Ask the Master Gardeners: October 2013
Guadalupe County Master Gardeners is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or wilsoncountynews.com.
Q: I have goldenrod growing at the back of my garden and I'm worried about what my neighbors might say because of its bad reputation. Should I pull it out?
A: Definitely not. I too have goldenrod (solidago) growing and blooming. It is not the culprit for hay fever. The cause of hay fever is ragweed which is also growing and blooming right now. I am really fond of goldenrod and use it in floral arrangements, both fresh and dried. I also used it to naturally dye some white wool yarn I spun. It came out a really pretty golden yellow. Parents might want to try this project with their children or grandchildren. I collected my plants from a ditch line along my road. The ground was hard and I only got a little of the root, but it grew and is spreading (hopefully not too much).
Q: It has been so dry that some of my trees already are losing leaves. I know you say not to throw them in the trash. What can I do with them?
A: If you don't have many leaves, just leave them on the lawn and run over them with your mulching mower. If you have a lot, spread them between the rows of your vegetable plants, under your shrubs, in your flower beds, or put them in your compost bin. Remember, according to Doug Welsh in his Texas Garden Almanac, fallen leaves contain 50 to 80 percent of the nutrients a plant extracts from the soil and air during the growing season, so you definitely do not want to throw this free fertilizer away. If you really don't want to have anything to do with your leaves, you can bag them and take them to the Master Gardener community garden in Schertz or one of the several community gardens in Seguin. I know that many of my friends are always on the lookout for bags of leaves for their compost bins.
Q: How do I know when it is time to fertilize?
A: The rule of thumb is that when you don't need to mow for two weeks, then it is time to fertilize. In our area, it is somewhere around October 15. Going with Doug Welsh's recommendation, use a 2-1-1 or a 1-0-1 ratio. Your nitrogen should include both quick and slow release forms to encourage production of carbohydrates. (If you are like me, you want to know why the grass wants carbohydrates. Welsh says it is stored in the roots for earlier spring greening and as an energy source during winter stress.) Apply one pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Remember, if you have wildflowers that come up in your lawn in the spring, you do not want to use a pre-emergent weed killer. Your wildflower seeds won't come up either.
FYI: My American beautyberry is gorgeous this year, and I am anxiously waiting for my Gulf muhly grass to send up bloom spikes.
Clara Mae Marcotte is a Texas Master Gardener with Texas A&M 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 A&M AgriLife Extension building, 210 East Live Oak in Seguin.