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.

Ah - Autumn. Well almost, at least it's on the horizon. As usual, summer was hot, humid, full of mosquitos, and we spent our time maintaining what little garden survived the onslaught of summer. But September is a time to be thinking about renewing and repairing our landscapes.

Nurseries are stocking up on fall planted specimens. I have what I call my BBB garden. It's planted to benefit birds, bees and butterflies. Of course now is not the time to plant Thai basil, but it was a magnet for bees all summer long, and it made its way into quite a few spicy chicken dishes. Pick up a package of seeds now for spring planting. The Savannah holly and its red berries not only gave us holiday decor, but the berries caught the attention of cardinals, chickadees and titmice. A few years ago, in a few short minutes a migrating flock of cedar waxwings devoured practically every little red jewel. It's hard to beat the American beautybush for color. Its clusters of royal purple berries are relished by mockingbirds. This shrub can grow large, but when new growth starts to appear in early spring, I cut it down to about 6 inches and it grows to a nice manageable size loaded with beautiful berries in mid July or early August. The Texas wax myrtle berries are not showy by any means, but birds find them quite palatable in spite of their drab grayish color. Butterflies gravitate toward the lantanas. Did you know butterflies prefer 'flat' blossoms - gives them a secure landing pad! Besides the lantana they visit daisies, cone flowers, zinnias, pentas and of course the butterfly bush. Can't forget the milkweed (preferably native varieties) where they lay their eggs and feeds their larvae. There's also a shallow birdbath in the garden and I can tell in the morning that it is also used by night visiting critters. O.K., enough of the fun stuff, it's time for making plans to upgrade your landscape over the next couple of months.

New trees and shrubs planted in fall use those months and the winter months to become established in their new home. At this time there's no demand to produce new growth, no demand to bloom, just time to get settled in. You won't see it happening, but our soil stays warm enough during winter for a healthy root system to grow and become established. Then when spring arrives they're ready to perform. But before you go shopping take into consideration the ultimate size of your chosen tree or shrub, whether it prefers sun, shade, partial shade, high and dry or low and moist, exposed to direct sun or understory. You have time to do your research before you need to knock the dirt off of the spading fork you stashed in the garage last spring.

Is your mouth watering for fresh veggies that haven't been trucked across the country? You're in luck - September is perfect for planting seeds of beets, kohlrabi, mustard, lettuce, spinach, radish, peas (both English and snap) pumpkin, cucumber, collards, and transplants of broccoli and cabbage. If you have ever eaten cabbage picked from your own garden you'd be hard pressed to know it's the same vegetable sold from your local grocer's produce department. I don't want to be accused of being a 'name dropper' but here's a few veggie varieties that have done well in our garden. BEANS-Early Contender, Golden Wax. CUCUMBER-Straight Eight. LETTUCE-Buttercrunch, Oakleaf. OKRA-Zeebest. RADISH-French Breakfast, Early Scarlet Globe. TOMATO-Celebrity, Sweet One Million. Can't forget PEPPERS- Cubanelle, Jalapeno, Mucho Natcho Jalapeno, Big Bertha Bell, Mexibell. All seeds bought locally, so head to your favorite nursery.

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.

Wax myrtle berries