Gardening in El Lago

Trowels & Tribulations in a Suburban Garden - December 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.)

It's difficult to think about gardening while planning for the holiday season which is on our doorstep. Cooler weather encourages us to stay indoors and bake cookies, wrap presents (What - your shopping isn't finished?), and convey invites for that spectacular holiday dinner you have planned. But - Mother Nature doesn't care about your indoor household tasks. Her idea of your responsibilities is doing what you neglected to do in November. For instance, those old flower beds still need to be cleaned out, or maybe add new ones. When was the last time you turned that compost pile? Nobody but yourself to blame come spring when it's not ready to be forked into the veggie bed. If some perennials didn't do as well as anticipated, they might need to be raised and reset. Day lilies especially have a tendency to dig themselves in deeper as seasons pass. Tired of those same old azaleas and camellias that are showing their age - how about yanking them out and trying a new variety and color? But if you like those you already have in your landscape just remember to keep them well mulched and watered to prevent winter damage. Both of these southern beauty's roots are close to the surface and very susceptible to temps both hot and cold. And for goodness sake, don't put away the garden hose - more plants die over winter from lack of water than cold temperatures.

Nurseries still have plenty of pansies, so put in a few more if needed. You do know that if you feed them and keep them dead-headed (remove faded blooms) they will continue producing those smiley faces. While still perusing the nursery, you might want to pick up a few transplants of snap dragons, dianthus, primroses, nasturtium, California poppies and delphiniums.

Veggie gardeners can take a breather. Only two things want to go in the garden this month - English and snap peas.

How about a few last minute holiday gifts for the gardener on your list? One of the hottest items this year is the elbow length gardening gloves. How about a soaker hose to get water down to the roots of trees and shrubs where it belongs – instead of running off of the lawn and into the gutter? Splurge a little and get your favorite gardener a good pair of by-pass pruners. They do the job much better than the anvil type. Better to 'cut' than 'crush.' Every gardener appreciates a new set of hand tools. Surely, we have all left some out in the rain, or bent or broke a handle or two – and of course there’s always the tool that was inadvertently tossed into the trash can or compost pile. A nice birdbath was appreciated by an elderly family member last year, and this year he’ll get some binoculars to help identify the bathers. Since most shrubs are on sale right now – how about a few to attract birds to the garden? Dwarf wax myrtle, American beautyberry, holly and elderberries will get their attention, and mockingbirds will perform all kinds of acrobatics to pluck the purple lantana berries. If your birdwatcher is elderly, offer to do the planting for him or her. You can’t go wrong with a book on birds or butterflies for our area, and every gardener needs a gardening book written especially for our locale. Hopefully these are a few gift ideas to buy or put on your own wish list. Don’t forget to plant those pre-chilled tulip bulbs on Christmas Day. Let somebody else deal with the leftovers and dirty dishes – you’ve got gardening to do!

Happy Humbug!

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 below Gardening in El Lago.

Professor Sargent, Full Blossom