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.)

Brrr, don't you just love a crisp November morning? Gets me in the cleaning mode - No, not inside - outside. Don't overlook the fall gardening chores. Creepy-crawlies are investigating shelters to spend the winter so rake up those dead annuals, twigs and other debris. Put those leaves into the compost pile. What - you don't have a compost pile - why not? Don't make me go into the attributes of Mother Nature's nutrient enriched, heat and cool preserving, moisture retention and cheapest soil amendment (free, except for some sweat equity) that you can work into any veggie or flower bed. Cut back dead foliage on perennials not only to improve the garden's appearance, but to eliminate winter quarters for the creepy-crawlies. Toss that debris into the compost bin.

If you are a savvy gardener, you know that now is the time to fork some of that compost into what is your spring veggie garden or flower bed. Beds prepared now will have time to weather before planting.

Most spring flowering bulbs can still be planted if you hurry. Set in a few daffodils, anemone, iris, crinum, amaryllis, lycoris and ranunculus. You've been waiting to plant those smiley-faced pansies for some time now, and the time has finally arrived. If you want spectacular blooms (and who doesn't?) remember that they are heavy feeders. Time-release pellets work best in my opinion. Many gardening sites will recommend blood or bone meal, but they tend to attract four-footed night-roaming critters. We have plenty of those without encouraging them. I discovered one morning a few weeks ago that the Easter lily bed that has been in place and blooming spectacularly for almost 30 years was totally destroyed, as some critter or critters spent much time digging bulbs during the night.

There couldn't be a better time to plant trees, and some folks in other parts of the country look down their noses at what we call 'fall color.' But, we do have a few that get our attention in autumn, and now is the time to plant them, both weather-wise and price-wise. Some that give us good fall color include bald cypress (preferable for a low spot), crape myrtle, Drummond red maple, golden raintree, Japanese maple and red oak just to name a few.

If you're looking for a bit of floral color plant some alyssum, petunias, phlox, snapdragons, verbena, and don't forget a hanging basket of red or pink geraniums, and a large welcoming pot of them by the front door is always appreciated.

If you're itching to get into your overalls and straw hat, the veggie garden is ready to accept some salad ingredients such as lettuce and radishes or how 'bout a nice spinach salad? Hurry to set some cabbage and broccoli transplants, and don't you just love fresh English and snap peas? Beets are 'iffy' for many, but Grandma's recipe for canned Norwegian style beets are always in my pantry. If you must, plant some turnips, but don't plan on me being there for dinner. If you still have a few leftover green summer tomatoes and a cold snap is predicted, pick them, call a real southern Grandma and ask for her fried green tomato recipe.

This is also time to plant that herb garden. Fresh herbs in that turkey stuffing beats anything out of a jar. How about some fresh chives sprinkled on those mashed potatoes?

November makes me want to garden - and cook - how about you?

Barbados Cherry close up