Gardening This Weekend October 26, 2023
I write this column each week with three days in mind – Friday through Sunday of the upcoming weekend. It’s my own personal checklist of things we need to do respective to time of year and type of weather on the near-term horizon. Here’s what I have this time around.
• Ryegrass seed for bare ground and as overseeding where you want green turf this winter. Remember that if you applied pre-emergent granules back in September, they will prevent good germination of the rye seed. That is their job, so there’s no point in sowing seed this year.
• Nursery trees and shrubs as final fall markdowns are offered. Nurseries will soon need the room for Christmas trees, plus they would rather pass savings on to you now than to try to nurture container-grown plants through the winter. Unless they sell to landscape contractors over the winter, most nurseries don’t have interest in holding plants over.
• Pansies, pinks, ornamental cabbage and kale, snapdragons and other winter-resistant annuals. South Texas gardeners can add sweet alyssum, Iceland poppies, hardy cyclamen, stocks and several other cool-season types to the list. Talk to your local Texas Certified Nursery Professional for advice.
• Daffodils, grape hyacinths at any time to provide early spring color. By comparison, tulips and Dutch hyacinths require 45 days (or more) of “pre-chilling” at 45 degrees in the fridge to give them enough artificial winter to bloom properly. Plant them no earlier than mid-December. (Do the math on those dates. You need to get the bulbs into the chiller in the next week or two.)
• Reshape houseplants as you bring them indoors for the winter. Be mindful of latex sap that may drip from some species such as rubber plants. Put newspapers beneath them to catch the drippage.
• Once frost hits your perennials and annuals, remove dead foliage. Otherwise, remove old seed stalks and dried leaves.
• Mow lawn at same height you’ve been mowing all year. Bag fallen tree leaves in the process and use the shredded leaves as mulch or in the compost pile.
• New annual color plantings with water-soluble, high-nitrogen plant food to keep them growing vigorously during warm spells of fall.
• Ryegrass and fescue with all-nitrogen lawn fertilizer to take advantage of good fall growing conditions.
• Decrease the amount and frequency of fertilizer you apply to houseplants over the winter. Conditions are too dark and too cool for normal growth.
ON THE LOOKOUT
• Cool-season broadleafed weeds such as clover and dandelions can be eliminated during warm, dry spells over the next 3-4 weeks by spraying with a broadleafed herbicide containing 2,4-D. Read and follow label directions implicitly regarding temperature and rainfall.
• Brown patch (now being called “large patch” by plant pathologists) is becoming common across Texas as cooler weather and rains return. It erupts as circular 18- to 24-inch patches in St. Augustine (also fescue and zoysia). The grass blades pull loose easily from the runners. Roots and runners are unaffected, so the grass overall will bounce back, but the grass is weakened enough that extreme cold in winter can kill affected areas. Control it with Azoxystrobin fungicide. Note: Brown patch will have shown up in the past few weeks. It must not be confused with old chinch bug or gray leaf spot damage left over from summer.
• Be wary of all caterpillars on shrubs and trees or that might have fallen to the ground at this time of year. Texas is home to several types of stinging caterpillars, most notably (but not exclusively) puss caterpillars, also commonly known as asps. Watch for caterpillars as you’re working with fallen leaves and as you prune your perennials’ fall stubble. If you see any, just leave them alone, harmful or otherwise.
• Watch, too, for snakes that have taken up comfortable residence in stacks of firewood, leftover brick and stone, and piles of leaves. Venomous types such as copperheads are especially common this time of year.