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Agriculture Today

Gardening book favorites

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South Texas Gardener
November 27, 2013 | 3,605 views | Post a comment

Q: What are some good gardening books to consider as a gift for a gardener?

A: There are many good ones. Here are a few of my favorites: consider Perennial Garden Color by Bill Welch and Home Landscaping Texas by Greg Grant and Roger Holmes. Geyata Ajilvsgi has a good book, Butterfly Gardening for the South. Mike Shoup’s newest book is Empress of the Garden. It is about old-fashioned roses. Attracting Birds to Southern Gardens by Pope Odenwald and Fryling is another good choice. Another is Texas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening by Greg Grant.

Q: What is the best lawn fertilizer for use on our lawns this fall? How about next spring?

A: The most common “winterizer” fertilizer is 18-6-12. It does the job well in the autumn. In the spring (May 1), use a slow-release lawn fertilizer such as 19-5-9. The key to a fertilizers’ impact (and price) is the amount of nitrogen represented by the first number listed. The 18 means 18 percent of the bag is a nitrogen source. The second number is the amount of phosphorus and the third number is a potassium source.

Q: I have three types of spinach in my garden: “Monster,” Ashley, and Coho. Which do you think will produce best?

A: I think the Monster will produce more spinach through the winter but may not last as long as Ashley or Coho, both of which have more disease resistance. Coho seed and plants are difficult to find. You are well positioned to run your own experiment. Please let me know which works best for you.

Q: I have not had any luck with sweet peas over the last two years. What is the secret?

A: Our climate is not the best to grow sweet peas. It is either too cold or too hot. Keep planting them. If you have a crop that survives our weather, it will all be worth it! They are great cut flowers with a wonderful fragrance.

Q: Is it still a good time to plant shade trees?

A: Yes, pick a well-adapted variety such as live oak, Texas red oak, Mexican white oak, cedar elm, Mexican sycamore, bur oak, or chinkapin oak and plant it this winter.

Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the director of the Water Conservation and Technology Center at Texas A&M-San Antonio. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, email him at

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