Gardening This Weekend: September 14, 2023

Our landscapes and gardens are just as happy to have cooler weather and moisture coming back into Texas. Here are the key things to do to help us all (plants and people) celebrate.

Sod for warm-season turf as soon as possible. It’s too late to be seeding bermuda, especially in the northern half of the state. Ditto for sodding St. Augustine in the northern reaches of its zone. You just don’t have enough time for it to “root in” before the first freeze.
Ryegrass as a green cover all winter, but not if you have already applied pre-emergent herbicide.
Fall-flowering perennials as they are sold in nurseries, including Mexican bush sage, Mexican mint marigold, mums and Gregg’s mistflower.
Plan now for planting spring-flowering bulbs in October. Really unusual types may have to be ordered by mail – but deal with top-notch local retailers whenever possible.
Wildflower seeds, including acid-scarified bluebonnets for best germination. Plant into dedicated wildflower spaces where you do not have turfgrass. Grasses and wildflowers do not compete well.

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Ragweed that grew very tall in last spring’s rains to lessen allergies and spread of seeds. If you happen to have milkweed on a rural Texas property, however, leave it in place for the Monarch butterflies. Remove other weeds before they go to seed.
Dead branches from trees and shrubs. Some may have died in the past two summers’ droughts. Others have been killed by the past winters’ extreme cold. If you have dead branches high up in pecans and other large shade trees, contract to have them removed before winter. They become very brittle and may break with winter winds, ice, snow or rain.

Now that weather is finally favorable for good turf growth, apply high-quality lawn fertilizer as prescribed by soil test. Use only if you have not fertilized within past six weeks. For most Texas soils that will mean an all-nitrogen food with 30 to 40 percent of that nitrogen in slow-release form. Water deeply after application.
Water-soluble, high-nitrogen fertilizer for hanging baskets, patio pots. Eventually you will want to withhold fertilizer from plants that will be coming indoors for the winter, but for now you can keep them looking their best for another 6-8 weeks by keeping them properly nourished.

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Dead and dying areas in St. Augustine are still rampant. In almost all cases, they are still showing signs of late summer infestations of chinch bugs. Check on hands and knees to see if they are still active before treating. As temperatures cool they will be shutting up shop for this year. Next year start watching in late June and keep ahead of them. They have killed large patches of the turf all across Texas, and thousands of gardeners never knew what hit them.
Grassburs (a.k.a. “stickers”) are the seeds of a grassy weed. Once the seeds germinate in the early spring we have no means of controlling them. Apply pre-emergents in early March and repeat in early June. I’ll have details here then. For now, just keep lawn mowed frequently to prevent the burs from maturing and falling to the ground to leave viable seeds behind for next year.
If you have a wisteria that has failed to bloom in years past, try root-pruning it now. Use a sharpshooter spade to cut its lateral roots 15 to 18 inches out from its trunk and 8 or 9 inches deep. That may shock it enough to convince it to bloom instead of producing more vegetative growth yet this fall and into the spring. Avoid nitrogen fertilizers around it as well.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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