"Gardening Tips for October in the Texas Coastal Bend" | Text and Photos by Kitty Angell

Fall is for herbs! Prepare your herb garden as you would a vegetable or flower garden. You’ll need a sunny, well-drained location, and you may have to water as necessary during extremely dry periods. Mints require more frequent watering. Chives, oregano, basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, sage, thyme, and rosemary are but a few of the many herbs that are grown in their own space, interspersed in flower gardens, and in vegetable beds during the cooler fall months.

Speaking of preparing beds, this is when I prepare my beds for winter. I’ve already fertilized my lawn with a good organic fertilizer, so now I need to concentrate on cutting back overgrown plants and re-shaping the garden. Compost needs to be spread and then topped off with a layer of mulch. Reduce disease and insect potential in next year’s garden by removing spent annuals and also the tops of all herbaceous perennials that have finished flowering. 

Be sure you know what type of soil you are working with before planting bulbs for spring. Soil test kits can be obtained from the AgriLife Extension Service on Airport Road. Bulbs need a well-prepared bed, and the base of the bulb is set three times deeper than the diameter of the bulb. In sandy soil, set deeper and in clay soils less deeply.

Once your garden beds are rejuvenated, start checking with nurseries for started plants of snapdragons, pinks, Sweet Williams, poppies, calendulas and pansies. You can also plant seeds of sweet peas during October and November. Make sure they get at least a half-day of sun and protection from north winds. Be sure your beds are well-drained; you may have to raise the bed in order to achieve this.

Leafy green vegetables like leaf lettuce, spinach, collards, kale, and mustard greens can be planted from seed to give you an early winter harvest. This also includes turnips radish, English peas, and snap peas. Transplants of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, multiplier onions, and garlic bulbs can still be planted.

By now you probably realize that lettuce and home-grown tomatoes do not live together happily in the same season. According to “TEXAS GARDENER” magazine, “Next year, when you are pulling up your spent lettuce, consider replacing it with heat-tolerant summer greens like amaranth, molokhia or Malabar spinach.”

If you are considering a rose garden in your yard, call the Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Rockport and they will send you to some dedicated rosarians in our area for advice. This is the perfect time for planting container grown roses because it allows them to get a head start on our summer heat. Remember that they, too, require well-drained, soil amended beds, with at least eight full hours of sunlight. EarthKind ™ Roses have made it possible for almost anyone to grow beautiful roses. This designation is given to a select group of roses that have been through extensive research and field trials by the Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension Service.

Seven dependable EarthKind™ Roses to consider are ‘Marie Daley’, a 3’ dwarf shrub; ‘Cecile Brunner’, a 4’ small shrub; ‘Belinda’s Dream’, ‘Carefree Beauty’, ‘Old Blush”, and ‘La Marne’ all 5’medium shrubs; and ‘Mutabilis” (also known as the butterfly rose), a 6’ medium-large shrub.

This is also the month to plant wildflowers. When sowing wildflower seeds for the first time, don’t expect a 100% success rate. Unlike most flower seeds, wildflower seeds have not been genetically altered to achieve certain traits like rapid germination, color, height, or adaption to specific soil types or climates. Mother Nature plays a large role in the success or failure of wildflower plantings. Also, soil drainage problems in your planting area could impede the germination of your seeds. Do not fertilize wildflowers. Fertilization after the plants are established will encourage the growth of weeds, and cause profuse foliage and very few blooms. 

It’s time to put your Plumerias to bed. After the leaves fall off, stop watering and move the pots into the garage. This usually happens in late October. Do not water Plumerias during the winter. Cuttings can now be taken. Let the cuttings cure over winter and pot in the spring. Plumeria cuttings will rot if potted when freshly cut.
Image and Text by Kitty Angell. Thanks Kitty!

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