Fall is Here: A Guide to Fall Gardening
Tuesday, October 13, 2020 5:14 AM

Fall is Here: A Guide to Fall Gardening

Tuesday, October 13, 2020 5:14 AM
Tuesday, October 13, 2020 5:14 AM

Fall is here - almost!

Like the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit that blows across our hearts; gardeners in North Texas are awaiting the cool breezes of the fall season which are beginning to stir.  Unscheduled rain droplets from heaven are arriving to water our parched gardens and tempts us to dance in the rain as we plant for food and beauty.

Since I am not a veggie gardener, my hope is that you have already prepared the soil and planted the tender vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, cucumbers and summer squashes.  These are considered warm-season plants and require two to three months to mature and to arrive before our first frost. Cool-season plants like beets, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuces, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, bulb onions and fall squashes (acorn, butternut) can still be planted in enough time to harvest, as they can handle a few light frosts. But, do not wait too long to plant, especially if you live in the northern part of Collin County.  When we have a mind winter without much sleet, ice or snow many of these cold, hardy vegetables will go through the winter with only an occasional covering of frost cloth to protect.

We all enjoy seeing the green of summer meld into the mellow colors of gold, red, burgundy and yellow of the fall.  The fall season lasts from the last ninety degree day until the first killing freeze.  Really, fall in Texas is the period of time when you don't sweat as much.  Temperatures in Texas are variable and seldom land on the average dates offered by the National Weather Service in the fall.  However, fall is the ideal time to garden and to plant flowers, shrubs, trees and veggies.  Plant roots grow anytime the soil temperature is forty degrees or higher, which may occur throughout our winter weather in North Texas or until a hard freeze.  The root systems grow and become well-established before dormancy, and the lower temperatures create less stress on the plants.  When spring arrives the plants will become actively alive and ready to grow and thrive beautifully!  Fall is also the time to rearrange and move existing plants, too.  I am in the process of changing much of my landscape to accompany my aging bones.  More flowering or colorful shrubs will replace some areas of needy plants that require intense labor.  Of course, when spring arrives, we will see if I can stick to this discipline!

Now on to the plants that provide beauty like jewelry for the autumn season.  The colors of fall flowers are intense, beautiful and are of different hues than the pastel plants of the spring and summer months.  We have two types of flowers: annuals and perennials.

Annuals last one season and then need to be replaced.  Some of these types that we plant in the fall are: marigolds, celosia, zinnias, copper plants, purple fountain grass, crotons, cockscomb, snapdragons, dianthus and the delightful varieties of pansies and violas.  I have found that pansies, snapdragons and dianthus often weather the winter months and are even stronger and more beautiful in the early spring even though they are annuals.  One warning is not to plant pansies too early in the season.  They prefer the cooler weather and our eager nurseries often have them out too soon.  The best time for planting them is generally around the middle to late days of October into a warm November.  Consider if we are experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures; then, it is best to wait, as it will produce straggly plants that struggle to bloom and will need additional watering.

Perennials are the flowers that last more than one season and most often for years, if taken care of properly.  Here are some of the ones that do well in our region during the fall season: purple fall asters, Mexican bush sage, ornamental cabbages, kale, chrysanthemums (use garden mums, not florist types), echinachia or purple corn flower, guara, autumn joy sedum, all native salvias, dusty miller, southern wood fern, autumn fern, Japanese holly fern and asparagus fern.  These suggestions are only a few of the many different ones offered for fall planting.

Plants that have been planted earlier in the summer months begin to flourish with the cooler weather and increased rains also.  Begonias, coleus and other tender plants can double in size in the fall, but do not last after the first hard frost.  The first frost date in North Texas is officially November 22nd, but it can easily change and come at any time.  Texas weather is rather unruly and does not always follow the weatherman's predictions.  Gardening in Texas requires us to be watchful and flexible with the weather conditions, which help us to develop Godly patience and perseverance.

Notice that I have not suggested planting our beloved roses.  In Collin County, it is known that we have one of the highest incidents of the Rose Rosette disease.  It is highly contagious and deadly to roses of all types and there is no cure to apply to a rose if it has contracted the disease.  It must be removed as quickly as possible and put in a plastic bag to keep the viral mite from spreading.  Personally, I have had to dig up fifteen roses in my garden that contracted Rose Rosette.  That was a sad day for me!  Texas A&M is at work on developing stronger roses that are resistant to the Rose Rosette, and I hope they are successful soon.

Bulbs are another wonderful option to plant in the fall and winter months.  Who can resist the bright, cheery yellow of the daffodils waving in the breeze in the springtime?  Daffodils do not require chilling before planting, as tulips and hyacinths do in our region.  Chilling periods for tulips and hyacinths require sixty days of refrigeration before planting, and they seldom successfully repeat bloom next year.  There are several different bloom times for daffodils to have a longer blooming season.  Look for early, mid and late blooming varieties to extend your enjoyment of these perky plants from March to April. 

Projects for the fall and winter do not cease totally for gardeners but are worth the time to do them.  Division of some of your garden plants may be necessary.  If your daylilies and irises are not blooming as well as in the past, they probably are in need of dividing.  Plant them in other pockets of your garden or share with friends.  Peonies do not like to be bothered much, but occasionally need to be divided and moved.  Fall is a good time to do this also, as it will give them time to adjust to their new location.  Fertilize and water them and they will reward you with fluffy blooms in the following spring.  Be sure to plant peonies with the top section close to the surface.  In early spring, they will produce red pips that appear above the soil, which means bloom time is coming.  Daylilies and irises need to be planted rather shallow and covered with an inch of soil.  They like to have good drainage and to be in sunny to shady locations to bloom in early summer.

"To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.  A time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted." (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2b)  Our end is here for now, until another season.

Happy Fall Gardening and remember:

"When heaven falls to earth,

it becomes a garden."

-Stoffer

Written by: Lynda Irby

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