Gardening in El Lago

Trowels & Tribulations in a Suburban Garden - October Issue

By: Donna J. Ward, Certified Texas Master Gardener (Note: This is a reprint of Donna's article that appears in the La Ventana del Lago.)

Do you believe in resurrection? Some of our neighbors apparently do. Two back to back freezes this winter took a toll on the much loved (but not by me) sago palms. Their fronds froze and turned completely or partially brown. Do a favor for all of us who have to pass by these ugly specimens, and cut the #%&* things off. Believe me when I tell you - those frozen fronds are never, ever, ever going to be green again. A miraculous resurrection is not in their future! Thanking you in advance.

The list of things to plant this month of October are almost endless. Refrigerate some tulip, crocus, hyacinth bulbs for 6-8 weeks before planting. Halloween is ideal for planting anemones and ranunculus. You might also pick up a few paperwhites to force for indoor color and fragrance. Hyacinths can also be forced indoors. Google has plenty of info on how to succeed.

I love sweet peas, and my trellis is waiting to be covered with these gorgeous blossoms. Poppies, alyssum, daisies, larkspur, stock and snapdragons will add more late winter/early spring color to your landscape. Get these seeds in the ground now.

Perennials are looking pretty sad lately. If they didn't bloom as per your expectations they may need to be divided. Trim dead foliage and reset in a prepared bed.

Jack Frost didn't stop at only damaging the sagos, he took aim at some other shrubs also. This is the ideal time to visit your favorite nursery; their new stock is in and waiting for you. Think about adding more plants that attract, feed and nurture wildlife. Hollies, wax myrtle, yaupon, Barbados cherry, pineapple guava, native coral vine, to name just a few.

If you don't have a compost pile, you're missing a great opportunity. Once those leaves, lawn clippings, vegetable and green plant trimmings decompose, you have free fertilizer and mulch.

Cooler weather brings out the Farmer Brown in many of us. We begin to think about veggies. Dig your overalls out of the closet, find the shovel and kick off the dirt from your last digging endeavor. Tomato, cabbage, and broccoli transplants want to go in your veggie patch now. Lettuce, and radish seeds will result in a crisp salad, while beets, mustard, spinach, turnips (Ugh), and kohlrabi will give you some darn good veggie side dishes. You might want to be adventurous and try some 1015Y onions from seed. But take it from one who has attempted - keeping weeds pulled from between those teensy, tiny thread-like onion sprouts is a real lesson in patience and physical dexterity. My advice is to buy a bunch of onion sets from the nursery. In the same family, there's garlic to be planted. Who can cook without garlic? Not me. Just separate the cloves from a head you bought at the grocery store, poke them into the ground in an out of the way place. You might notice that nurseries are selling herbs now, but bear in mind that only a few will enjoy the cool temps of fall and winter. My two favorites for this time of year are Italian parsley and cilantro, two herbs that I can't do without. So you only want a little parsley to garnish that chicken casserole you're serving to guests - why give Mr. Kroger your money when you can just slip out the back door and snip as much as you need?

Speaking of cooking, I need to find my recipe for squirrel stew again. I sat here at the keyboard and watched a squirrel bend down the tall stems of the surprise lilies and eat the tender, barely starting to open blossoms. #%&*$..................

Did you know that Trowels & Tribulations is published on the city site ( on the first of the month? Under Our Community you will find Trowels & Tribulations listed below Gardening in El Lago.

Barbados Cherry Full Bloom