Gardening in El Lago

Trowels & Tribulations in a Suburban Garden - October Issue

By: Donna J. Ward, Certified Texas Master Gardener (Note: This is a reprint of Donna's article that appears in the La Ventana del Lago.

As you headed down the driveway this morning to collect the daily paper, you might have noticed a cool breeze coming from the direction of Dallas. That might take a bit of imagination, but autumn officially arrived last month. Summer is now just a memory in our neighborhood, and a very wet one at that. But currently conditions here are just about perfect to be outside and indulge in one of the most popular hobbies of all time – Gardening.

There are so many things to do in October that it’s hard deciding just where to begin. A trip to your favorite nursery would be a good place to start. They should have plenty of bulbs in by now, and take note that some of them need to be pre-chilled for at least 6 weeks before planting. Put bulbs of crocus, tulips and hyacinths into a brown paper bag and place them in the refrigerator. Be sure to keep them away from the fruit bin, as the ethylene gas given off especially by apples will cause the bulbs to rot. On Halloween you can plant the crocus along with Dutch iris, anemones, ranunculus and freesia. After Thanksgiving dinner you can plant the hyacinths and some daffodils, and after Christmas dinner plant the tulips. If you’re too stuffed to plant tulips on the 25th, wait until New Year’s Day – surely by then you will have recovered from the holiday festivities.

If like me you look forward to early spring blooms, this is the month to sow seeds of poppies, snapdragons, larkspur and calendula.

My Grandma planted sweet peas on a trellis Grandpa built adjacent to the little room attached to the kitchen side of her house. Herein resided her ice box. The idea was to shade the little room from sun and hopefully prevent the ice from melting too quickly. As summer approached, she planted cypress vine to take their place. If you adore sweet peas as I do, plant some seeds early this month. Better yet, find transplants if you can as sweet pea seeds are difficult to germinate. If you're thinking “What is an ice box?” – find a senior citizen and pose the question.

There's still time to dig and divide perennials. Trim all dead and unsightly foliage, and reset in beds that you have prepared for them. A bit of mulch would help to conserve moisture and keep roots warm during the coming winter months.

Have you noticed that nurseries are advertising sales of 50% to 75% off? Who else gives you a discount like that? While you’re there check out the landscape trees, shrubs and perennials. Our ground remains warm enough throughout the winter months to allow root systems to become well established, and come spring they’re raring to go.

Remember a few months ago when you couldn't believe the price of lettuce? Well now is the time to get your revenge. You can plant lettuce seeds for the whole month of October. Stagger the plantings so that you don’t have to eat it all at once!

Other cool weather vegetables to plant now are mustard greens, turnips, spinach, radishes, beets and carrots. And don’t forget to plant a few herbs to complement those fresh from the garden veggies.

I want to mention one last thing you may find worthy of note. Many of us have picked up on the decorating trend of using ‘Lucky Bamboo’ as part of our indoor décor. These plants live in still, standing water. Guess where mosquitos lay their eggs? A good friend kept a clear glass vase in which she was growing Lucky Bamboo. The profusion of mosquitos in her kitchen got her attention. Flush out those containers on a regular basis. Incidentally it’s not bamboo at all. Many of us have grown the common every day corn plant; Lucky Bamboo is its cousin - Dracaena Sanderiana.

Did you know that Trowels & Tribulations is published on the city site on the first of the month? Under Our Community you will find Trowels & Tribulations listed.

Sweetpea in garden surroundings