October 2013 Gardening Calendar
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October is the month to plant most of the fall and winter flowers and vegetables.
For winter annuals, plant snapdragons, stocks, dianthus and calendula transplants.
Snapdragons are available in several sizes. My favorites are the Rockets. They grow to 3 feet tall on good sites. The colors include red, pink, white, yellow, blue and orange. Rockets make good cut flowers and are very showy from a distance. All snapdragons need to be planted in full sun. For best results, Rockets should be planted against a taller background or in rows where they support each other from the wind.
Rockets do well in 3 to 5 gallon containers on the sunny patio if supported with one of the aluminum tomato cages.
Several selections of snapdragons grow to 14 to 16 inches tall. Use them in containers or rows in the flower garden. The shortest version of snapdragon only grows 4 to 6 inches tall. They can make an attractive low border for flower beds and also do well in containers.
Stocks are available in pink, white, lavender and red. The colors are not as intense as snapdragons, but they have a wonderful fragrance. Use stocks for cut flowers, and enjoy the fragrance. Stocks are not as widely available on the retail market as snapdragons. Use what you find, but I prefer the largest selection that is available, usually 14 to 16 inches tall.
Dianthus is available in several sizes. The largest selections are the showiest. Dianthus comes in pink, white, lavender, red and a number of bicolors. Dianthus is a bedding plant rather than a cut flower. They do last longer into early summer than stocks and snapdragons.
Calendula resembles daisies or sunflowers. The yellow or golden blooms are silver dollar sized. Use them for short cut flowers or to “warm-up” the winter garden. They are a favorite butterfly nectar source.
In the vegetable garden plant the Cole crop transplants in October. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards, chard and mustards can be planted by seed. There is still time to plant lettuce, carrots, beets, rutabagas and turnips.
In addition to winter flowers and vegetables, it is the best time to plant trees and shrubs. They have time to produce a root system before the hot weather returns and challenge their survival.
Consider live oak, Mexican white oak, Texas red oak, Mexican sycamore, Chinese pistache, bur oak, chinkapin oak and lacey oak for shade trees. For smaller trees, consider the large crepe myrtles, loquat, Texas redbud, Mexican plum, oriental persimmons, desert willow and vitex.
Spread your wildflower seed in October. Use a Texas mix or your favorite species. Many area nurseries have seed, or purchase it online from Douglas W. King Seed or Wildseed Farms.
To prosper, the seed needs to be placed on bare ground in full sun. The seed must be able to reach the soil. It does not need to be watered in and should not be buried.
The lawn can be fertilized in late October. Use a “winterizer” formula such as 15-5-10 or 16-8-12. The fall fertilization will contribute to cold tolerance and fast green-up in the spring. If you are watering your lawn, only do so in the morning to reduce the chance of brown patch infection. A dry lawn will not develop the disease.
Calvin Finch Ph.D. is a Horticulturist and Director at Texas A&M Water Conservation and Technology Center.
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