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Agriculture Today

Delaying your fall garden

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September 15, 2011 | 2,875 views | Post a comment

Q.I’m going to postpone planting my fall vegetable garden until the drought breaks. What is the last possible day to plant fall tomatoes?

A. My radio colleague, Jerry Parsons, and I have talked about the end of September as that day. To have a good chance to harvest a crop, the weather will have to cooperate and you will need to do the following:

•Use large transplants. Most nurseries have them, or you can buy small ones early and put them in 1-gallon pots until the end of September. Put the containers in morning sun, afternoon shade.

•Use fast heat-setting varieties such as Surefire, Tycoon, Cherry (BHN 968), or Heatwave.

•Prepare to cover the plants adequately to survive the first freeze of the year. If you make it through the first freeze, we often have another three or four weeks of good weather.

Q. What are some options to reduce my water use without losing my landscape? Our water bill is killing us!

A. Discontinue irrigating Bermuda, Zoysia, and Buffalo grass. It will go dormant, but is still alive and will green-up as soon as the rains resume.

Reduce the amount of lawn you water. Only water the zones of your lawn around the front door or the front yard.

Discontinue any zones that are largely irrigating trees and shrubs. Most established trees, shrubs, and perennials can tolerate long droughts. Hand-water those plants that show stress by changing color or wilting.

Mulch plants in the garden or shrub border. The mulch reduces evaporation, prevents weed growth that competes with desirable plants for water, and keeps the soil cooler as roots function better. If you have a limited amount of mulch, target those plants that require the most water.

Q. Do we still have time to plant pumpkins for Halloween?

A. No, small pumpkins require at least 95 days to mature. Large pumpkins may require 120 days.

Q. What is the esperanza selection you recommend?

A. “Gold Star” esperanza blooms from June to October most years. To keep it blooming, remove the spent flowers and seed pods. It is a favorite hummingbird nectar source.

Q. Which grows faster -- Texas red oak, live oak, or Mexican white oak?

A. In my experience, Texas red oak is fastest, Mexican white oak is second, and live oak is the slowest-growing of the three.

Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the San Antonio Water System’s project director of regional initiatives and special projects. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, e-mail him at

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