October Gardening Tips

Copper rain lilies blanket an otherwise barren median in Tyler after a welcome summer rain.

Copper rain lilies blanket an otherwise barren median in Tyler after a welcome summer rain.

Fall weather has finally arrived, with welcome rains and milder weather. Yellow and white wild rain lilies also welcomed the rain, and popped out their flowers in abundance across the county. This milder weather should also encourage some gardening activity. After all, fall is our second gardening season – a perfect time to be planting many types of landscape and vegetable garden plants. Here are some tips for gardening to consider over the next few weeks.

Oxblood lily bulbs, waiting to be planted, for brilliant red flowers every fall

Oxblood lily bulbs, waiting to be planted, for brilliant red flowers every fall

Make plans to come to Harvey Convention Center on October 12 to enjoy a free gardening program, followed by the Bulbs and More plant sale, sponsored by Smith County Master Gardeners. The featured speaker is Dave Whitinger, a Cherokee County Master Gardener and creator of the online plant and garden sites called Dave’s Garden, and All Things Plants. He will be sharing his “50 Best Tips for Gardening” where you will be sure to get practical ideas you can use in your own garden.

Smith County Master Gardener Merlin Eck follows Whitinger with a preview of bulbs and plants that are offered in the plant sale. The Bulbs and More plant sale has over 20 varieties of daffodils and narcissus, and over 40 other types of flowering plants that grow from bulbs, corms and rhizomes. Also available for purchase will be a small selection of trees, shrubs and ornamental grasses, plus a wide offering of plants grown by the Smith County Master Gardener membership. Go to scmg.tamu.edu for a listing of bulbs and plants.

Admission to the conference and sale are free, with registration starting at 8:30 a.m., and presenters beginning at 9 a.m. Conference attendees will get a minute start ahead of those who only gather for the 11:30 plant sale starting time, so you are encouraged to attend the whole morning program. The sale ends at 1:00 p.m.

What to Plant Now. Besides bulbs, many colorful annuals can be started now. Easy types from seed include sweet peas, larkspur, poppies, cornflower, phlox and bluebonnets.

There is a brand new bluebonnet variety just released in the Texas Superstar program, called Lady Bird Johnson Royal Blue. For more information on this beautiful cobalt blue cultivar, go to Agrilife Today – A&M AgriLife’s online news outlet: (today.agrilife.org/)

Erlicheer narcissus (available at the Bulbs & More sale) and violas - plant now for early spring color

Erlicheer narcissus (available at the Bulbs & More sale) and violas – plant now for early spring color

Pansies, the most popular of the cool season flowers, can be transplanted now. You will enjoy a scattering of bloom this winter as they become established, but the real show will be early next spring. Pansies make great companion plantings for spring bulbs. I personally like the smaller viola varieties – what they lack in flower size is more than made up by the shear abundance of blooms, and they seem to hold up longer into spring than some of the older large-flowered pansy varieties. There are even varieties that trail, making great spillers for tall mixed container plantings.

Besides pansies, some other bedding plants that can be planted in October include pinks, dianthus, flowering cabbage and kale, giant red mustard, ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard, stock, snapdragons, wallflower (Citrona erysimum), calendulas, diascia and nemesia. Visit your local nursery to see what’s in stock.

If you plan to save caladium tubers for another year, dig them in late October, and allow to dry in a well-ventilated, shady spot. After 7 to 10 days, remove leaves and dirt, and pack in dry peat moss, vermiculite, or similar material for storage. Pack tubers so they do not touch each other and store where temperature won’t drop below 50 degrees F.

Landscaping: Fall is an ideal time to plant trees and shrubs. Planting now gives them several months head start to get their roots established prior to the arrival of hot and dry summer conditions. This is also the best time to increase your supply of perennials by dividing and transplanting established clumps of daylily, ajuga, liriope, mondograss, iris, columbine, penstemon, yarrow, Shasta daisy, coreopsis, purple coneflower, oxalis, and violets.

Swiss chard is one of the toughest greens, lasting well into the summer and often for a couple of years. And, it can be used as an attractive edible mixed in with your other annuals and perennials.

Swiss chard is one of the toughest greens, lasting well into the summer and often for a couple of years. And, it can be used as an attractive edible mixed in with your other annuals and perennials.

Vegetables: There are a few vegetables that can still be started – the sooner the better. These include beets, carrots, collards, kale, garlic, cilantro, leaf lettuce, mustard, radish, spinach, bok choy, Swiss chard and turnips.

If you are short on space in your yard for a vegetable patch, grow them in containers on your patio (if you have enough sun). All of the above types can be successfully grown in large pots or boxes, provided you water and fertilize them regularly.

Lawns: If you have not fertilized your lawn yet for the fall, do so right away. Fall fertilization, also known as winterizing, promotes continued healthy lawn growth so it can produce and store food reserves for use during spring green up. October is also a good month to lime the lawn and flower beds, if needed, but do so only based on soil test results.

Cooler weather causes dormant weed seeds to spring to life. In the world of weeds, they can be classified as warm and cool season types. Cool season weeds germinate in response to mild temperatures and soil moisture, growing and flowering during the cool fall through spring season. Common cool season weeds include henbit, chickweed, cranesbill (Geranium), lawn burweed, and annual bluegrass (Poa annua).

If you have maintained a thick lawn through proper mowing, watering, and fertilizing, then winter or cool season weeds should not be a major problem. But, if your grass is thin, and full of summer weeds, consider using a preemergence herbicide to prevent cool season weeds from germinating. Put it out immediately, since this mild weather and recent rains have already triggered many to germinate.

Many preemergence products have no effect if applied after the seeds have germinated. These products must also be watered in immediately or their effectiveness will be reduced or lost. Always carefully read and follow label directions.

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