Gardening in El Lago

Trowels & Tribulations in a Suburban Garden - November 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.

A perfect November day reminds me of an English muffin - starts out crisp, softens in the middle, and when you get to the end, it’s crisp again. November provides us with the incentive and energy to dig in the dirt. I’ve been waiting for that since the end of May!

Congratulations on using much restraint when visiting your favorite nursery. I know it’s been tough to pass up those flats of smiley face pansies. No need to hold off any longer. It’s cool enough now to put them into the sunny raised bed you’ve prepared. Remember that pansies are heavy feeders, so if you want a spectacular performance from them, be prepared to do your part. Bone meal and blood meal are highly recommended, but in my yard it only seems to attract unwanted four-legged critters. I choose to use time-release fertilizer pellets in the bottom of the planting hole as one application can last as long as four months - and critters aren't attracted.

There seems to be no end to the leaves that flutter to the lawn this time of year, and the pine needles that didn’t hit the ground hang like Christmas tinsel in the shrubbery. Both leaves and needles represent a super rich source of nutrients for your whole landscape. Use a mulching blade on your mower, or mow over them repeatedly until you have chopped them as fine as possible. They will disintegrate quickly and the St. Augustine will take up the nutrients. If you don’t care to leave them on the lawn bag them as you mow, and use them as mulch around the shrubbery and trees that you’re going to plant this month. Did I mention that November is an ideal time to plant landscape trees?

If you have spent any time above the Mason-Dixon Line, you probably turn up your nose at the ‘fall color’ in this part of the country. But it is possible to incorporate some brilliant yellow, orange and red autumn color into your Gulf Coast landscape. Some trees to consider are the Drummond red maple, golden raintree, red oak, sweet gum, green ash, and crape myrtle to name just a few.

If your azaleas and camellias didn’t perform up to your expectations this spring, there could be several reasons. Too much sun, not enough water, improper fertilization, flawed pruning schedule, or maybe they were just planted in the wrong place. If it’s the latter – now is the time to make the move. In order to promote root development and prevent winter damage, keep them well watered and mulched.

The plumeria that grows wild in Hawaii won’t survive in your back yard unless it is in a really protected spot and we have a very mild winter. Even then, it’s ‘iffy.’ If yours are planted in the ground lift them out and shake the dirt from the roots and over-winter them in the garage. If they are in a pot wheel them into the garage and ignore them until spring. If neither method is possible take plenty of cuttings, and hope for the best. This might be a good time to think about building that greenhouse you’ve always wanted.

Show off your green thumb and give your neighbors a thrill at the same time. Let them see your bloomers - the floral kind of course. It’s time to put in transplants of cool weather bloomers such as snapdragon, pansy, pinks, candytuft, calendula, alyssum, stock and many, many more are available right now at your favorite nursery. A mass planting of colorful cyclamens will stop the neighbors in their tracks.

If you’re into vegetable gardening, why not share your skills with a small person? Most kids will dig in their heels when they discover turnips, spinach, radishes, beets, cabbage or peas on their dinner plate. But if they are involved in the planting and harvesting, they could possibly develop a taste for these veggies. All of the above can be planted this month. A good ‘kid friendly’ seed to start with would be English peas. The seeds are large and easy for small fingers to handle. They germinate readily, and quickly grab a support such as a trellis, tomato cage, or something as simple as chicken wire strung between two tall stakes. If kids are involved from the planting to the pot, it’s possible that you could eliminate “Eat your vegetables” from the dinner table conversation. Notice I said “possible."

November means Thanksgiving - don’t forget to plant the daffodils and hyacinths after dinner.

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.

Sasanqua and Visitor