Fall a good time to ‘get your green on’ in gardens, landscapes

Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, paschattenberg@ag.tamu.edu

David Rodriguez, 210-631-0400, dhrodriguez@ag.tamu.edu

Daphne Richards, 512-854-9600, drichards@ag.tamu.edu

SAN ANTONIO — Fall is a good time for landscaping, vegetable gardening, composting, fertilizing and other horticultural activities in South Central Texas, said two Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturists serving that area.

Chrysanthemums are among the ornamental plants recommended  for fall planting in order to have a more colorful  landscape. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

“Right now, warm-weather vegetables should be growing and flourishing in the vegetable garden, but their season is coming to an end,” said David Rodriguez, AgriLife Extension horticulturist, Bexar County. “This is the time to start planting root crops like carrots, beets and turnips, as well as leafy greens like lettuce and chard. It’s also a great time to plant cole crops like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale, either by direct seeding or transplant.”

Rodriguez said the cooler weather and recent moisture make excellent conditions for planting strawberries in this part of the state.

“One of the strawberry plants we are keen on is the Festival type, which is a candidate for selection as a Texas Superstar variety,” he said.

For more information on vegetable planting, go to Aggie Horticulture at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/vegetable/.

Rodriguez also said fall is an ideal time to plant turfgrass, ground cover, shrubs and trees.

“With the cooler weather and abundance of rain we’ve been getting lately, the conditions are excellent for planting trees and shrubs and for establishing turfgrass,” he said. “The lower temperature means less stress for them and for the people planting them. They will be able to establish better when there’s more moisture and this will give them a good start going into next spring.”

Rodriguez suggested consulting the Texas A&M Forest Service Texas Tree Planting Guide at  http://texastreeplanting.tamu.edu to help determine what trees might be best suited for a particular area.

Rodriguez and Daphne Richards, AgriLife Extension horticulturist, Travis County, said fall is also a good time to plant hardy perennials and seasonal annuals such as pansies, cyclamen, fall garden mums and petunias.

“For fall ornamentals, you really can’t beat chrysanthemums,” Richards said. “There are so many to choose from and many fit right in with the deep oranges and yellows we associate with all things autumn. Plant them in beds along walkways or use them to brighten up areas with perennials that are about to go dormant for the winter. They also do quite well in containers, as do ornamental kale and cabbage.”

Richards noted cool-season vegetables can also be used for colorful garden displays.

“Tuck them in among your other landscape plants,” she said. “Swiss chard, with its bright red petioles, adds vibrant color in what might otherwise be a drab winter spot. And the different cultivars of kale, especially dinosaur kale, can add a textural element to the yard, as well as being a handy source of nutrients for your breakfast smoothie.”

She said leaf lettuces can also be used for decoration as there are many to choose from and are easy to start indoors from seed.

“Don’t forget pumpkins or gourds if you want to add some fall decoration to your yard or garden,” Rodriguez added. “And planting or potting crotons and putting them in with your fall decorations can also add some extra color.”

The horticulturists also noted fall is a good time to think about composting and fertilizing.

“If you started a compost pile in the spring, you may have lost your motivation to turn it over the long hot summer,” Richards said. “And with leaves abundant in the fall, you have a handy source of brown materials to add. Green materials will also be close at hand from the grass clippings you’ll have from mowing the lawn all the way until the first frost.”

She said be sure to keep the pile moist if it doesn’t rain, and turn it at least once a month over the winter.

“That will speed up microbial action in the pile so you’ll have a nice batch of organic matter just in time for adding to beds next spring,” she said.

For fall fertilization of lawns, trees and shrubs, Rodriguez said a winterizer-type fertilizer is probably best.

“October is an excellent time to fertilize, and it’s usually best to use a 3-1-2 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, so that would be a fertilizer with an 18-6-12 nutrient analysis,” he said.

He also said fall would be a good time to add a 2-inch thick layer of organic hardwood mulch around the trees and shrubs, extending as far out as the circumference of the crown, to help insulate the plant and retain moisture.

Rodriguez recommended having a contingency plan in place for more tender container plants such as tropicals.

“You’ll want to make sure there’s space available and possibly put down some plastic sheeting so you can  bring those plants into the garage or house if there’s an early freeze,” he said.

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