October Gardening By the Month

“You kept me up all night waiting for the great Pumpkin, and all that came was a Beagle!”-Sally (It’s the great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown)


(Good Grief! Haven’t we all felt a little like Sally, waiting for our vegetables to produce? Come on in and let us get you started on the most successful way to plant your fall garden so you won’t be disappointed.)

Fall Is For Planting!

1st WEEK

lawnmower-384589_640It is time to apply winterizer to St. Augustine, Zoysia and Bermuda lawns with an 18-6-12 fall yard fertilizer, which is great for all beds and shrubs as well.

Plant perennials now. They will have all winter to develop roots and prepare themselves for the upcoming spring and summer.

If you have not applied pre-emergent herbicide (Amaze or Gallery, Etc.) to your buffalo grass lawn to prevent cool-weather weeds, do so soon before the seeds begin to germinate.

Fertilize spring-blooming, cold-hardy plants to ensure good bud set.

If normally prolific daylilies bloomed sparsely this year, take steps this month to maximize blooms next year.  Dig up the plants and separate bulb masses into smaller pieces.  Replant 1′ apart and 2″ deep in soil you have amended with compost, and peat moss or potting soil. Don’t forget the Agriform tablets or organic fertilizer.

Unless you have had a soil test that shows otherwise, use a high-phosphate material on azaleas, camellias, quince, bridal wreath, Carolina jasmine, wisteria and others.

Watch for insects and disease on plants. The mild, wet weather encourages lush growth and attracts the pests.

Fire ant baits applied now will reduce ants through next spring.  (Try a bucket of soapy, sudsy water, like Hartz Flea & Tick shampoo, on an active mound, the ants will disappear.

Fall is the best time to plant shade trees.  Consider bur oak, chinquapin oak, Chinese pistache, cedar elm, Lacey oak, Monterey oak, Montezuma cypress, or Mexican sycamore. – CF

With cooler weather, watch for brown patch fungus on lawns.  Brown patch shows up as expanding round areas of grass with blades dying at the base.  Treat with a product containing PCNB (Terraclor). Power off your sprinklers that are on a timer, water only as needed, and aim for watering in the mornings only.

Sprinkling horticultural cornmeal on St. Augustine grass suffering with brown patch will have an immediate greening effect.  It stimulates beneficial organisms, particularly trichoderma, which gobbles up pathogens. – HG

Side dress vegetables with 1 cup of 18-6-12 fertilizer per 100 sq.ft. bed.

With our first cool spell, plant dianthus, calendulas, stock, lobelia, and snapdragons for cool-weather color. Water transplants in with a diluted soluble fertilizer to give them a great start.– EO

Deadhead zinnias, marigolds, salvias and other flowering plants to stimulate more blooms.

Prepare beds for planting cool-season flowers.  Well-drained soil is important, and the bed should get at least six hours of full sun for successful flowering.

Get compost bins ready to handle the leaves that will fall soon. Turnover compost piles. Watch for “steam” in morning!  Canvas area for more material.

Grub worm damage, if present, will result in loose, dead grass on top of the soil, its runners having been devoured.  You should be able to see the grubs (grayish white half-inch fat worms with brown heads and legs, always hooked into a C-shape). They’ve already done their damage by now, so plan to control them next spring and summer Imidacloprid (Bayer Advanced Grub Control). For organic control, use Beneficial Nematodes from April through July.

Quarantine container plants that are going to be brought in with house or greenhouse plants to be certain they’re free of insects and diseases.  Watch drain holes for hiding pillbugs, slugs and even roaches. – NS


2nd WEEK:

cauliflower-379873_640Transplant hardy annuals like Bluebonnet, Flowering Kale, Snapdragon, Johnny-Jump-up, Pinks, Phlox, Violas and Ornamental Cabbage.  Plant dianthus, snapdragons, alyssum and stock this month; wait on pansies.

Cole crops such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts are tasty, nutritious and easy to grow.  Plant them this month, if you haven’t already,  for winter and spring production.

Watch for WORMS on tomatoes.  Both hornworms and pinworms may be active. Use Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).

If you have NEMATODES in your garden, forgo a fall crop in favor of Elbon rye to reduce nematodes.  The rye makes a good green manure.

Hollies and nandinas are evergreen shrubs for sun or shade.  They do not require a lot of water and are not bothered by pests.  They also produce winter berries for wildlife.

Paint all wounds on oak trees to prevent oak wilt. – CF

-Best time of the year to plant strawberries. Look for Sequoia, Chandler, and Seascape varieties.

Garlic, parsley, radishes, turnips, rutabagas, mustard, kale and onions can be planted by seed. – EO

-There’s not a better time of the year to plant perennial herbs.


3rd WEEK:

gardening-331986_640Don’t give up on tropicals just because we have had some rain and cool weather.  We have at least another month of performance from bougainvillea, plumeria, mandevilla and hibiscus.  Keep tropicals watered.

If you fertilize your houseplants on a regular basis, reduce the application by one-half from now through the winter.

It is wildflower seeding time.  Bluebonnet and other wildflower seeds can be planted now.  Rake the soil before spreading the seed.  Wildflowers will not grow in sod.

Stop pruning fruit trees to allow them to go into dormancy.

For instant color and an easy-to-grow perennial, plant garden mums now in a sunny location.

Tulip and hyacinth bulbs need to be chilled in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 weeks before you plant them.  Purchase the bulbs now.  Plant daffodils, paperwhites, hyacinth, and amaryllis now.

Fertilize tomatoes as soon as fruit begins to set.  Use a half-cup of slow-release lawn fertilizer per plant away from the base.

Canker worms are plain gray or brown caterpillars that leave obvious black dropping and feed on petunias, roses, beans and other plants.  Use Bt (such as Dipel, Thuricide or Bio-worm Killer), carbaryl or malathion to control them.

Pecans that sit on the ground too long spoil quicker than nuts that are collected daily.

Mulch around newly planted trees and shrubs to minimize water use and to maximize growth rate. – CF

Provide Christmas cactus with 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness daily and cool nights for one month to initiate flower buds. – EO

Collect seeds from your favorite plants and store them in a cool, dry place until next year.  Label them with the plant name and the place and the date the seeds were collected. – LR

With cooler weather, lawns will need less cutting, keep gasoline fresh with a gas stabilizing treatment.


4th WEEK:

autumn-77008_640Deeply mulch subtropical perennials like: Chilean Jasmine, China Doll, Firebush, Firecracker Bush, Mandevilla, Mex. Bird-of-Paradise, Plumbago and Poinsettia.

Defoliate Indian-named hybrid crepe myrtles if they are not showing signs of colorful fall foliage.

It is time to preserve gourds.  Wash the gourds in warm, soapy water with a touch of disinfectant.  Rinse the gourds, then store them for three weeks in a dark closet to set the color.  You can varnish the gourds or use them as natural decorations.

If you have not fertilized your lawn, this is the last week to get the job done.  Apply 1 lb. of nitrogen per 1,000 sq.ft, which translates to 6 lbs. of 18-6-12 (3-1-2) “winterizer” fertilizer.

Now is the time to apply a copper product such as Kocide 101 to reduce bacterial diseases on peaches and plums.  Follow the instructions.

Hornworms are the big, green caterpillars ravaging tomatoes, eggplants, pentas, peppers and nicotana.  Use Bt or carbaryl (Sevin) as soon as you see their damage or droppings.

If you are “blessed” with deer, plant snapdragons, flowering kale, ornamental cabbage, nicotiana, daffodils and irises for winter and spring color. – CF

If lantana and hibiscus plants are infested with WHITEFLIES, apply Orthene, Sevin, or Malathion to the underside of the leaves.

Row cover, a lightweight fabric available at nurseries and garden centers, will help protect tender vegetables.  It is sold by various names such as PlantGuard, Gro-Web and Plant Shield.

Prepare beds for pansies.  They need well-drained soil and at least a half day of full sun.

Place blood meal in the planting holes to improve vigor of the plants.

Divide and replant perennials such as phlox, hollyhock, iris, day lily and Shasta daisy. – LR

If we still have mild weather ( warm days, cool nights), a recurrence of powdery mildew could occur. Prevention is best, so early action is advised to prevent damage. You can use a preventative fungicide, but making sure plants are spaced appropriately for good air circulation, and minimizing wetting the foliage with irrigation systems is most helpful. –RSR

-Water in new transplants with a soluble fertilizer to give them a great start.

Please note, most of the information shared here was obtained from Research-based sources (see contributors acknowledgements below), and from individuals who are considered very knowledgeable on a particular subject.  While some little tidbits here may be of interest, they should be taken “with-a-grain-of-salt”(compiled by MG Brian D. Townsend, updated by Rainbow Gardens Staff).

Many thanks to my contributors:

CF – Calvin Finch, Bexar Co. extension agent for horticulture, Texas Agricultural Extension Service (courtesy S.A. Express-News)

EO – Edna Ortiz, Bexar Co. extension agent for horticulture, Texas Agricultural Extension Service (courtesy S.A. Express-News)

LR – Lynn Rawe, Bexar Co. extension agent for horticulture (visit their website at www.bexar-tx.tamu.edu), Texas Cooperative Extension Service (courtesy S.A. Express-News)

NS – Neil Sperry, Texas horticulturalist, Publisher “Neil Sperry’s GARDENS” and contributor to S.A. Express-News, visit his website at www.neilsperry.com.

THMag – Texas Highways Magazine

HG – Howard Garret, aka the “Dirt Doctor” (www.dirtdoctor.com)

CR – Charlene Rowell, native plant horticulturist (article from Neil Sperry’s Gardens mag. Oct. 2001)

DG&DG – Dale Groom & Dan Gill, from Month-by-Month Gardening in Texas

JMP – Dr. Jerry M. Parsons, Professor & Extension Horticulturist with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, visit his website at www.plantanswers.com.

RSR – Rober “Skip” Richter, Month-By-Month Gardening in Texas