperatures drop and especially as fall rains show up, grass will start to turn yellow in round 18-inch patches. Blades will pull loose easily from the runners. I’ll have more details next week, but if you see it, apply a labeled turf fungicide.