Gardening in El Lago

Trowels & Tribulations in a Suburban Garden - September 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.)

Thank goodness it's over - It is over isn't it? Tell me summer is on its way out. I've had all I can take. Watering my container plants every day became intolerable, even to a dedicated gardener twice a day is unacceptable. Finally, the last week of July, I'd had it! Picked every last one of the jalapenos (of which there were many) and turned them into pepper jelly. And in one last defiant action, I pulled it up by its roots and threw it on the compost pile! Now I won't have to water that #$%&* plant again. As usual, the squirrels would eat half of a green tomato and leave the other half on the deck just to show me that they are in control. A friend in a neighborhood with a low squirrel population supplied me with a few tasty tomatoes, so I guess the question is: Which do I prefer - the ability to grow tomatoes or a woodland neighborhood with plenty of trees, shade and squirrels?

September's days almost feel comfortable compared to what we experienced during the summer months, but this month does tend to be a bit on the dry side. You might want to add a layer of mulch to those azalea and camellias in your landscape, as their roots are close to the surface and they dry out quickly. Keep them well watered.

Speaking of water, A&M says your lawn needs about one inch of water a week in September, whether it comes from rain or irrigation - or both, to maintain a stress free St. Augustine lawn. Mow St. Augustine at 3 to 4 inches high so grass blades can shade the soil and conserve soil moisture. This is also the time to apply a winterizer fertilizer if you're so inclined. Winterizer formulas contain more potassium and less nitrogen, which is important in cold winter locations, but that's not us. My personal preference is just a very light 15-5-10 application.

Some perennials like penta, buddleia, lantana and salvia may be looking a bit leggy by now. Prune them back by one-third, water, fertilize, and get ready for a good fall performance.

Hurry up and sprinkle out some wildflower seeds this month. You might want to scatter a light layer of straw over them to keep them from becoming bird seed. You may have your own bluebonnet trail come spring.

As long as you're in the planting mood, put in perennials and some hardy shrubs. Toss a few bulbs around your newly-planted shrubs. Notice I said "toss," and plant where they land. Mother Nature will frown on your landscape if you plant anything in rows like little toy soldiers. Your favorite nursery is packed with new arrivals. Fall and winter is the most favorable time for putting in flowering perennials, new trees and shrubbery. Our mild winters give them plenty of time to develop a healthy root system before spring makes any demands to leaf out or bloom, and they'll be ready to withstand our sizzling Gulf Coast summers. I know you don’t, but many folks put away the garden hose thinking there’s no need to water in winter – wrong!! Those tender developing roots need a moist environment in which to become established.

Start cuttings of your favorite softwood plants such as impatiens and begonias. I've also had luck with rose cuttings this time of year.

If you're looking to harvest some veggies fresh out of the south forty this fall and winter, now is the time to plant cabbage, cauliflower, collards, Brussels sprouts, spinach, leeks, green onions, beets, collards, lettuce, radish and maybe a few herbs such as dill, parsley and cilantro. Just don't give your squirrels my address.

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.