Ask the Master Gardener: October 2012
Guadalupe County Master Gardeners is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or wilsoncountynews.com.
Q: When can I plant pansies, snapdragons, and calendula?
A: October is a good month. In fact, plant a few petunias now, and if they hold through a mild winter, they will be beautiful in the spring. Now is also the time to go to the nursery and look at landscape shrubs if you are in the market for some with berries. My American beautyberry is beautiful right now. My yaupon is also showing red. The possomhaw is starting to turn as is the Burford holly. If you are planning to buy nandina (although it can be invasive), make sure that the variety you buy has the fall red leaves.
Q: Is it time for the last lawn fertilizer application?
A: Doug Welsh's Texas Garden Almanac gives us a rough rule, and that is not to fertilize until you don't need to mow for two weeks. This makes it around October 15 for Central Texas. Welsh's reason for fall fertilization is that it prolongs fall color, increases winter hardiness, and helps give an earlier spring green-up. Fall fertilizers can be high in nitrogen and potassium with no phosphorus, such as 2-0-2 or 1-0-1, at the rate of one pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Use a combination of quick and slow release forms.
Q: Is it too late to plant onions?
A: Onions are fine as well as a lot of our fall vegetables. If you've missed the last date for seeds, then transplants are fine. Don't forget to put in some flowering kale in your front flower bed. I planted acorn squash early and already have tennis ball sized fruit. Among seeds that can still be planted are beets, carrots, lettuce, mustard, onions, parsley, spinach, and turnips. If you still have basil growing in your garden, before the first freeze (Nov. 4 this past year) harvest a stem and place it on your kitchen window sill for the winter (and it will root).
Q: What is the grass I see in people's yards with pretty pink feathery seed heads?
A: This time of year you are looking at Gulf or Coastal muhly. It grows one and a half to two feet tall and blooms in the fall. Gulf muhly is recommended by the Native Plant Society in their NICE program (Natives Instead of Common Exotics) and all of our local nurseries in this area carry it. Other fall color grasses are Indiangrass (golden brown), inland sea oats (oat heads), little bluestem (blue green foliage turns copper), sideoats grama (looks like oats), and switchgrass (foliage turns orange).
Q: Remind me again what to do with my fallen leaves.
A: If you only have a small layer of leaves on the lawn, mow them in place. If you have a heavy layer use the leaves as mulch in the vegetable garden between the rows, or as a walkway. Build a compost pile. Save the bags and call a gardening friend because most of us who garden do not have enough leaves for our compost. Do not throw the leaves in our landfills.
Clara Mae Marcotte is a Texas Master Gardener with the Texas AgriLife Extension. If you have a question to be answered, call the Master Gardeners at 830-379-1972 or leave a message to be answered. The website is guadalupecountymastergardeners.org. The Master Gardener research library is open Mondays from 8:30 to noon, on the second floor of the Texas AgriLife Extension building, 210 East Live Oak in Seguin.