Let’s Talk About September 2018*

By: Pat Cordray
This month might not be cooler but to me the month of September stands for “cooler temperatures ahead”.  We are almost at the end of the heat and there is hope, although small, that we could actually have a “fall”.  September also brings in a new gardening season.  This is the kind of gardening with the word “fall” in front of it.  So, we get to plant cooler weather vegetables,  fall flowers, wildflowers and other early spring flowers, and hummingbird nectar plants, yay!  We still need to talk about watering, again.  Wow!! That’s a lot of gardening. Let’s get started.
Durango Marigold

September gardening includes: watering, vegetable gardening, fall flowers, growing flowers from seed, and plants for hummingbirds.

First on our list is watering.  You know you need to water, you know the plants need water.  Sooooo, water.  Once we get cooler temperatures you can back off, a little, but as long as it is hot and dry watering is essential.  New plantings are the most at risk.  Their roots are confined to a small area, so they are dependent on you to supply water right where the roots are.  Just enough water to keep the roots moist is enough, there should not be water running down the street. Once established, sprinklers are fine.

Floral Lace Dianthus

If your garden isn’t ready, that’s okay, it’s not too late.  Get your garden ready now, its time to add a few more cool weather vegetables. Fall vegetable gardening includes the following plants; Beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards, cucumbers, mustard greens, squash, Swiss chard, and turnips. Don’t over plant your garden. Sun, water, well draining soil and a little fertilizer are musts for success in the garden.  Plant what you love to eat.

Snapdragon

Planting fall flowers is a great way to freshen up your landscape.  Many of your summer favorites will still be blooming like crazy, so add fall flowers around these plants.  favorites will still be blooming like crazy, so add fall flowers around these plants.  If you have lost plants replace them with fall flowers instead of summer color.   Don’t fill in all the holes right away, leave spaces for other cool weather flowers as they become available.  First up are, lobelia, marigold, dianthus, celosia, chrysanthemums, alyssum, calendula, petunia, stock, and snapdragons.  I can see great fall color is on the way!  If you love snapdragons, now is the time to plant, don’t wait until spring, do it now and you’ll have flowers until it gets too hot next year.  A little later in the month violas, ornamental kale & cabbage, phlox and bellis are usually available.  Lots of pretty options for your garden.

Linden and her bluebonnet friends

If you are interested in planting flowers from seed, September is the time.  Plant seeds for bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, coreopsis, larkspur, gaillardia, purple coneflower, gaura, black-eyed Susans, poppies, nasturtiums, hollyhocks, and sweet peas.   Once you make your selection of seed don’t store them in the car, it is too hot and will damage your seed.  Read the seed packet and follow the instructions on how to plant.  Inspect your seeds before you plant; broken seeds will not germinate.  I like to soak my seeds overnight in warm water (not hot)  to speed up germination.  Plant your seed in the ground or in containers.  Raised beds and well draining containers work best.   Mix a little worm castings in the soil where you are planting your seed and sprinkle a little Wildroot Organic, a blend of mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial bacteria, this helps the seedling with getting water and nutrients.  Once the seeds are planted water gently, you don’t want to wash your seeds away,  and keep the soil moist.  Once the seedling has its true leaves it is time to fertilize.  Microlife is great for fertilizing any of your plants and it won’t burn your seedlings.

Bluebonnet
Fire Bush

Have you noticed all the hummingbirds in our area?  If you haven’t maybe you should plant for them.  They migrate through our area August – October and they could use our help.  Hummingbirds have to visit a ton of flowers to get the nectar they need each day.  Make it easier for them and plant flowers in drifts, they won’t have to fly too far in between flowers.  Flowers like: lantana, coneflower, zinnia, salvia/sage, milkweed, pentas, porterweed, and shrimp plant, Texas betony usually have tons of blooms this time of year.  Other plants to consider are russelia, cigar plant, flame acanthus, canna, abutilon,  cestrum, fire bush,  bird of paradise, cape honeysuckle, cypress vine (well maybe not this one), flame vine, passion vine, trumpet creeper, bottlebrush, butterfly bush, pineapple guava, hibiscus, lavender, orchid tree, pink powder puff, and Texas sage.  All of these hummingbird friendly plants are easy to grow, have tons of blooms and can easily fit in most landscapes. Before you plant check the mature size of the plants, some of these can be quite large.   Of all of these plants, milkweed adds a little more.  Milkweed is almost always covered with aphids.  Some gardeners wouldn’t want it in their garden.  But, because milkweed has aphids it attracts other insects that eat aphids and those insects provide protein for hummingbirds.  So, those aphids are a good thing.  Finally, if you want hummingbirds, or any wildlife, in your garden don’t use insecticides, herbicides, or any chemicals.  Keep your garden safe for our bird friends and it will be safe for you too.

Enjoy your garden,

Pat

 

Preparing Your Garden for Fall

 

The month of August is the doldrums of the gardening season. It’s so hot all you can do is water and hope your yard survives. Sitting in the air conditioning, looking at the garden out my window, is my favorite August garden pastime. Because it’s so hot, it is easy to forget that fall is just around the corner. Fall gardening on the Gulf Coast is a joy and there is a lot to do in the month of August to get ready. It’s time to think about garden cleanup, pruning your fall blooming perennials, preparing your soil for fall planting and planning your fall and winter gardens.

 

Admittedly, cleanup is not the most glamorous job in the garden, but it is very satisfying in its own way. Getting rid of the raggedy leftovers of your spring annuals and vegetables is the first step in cleanup. If you have your own compost pile, compost these plants. Pull the summer weeds that try to take over every garden this time of year. If you are not planning on sowing seeds in your garden put down a weed preventer. Weed preventers stop weed seeds from germinating in your soil. This small step in the cleanup process helps tremendously with weeding problems. Next, cleanup any garden debris around perennials that could be hiding garden pests. This helps tidy your garden and cuts down on summer insect pests and fungus problems.

 

Once cleanup has been accomplished, it’s time to trim your perennials. Perennials such as roses, pentas, lantana, salvia and many others benefit from a good pruning. As summer wears on these perennials can get tall and leggy and stop blooming. Pruning these plants gets them back into shape and gives them a second round of good blooms.

 

Prune Perennials

Trimming perennials in August gives them the chance to grow and put on new blooms before the weather gets too cold. Not all perennials should be pruned. Azaleas and camellias, to name a few, have already started the budding process and pruning these plants will cut off the coming spring blooms. If you are unsure about trimming a plant, ask us at the nursery. We can tell you if it’s okay or look it up for you if we don’t know. As you are trimming your perennials, check for plants that didn’t perform as expected or didn’t do well in the spot where they were planted. Think about moving these plants or pulling them out all together to make room for plants that will do better in that spot.

 

Cleanup and trimming perennials makes it much easier to do soil preparation in anticipation of fall planting. Add a layer of good compost to your garden to add back organic matter and nutrients that have been used up through the summer. Compost also adds beneficial fungi that help the plants in your garden absorb the nutrients you have added. You can add an organic fertilizer with a higher phosphate amount to speed up the blooming of your trimmed perennials.  Make sure the fertilizer is organic because chemical fertilizers can burn your plants, especially in the hot summer.  After these steps are done, put down a 2 inch layer of mulch to deter more weeds and help your soil retain

Leaf Mold Compost

moisture.

 

You now have a nice clean garden slate. Look at spaces left by old annuals and perennials and decide what fall plants you would like there.  If you have kept your garden organic, a great choice for these spaces is fall vegetables.  Our Gulf coast climate allows for a second gardening season that most of the rest of the country doesn’t have.  Grow greens, lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower and many other cool weather veggies for the winter. You can start these vegetables from seed in 4 inch pots or plant transplants directly in the garden. Remember that it is still pretty hot and protect seedlings and transplants from direct sun. There are also many beautiful fall blooming annuals to plant around your vegetables.

 

Winter Leeks with Toadflax and Marigolds

Fall is my favorite time to garden here. The weather is temperate, most of the mosquitoes are gone and even the air smells different. Get your garden ready now and you can sit back, relax and enjoy your fall garden season with no worries. It will be well worth it, I promise.

 

Fall Vegetable Gardening

It’s very hot. I just went outside for 5 minutes and that was too much. It’s not terrible in the shade though, so sitting on my porch is still doable. I miss my gardening. Watering things just to keep them alive is not very satisfying. Just when it seems like there’s no hope, along comes fall vegetable gardening season. We are very lucky here on the gulf coast. We have 2 gardening seasons and if you start early enough, planting with seeds or vegetable transplants is the way to go.

Lettuce
Swiss Chard

Plant a second crop of spring vegetables by choosing short season varieties. Bush green beans, cherry tomatoes, small cucumbers and short season summer squash are just some of the vegetables you can start now for an extra crop during early fall. Look at the seed packets to find the varieties with the shortest time to maturity. This will give you a better chance of having more to harvest before temperatures get too cold.  Early squash and bush green beans do especially well in the fall because the pests and mildew that plague the garden in spring are not as bad in late summer. Give your seedlings and transplants extra water and some shade if you can during August as the temperatures are still very hot. As your plants mature, the temperatures will slowly drop allowing for your plants to flourish and provide a good harvest. Start cherry tomato seeds in 4 inch pots with Ladybug seed germination mix and place them in a slightly shaded area such as a porch. This gives the seedlings some protection from the worst heat. Healthy Harvest fertilizer contains Actinovate which fights damping off of your seedlings. Sprinkle a little on top of your seeds before you water them.  Squash, bush beans and short season cucumbers go directly in the ground. Sprinkle a half inch layer of seed starting mix or worm castings on top of the ground where the seeds will be planted. This helps the seeds germinate and the roots can get established directly in the ground. If you have a mist setting on your watering wand use it for your seeds. The soft spray will not disturb the fragile roots that are just getting established.

Rainbow Colors Carrots
Radish

Now for the cold weather crops. Root crop seeds can be planted now. These veggies don’t transplant very well so plant them directly in the ground or container where you want them to grow. Carrots, beets, onion seeds, turnips and radishes are good root crops to start now. Radishes take no time at all to mature making them a great veggie to plant with kids. Plus there is the fun of getting to pull them out of the ground. There are many brassica vegetables to start now. Broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, and cabbage are just a few. The fun of doing this type of vegetable from seed is the variety. There are the regular varieties and then there are some with great different shapes and colors. Romanesco, purple cauliflower and kohlrabi and frilly kale are some of the different varieties to grow. Germinate these seeds in a kitchen window or on the porch away from the hot sun. If the seedlings get too hot the vegetables can turn bitter. Greens are my favorite fall veggie. Fresh spinach is very hard to beat. Heat tolerant varieties of lettuce and spinach don’t mind the cold either, so you can expect to be harvesting until spring or early summer of next year. Mustard greens, endives, arugula, Swiss chard and different greens mixes are only a few of the choices available. The diversity of the greens family is amazing. Start  greens seeds where they are going to grow. I love growing greens in containers for ease and for decoration. Greens planted in a container can be as beautiful as any flower. Try one of the chards such as bright lights on your front porch. Your neighbors will be jealous.

Romanesco

Get your fall garden seeds started now. Don’t miss the fall gardening season!

 

For a fall vegetable garden planting guide go to Galveston County Fall Vegetable Guide

 

Let’s Talk About July, 2018

By: Pat Cordray

Finally, we had a little rain in June. I think I heard my plants collectively breathe a sigh of relief.  I felt the same way.  It gave me a moment of heat relief, then the humidity hit.  July can bring its own gardening problems and joys. There are the usual summer time garden necessities like watering. Then there are the bugs, all kinds of bugs.  The most exciting part of July is that the blooms of so many summer perennials and annuals will be in high gear and what is prettier than that? So, let’s get busy.

 

July gardening includes watering, bugs and planting:

 

Incense Passion Vine

Again, this month watering has to be at the top of the to do list.  Before you water check the soil around the plant.  If it is newly planted, check the soil in the area closest to the plant (the roots will not be in the surrounding soil yet).  When checking the soil, you may notice that it is damp everywhere but closest to the plant.  That means the plant has used all of the water it can get to and it’s time to water.  In the summer months you may have to water these new plantings daily.  Water slowly all around your plant.  If you are unsure about how long it takes to water to keep the root ball moist, stop and check.  Dig into the soil and see how far down the soil is moist.  If you have only watered long enough to wet the top ½ inch, you’re not done, water a little longer.

 

Once the roots become more established you won’t have to water as often.  If you notice that the plant is wilted but the soil is damp, don’t water.  The plant is

Ruby Glow Passion Vine

conserving energy and will bounce right back when the sun goes down.  If it is still wilted in the morning go ahead and water.  The ideal time to water is in the early morning hours but if a plant needs water then by all means water it.

 

Spending time in your garden is the best way to stay on top of what your plants may need.  Whether it is water or help when pests attack.  If you are out there you will catch “it” before the plant dies or a pest has spread through your whole garden.  Summer, aka bug season, is a time of added stress for plants.  Some plants would prefer morning sun and afternoon shade, so our afternoon sun is a shocker.

 

I have written before about bad bugs like: mealy bugs, scales, spider mites, lace bugs, aphids, thrips, leaf miners, squash bugs, leaf rollers and whitefly, will the list ever end? I wanted to tell you about the good bugs.  The bugs that can make your gardening so much easier.  Some pollinate your plants and others help by eating, laying eggs in or on the bad bugs, mostly on their larvae.  Before you spray, consider that the spray will kill the good and the bad.  Instead of spraying why not plant for the good bugs so they can handle the problem bugs in your garden?  What kind of plants would attract these good bugs?  Consider planting parsley, dill, fennel, anise, lovage, chervil, sunflower, dandelion (this plant is definitely not the bad guy portrayed in ads for weed killers on TV), yarrow, tansy, marigold, zinnia, milk weed, lantana, passion vine or verbena.  These plants attract lady beetles(bugs), butterflies, bees, green lacewings, hover flies, milkweed assassin bugs, mealybug destroyers, moths and parasitic wasps.  Familiarize yourself with what the good bugs and their larvae look like, so you can distinguish the good from the bad.  This website is a good place to start to learn more about beneficials. Beneficials in the Garden, Galveston County Master Gardeners

 

For summer color, you know you want some, to replace fading spring color.  Try vinca, purslane, angelonia, zinnia, pentas, scaevola, salvia, Crossandra, coleus, Mexican heather, lantana, Portulaca, mandevilla, passion vines, firecracker fern, gomphrena, milkweed, melampodium, blue daze, and echinacea; all are just beautiful.

 

 

For shadier areas you can add torenia, coleus, mona lavender, ajuga, begonia, impatiens, jacobinia, shrimp plant, and Persian shield.  Color plants add beauty to your garden.

Feed these blooming plants to keep them healthy.  Use a granular food like Microlife 8-4-6 or use a liquid food like Microlife Maximum Blooms or Fox Farm Big Blooms, any of these fertilizers will do the trick.

 

Enjoy your garden,

Pat

Let’s Talk About June 2018

By: Pat Cordray

Okay, the heat has made itself known this month, along with its best friends Humidity and Mosquitoes. Walking outside the door in the morning can be quite a powerful slap in the face, Ouch! It feels like a large elephant is sitting on my chest trying to “assist” in my breathing. So, take it slow when gardening in the heat and please drink plenty of water. Protect yourself from the mosquitoes as best you can with clothing and bug sprays.  As daunting as all of this sounds, gardening can still be fun this month.

Denver Daisy Rudbeckia

June gardening includes watering, watching for bugs, planting, and fertilizing:

This is the month watering moves to the top of the list. It is the most important part of gardening. Too much or too little looks the same; dead. Don’t be afraid to use your fingers to check the soil around your plant for moisture. You can wash the soil off afterwards, it’s okay.  When you are new to gardening or you are trying a new plant, watch the plant to see how much water it uses in the area of your garden it is planted in.  The more sun, wind, and/or the higher the bed, the more water it may need.  but you will have to check. Use your finger and push down into the soil close to the plant. You might find that the top layer of soil is damp but an inch or two down is dry. Water slowly, think of a soft rain not a flash flood. You want the water to soak down to where the roots are, you don’t want the roots to come to the surface looking for water or the plant to die.

Sunfinity Sunflower

While you are out watering is a good time to keep an eye on your plants.  What are you looking for?  You are looking for damage on your plants and other signs of insects.  Ever see a white cottony insect on your hibiscus or other plants?  That is probably mealy bug.  An adult mealy bug is stationary, if you see one moving, that one is the mealy bug destroyer.  It is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  It looks like a mealy bug, but it moves around and eats them.  So, don’t kill that one.  Mealy bugs suck the juices from plants that causes the leaves to turn yellow and drop off.  They also produce a honeydew that then grows mold.  They are just all kinds of fun and they love, love, love hibiscus.  Usually, that is the only plant in my garden that gets mealy bugs, (I hate to say that out loud).  To control them, I try to use as little as possible of garden insecticides.  You can wipe mealy bugs off the stems of your plants, yuck.  But tat doesn’t take care of the ones that seem to have embedded themselves in every nook and cranny of the plant causing the leaves and flowers to be deformed, I cut these areas off and throw them in the trash.  If I do use a product, Neem oil or Triple Action help control mealy bugs.  Sometimes, I get rid of the plant and try something not so attractive to mealy bugs, just saying there are other ways to win the battle besides chemicals.

Pazzaz Purslane

Scales are another common garden bug. This bug is stationary as an adult.  Scales cling to the plant even after death. Scales can be on many plants and there are different types of scales, some are soft and some are armored.  The best time to spray is when the crawlers are active (early spring), this is the easiest stage of the scales life to control.  At this stage Neem oil or Triple Action will work.

Another bug I want to talk about is the mosquito. It isn’t a problem for plants, but this bug is a problem for gardeners. To control mosquitoes, get rid of any standing water around your home. Check saucers, trash can lids, gutters, standing water in the lawn, garden art, birdbaths, fountains and ponds; try not to breed them. There are safe products for use in birdbaths, fountains and ponds to keep mosquitoes under control around your home. We carry Mosquito Beater WSP , Mosquito Bits and Mosquito Dunks to help control mosquitoes.

If you haven’t changed out your spring color yet, there is still time to add some summer color. For sun, vinca (there are a couple of new varieties of vinca, check out the pictures), blue daze, salvias, scaevola, white wing, turnera pentas, cone flower, angelonia, gomphrena, rudbeckia, gazania, sunflowers and purslane work wonders in garden or container. Just give these sun lovers well-draining soil, water and fertilizer and you will get tons of blooms with just a little care.
Soiree Kawaii Vinca
Tattoo Vinca
Soiree Double Vinca
 For shade, you can pick torenia, Persian shield, mona lavender, cat whiskers, coleus, shrimp plant, caladiums, begonias, impatiens and ajuga. Any of these plants will add color and beauty to your shadier garden or containers. Again, use well-draining soil, water and fertilizer to keep these beauties healthy.
Cat Whiskers
Yellow Shrimp Plant
Golden Glow Ajuga
Fertilizing your plants is an important step to keeping your plants full of blooms and growing healthy. Don’t skip it. Microlife will feed the soil your plants grow in. The regular 6-2-4 bag is good for garden, lawn, shrubs and trees. It is easy to use, and there is no need to worry about getting it on yourself or your pets.

 

Enjoy your garden,
Pat

Growing Blueberries in the Houston Area

By: Deb Pavlosky

So, to answer your question, yes, you can grow blueberries in Houston and surrounding areas. They are relatively easy to grow and maintain with just a few simple requirements. First of all, blueberries need acidic soil (pH in the range of 4.2 to 5.5). The soil in our area is most often alkaline and can test as high as 8.0 on the pH scale.

So, how do you overcome this seemingly large obstacle? There’s an easy solution, plant your blueberries in containers. A nice 20-30 gallon size container works very well for both rabbiteye and southern highbush varieties of blueberries that grow best in our area. For reference, I have included some pictures of the ½ whiskey barrels I used, but any type of container will work. You can plant in the ground, but you will have to amend the soil with ground rock sulfur and peat moss and let it rest for a period of months before you can plant. Or, you can plant in a container today. Decision made, huh?

Ok, so once you have your containers (read on to find out why you are going to want to plant more than one blueberry variety) you need to locate them where they will get 8-10 hours of full sun daily. Less sun is ok, but you might not get as much fruit production if they get less sunlight.

Now, what kind of soil should you plant your blueberries in? Well, instead of using the word soil, I am going to call it a planting mix. A lot of folks online recommend using no soil at all (just a mixture of peat moss and mulch). So, if you are going to mix your own medium, you can (there are lots of recipes online). You just need to make sure the mix drains well and is acidic. Again, when it comes to choosing to plant today or having to wait to get the right mix, I am going to choose today. So, I prefer to use the Maas Nursery blueberry mix that is blended with compost, composted mulch, topsoil, washed sand, microlife, greensand, and sulfur. This mix is ready to go for your blueberry bushes. Just fill your container and plant your blueberry bushes at the same level they were planted in the pot you bought them in. Don’t add any synthetic fertilizers to newly planted blueberry shrubs, their roots are fibrous, shallow and sensitive. Microlife that is already in the Maas planting mix is fine. You shouldn’t need to fertilize until the plants are acclimated to their environment. Even then, go organic and use Microlife.

Once you have your containers filled with soil and in the right sunny location, it’s time to pick your blueberries for planting. It is always best to plant three or more different varieties of blueberries together (6′ apart). Some blueberries are touted as being self-fruitful, but nearly all will be more productive if they are able to cross-pollinate with other blueberry varieties.

The following is a list of Rabbiteye* blueberry varieties that we carry at Maas Nursery:

Variety Chill Hours** Harvest Time***
Becky Blue
300-400 hours May
Bountiful Blue
150-200 hours June to July
Brightwell 350-400 hours early June to early July
Jubilee 500 hours June
Climax 400-450 hours Late May to early June
Powder Blue
550-600 hours Late June to late July
Premier 550 hours Late May to early  June

 

* Rabbiteye varieties are named that because the berries turn pink before they turn blue (like a rabbits eye). These bushes can grow quite large, up to 10′ wide and 15′ tall when mature (7-8 years) if not pruned.

**Chill Hours are the number of hours required between 32-45 F

***Harvest Time varies by location and weather

The following is a list of Southern Highbush* blueberry varieties that we carry at Maas Nursery:

Variety Chill Hours** Harvest Time***
Abundance 300 hours June to July
Emerald 200-300 hours mid May
Gulf Coast 200-300 hours mid May
Jubilee 500 hours June
Misty 200 hours Late May to June
O’Neal 400-500 hours Late May to June
Sunshine 150 hours Late June to July

*Though called southern highbush, these varieties only reach 6′ tall at most when mature (some even shorter).

**Chill Hours are the number of hours required between 32-45 F

***Harvest Time varies by location and weather

There is a lot of information online about the pros and cons of so many different varieties of blueberries (flavor, size, when they ripen, etc), it is best that you do your own research to determine which ones will be best for your own situation. Any of the above will grow well and produce tasty blueberries in our area.

You can intermix varieties of blueberries between rabbiteye and southern highbush for your containers. If you don’t need a “bushel and a peck” of berries, it will be hard to limit your choices to just three varieties to grow. But, that’s the fun part, right?

Anyway, as with all new plantings – water regularly, but don’t allow standing water (the medium they are planted in must drain well). A good layer of mulch (you can use pine straw too if you would like) will definitely benefit these shrubs. After your plants are established you can further care for them by fertilizing with a good organic fertilizer, like Microlife, suggested times are late winter to early bud break and again after harvest, but you can’t go wrong with Microlife. Also, once your bushes are a few years old, rejuvenate them by pruning the oldest canes as they become unproductive.

Really, that’s it to grow good blueberries. It’s pretty easy. There are a few pest/disease issues that can pop up, but these varieties are pretty resistant. With good care (acid soil, regular watering, good drainage, 8-10 hours full sun, mulching, organic fertilizer and rejuvenation pruning once established,) you will be producing more blueberries than you can eat. Enjoy!

Let’s Talk About December 2016

By: Pat Cordray

It is amazing how fast we make it through each year.  Here we are ready to celebrate the season with family and friends and hopefully we have some time for gardening this month.  But before we get to that, you know what I must do first, so here it is.   Freeze warning; If there is a freeze warning for our area, water your plants thoroughly; this protects the roots.  If your tender plants are in the ground cover them with fabric made for protecting plants, like N-Sulate, tent the fabric to the ground and secure it with pegs.  If your plants are in containers, follow the same instructions if you can’t take them in.  If your tender plants are in hanging baskets, take them in or place them on the ground, water, and cover.  Remember that plants cannot create their own heat so tenting the fabric to the ground allows the warmth from the ground to protect them.  This will only give the plants a tad more warmth but it just might be enough to keep them alive during our winter.  Remove the fabric when the weather warms, possibly the next day.

mustard-greens
Mustard Greens With Nasturtiums

This month, you may think that with winter approaching there may not be much gardening to do.  But that is just not true in our area.  You can still plant vegetables, shrubs, and trees.  For your vegetables, plant cauliflower, broccoli, green onions, Brussels sprouts, leeks, greens, and turnips, if those are the ones you like to eat. Plant any trees or shrubs that are hardy to this area.  For trees and shrubs, this is important for all plants, keep in mind the mature size so you don’t plant something that is too big for the area.  Feed your trees and shrubs, hold off on your camellias and azaleas until after they finish blooming.  Don’t cut anything back this time of year, wait for warmer weather.   Trim back your azaleas and camellias after they bloom.  Isn’t it amazing to have so many gardening opportunities for the month of December.

For December, I’m still talking about bulbs, winter color, and camellias, my favorites!

Forcing ziva narcissus, amaryllis, and hyacinths is a great way to have fresh flowers in your home for beautiful color and fragrance indoors. This is a very simple project.  All you need is water or soil, bulbs, rocks/pebbles, and a pot without a drainage hole or a pot with a drainage hole.

forced-hyacinths-1
Margaret Cherry’s Forced Hyacinths in rock & water

First let’s plant our bulbs in with the rocks and water.  Use the pot without a drainage hole.  Place the rocks in your container, you want room for the water and roots.  Place the bulbs on the rocks, then add the water, don’t let the water touch the bulbs and don’t let the bulbs touch each other, think of children in the backseat of the car, no touching.  Keep the planted container in a cool dry place until you start seeing growth.  The hyacinths will take about 6 weeks to bloom, the ziva narcissus will bloom in 2-3 weeks, and the amaryllis will take from 3-8 weeks depending on the variety.  Forcing bulbs in water will take everything they have to bloom so once they are finished blooming you can toss the bulbs.

forced-amaryllis
Forced Amaryllis in Soil

Now, let’s plant our bulbs in soil.  This time use the container with the drainage hole.  Fill the container with soil and plant your bulbs in the soil.  Plant hyacinths with the bulb tips above soil surface, plant the amaryllis to the shoulder of the bulb, and the narcissus bulb up to the neck.  Don’t let the bulbs touch each other, then water.  Turn your container to keep the stems growing straight.   The amaryllis can be replanted outside once the weather warms.

margarets-tulips
Tulips planted in Margaret Cherry’s Garden

Finally, let’s get your bulbs in the ground. Plant hyacinths, Dutch iris, leucojum, narcissus, ranunculus, and lycoris now.  Mid-month you can start planting your tulips.  Before planting bulbs in your garden, find a spot that gets full sun this time of year and is a bit shadier in the summer. Under a deciduous tree would be ideal.  Planting in a raised bed is the next step in keeping bulbs healthy, bulbs may rot when soil holds water too long.  How deep should you plant your bulbs?  Usually, you plant the bulb with the tip at the depth of the width of the bulb. The exception to this rule is amaryllis, plant amaryllis with the neck above the soil line.  Tulips and hyacinths need to be refrigerated for 4-6 weeks before planting.  For beauty now, plant winter color in the beds with the bulbs, you will not only have an amazing landscape now, but in a few weeks, it will be breathtaking.

white-alyssum
Alyssum
pink-pansy
Pansy

Speaking of winter color, it just gets better and better.  Alyssum makes a sweet-scented mounding ground cover that is great for the outside edge of your landscape.  Alyssum comes in white, purple, and pink. Lobelia is another vibrant blooming ground cover. Lobelia comes in a vibrant dark blue, light blue, purple, and white. Lobelia looks great on the outside edge of your landscape.   Pansies are a beautiful cool weather blooming flower.  Pansies come in purple, blue, red, yellow, pink, orange, white, and mixes of these colors.  Some pansies have “faces” others are solid colors.  Pansies grow 6-8” tall and look good planted en masse.  Viola’s have smaller flowers than pansies but the impact is just great.  These beauties bloom their hearts out and can take more heat than pansies can.  They come in purple, blue, yellow, orange, red, pink, black, and mixes of these colors.  Viola’s grow to about 4-8″ tall.

viola
Viola
snapdragon-red
Snapdragons

Snapdragons are another great plant for the cooler months.  We carry the following snapdragons: Snapshot grows 6-10” tall, Montego grows 6-10” tall, Solstice grows to 16-20” tall, Sonnet grows 18-20” tall, and Rocket grows to 2.6’-3’ tall.  These annuals add height and vibrant to pastel color to your landscape.  Snapdragons come in yellow, white, purple, pink, orange, burgundy, and red.

For the most vibrant color of the winter, cyclamen, will fill the bill.  Cyclamen is a small plant that packs a huge color punch! Cyclamen grow in clumps to 8-10” tall.  They come in red, burgundy, violet, pink, white, salmon, rose, and mixes of these colors.  This plant also has lovely heart shaped leaves with grey markings.  Beautiful planted en masse or as a specimen.  Plant these winter beauties in full sun and feed them to keep them blooming until the heat returns.  These are just a few of the color plants available now to brighten up your garden or patio.

cyclamen
Cyclamen

Now, for camellias.  Last month I covered most of the how to plant, in a raised bed, when to plant, now, etc.  I wanted to add more pictures of the blooms to show the range of beauty that camellias have, enjoy!

 

camellia-pictures

Enjoy the winter garden!

Pat

Let’s Talk About November

By: Pat Cordray


 

Painted Lady Sweet peas at The Nursery
Painted Lady sweet peas at The Nursery

Okay, this is the first time that I have to say this, but I will repeat it each month until spring has sprung.  You ready? Here you go:  What to do if there is a freeze warning for our area?  Water your plants; this protects the roots, so water thoroughly, not just for 60 seconds.   Cover your plants tenting the fabric to the ground then secure it with pegs.  Once the weather warms up remove the fabric.  For hanging baskets, take them in or set them on the ground, water and cover them.  For plants in containers, take them in or water and cover.  These instructions are for plants that are tender to the cold.  This doesn’t freeze proof your tender plants but it will help add just a little warmth and that may be all that is needed to save a plant.  It is better to be prepared than scrambling around at the last minute trying to find your cold weather gardening supplies.  So, place your N-Sulate cloth and pegs where you can find them.  No worries if you don’t have any, we have all you need in stock at the nursery now.    You’re ready!

November can be a great gardening month here, especially for certain flowering plants; like bulbs, annuals, herbs, and camellias.  I love all this beautiful color, let’s get the planting started!

Tulips and paper whites at The Nursery
Tulips and paper whites at The Nursery
amaryllis-a
Aphrodite amaryllis in my garden

Bulbs are here and are ready to be planted.  For forcing inside your home, ziva narcissus, amaryllis, and hyacinths will look beautiful and give your home a festive look for the holiday season. The ziva’s will bloom in 3-4 weeks, the amaryllis bulbs take 3-8 weeks to bloom (depending on variety), and the hyacinths will bloom in 6-8 weeks. You can stagger your plantings to keep fresh flowers blooming in your home all season. When the amaryllis are finished blooming indoors you can replant them in your garden for blooms the following spring. Fun, fun, fun! But don’t stop there, we have many different amaryllis bulbs, tulips, ranunculus, daffodils, Dutch iris, leucojum, lycoris, and other varieties of narcissus besides ziva’s that are just as fun!

When to plant your bulbs?  Tulips can be planted from mid-December through mid-January, they must be refrigerated for 4-6 weeks at about 45 degrees before planting.  We keep our tulips and hyacinths in the fridge so they will be ready to plant at the right time.  Daffodils, Dutch iris, leucojum, narcissus, hyacinths, and ranunculus can be planted this month.  To learn more about bulbs, come to our Bulb Class on Saturday, November 19th.  This class will be hands on, we are going to layer the bulbs in a pot and top it with annuals.  You won’t want to miss this one.

Nasturtiums in my garden
Nasturtiums in my garden
Julep with Amazon dianthus in my garden
Julep with Amazon dianthus in my garden

How about beautiful color now? Cool weather plants like pansies, lobelia, alyssum, violas, stock, calendulas, snapdragons, English daisies, cyclamen, phlox, petunias, nasturtiums and dianthus can add wonderful fall and winter color to your containers and landscapes. Did I mention how beautiful dianthus looks with my dog, Julep? What do you think? Don’t forget to add sweet peas, foxglove, holly hocks, and delphinium for early spring color, to your garden, there is no time like the present. Full sun, well-draining soil, water, and Microlife are all that is needed to keep these cool weather plants blooming for months.

This would also be a good time to plant herbs in your garden; the cold weather makes for strong roots.  Oregano, salad brunet, winter savory, chamomile, dill, rosemary, and fennel are just a few of a long list of herbs to consider planting now.  Most herb plants need full sun and well-draining soil. Give your plants plenty of room in the garden, when you buy herbs in a 4” container you may think, “Oh, good a small plant”, but no, no, no, herbs are bigger than you think. Herbs will add a whole new dimension to your garden with fragrant leaves that attract beneficial insects and many can be used to enhance the flavor of your meals. Fertilizer is only needed a couple of times of year. Oh, so easy and very fragrant.

Bonanza Camellia at The Nursery
Bonanza Camellia at The Nursery

Camellias have some of the most amazing blooms of any shrub.  Can you believe that the blooms are prettier than the pictures? They are, wow!  Camellias are slow growing evergreen shrubs that bloom from about October through March depending on the variety.  Sasanqua camellias bloom in the fall and have small leaves and flowers, usually the flower forms are single, double or semidouble. Sasanqua camellias grow to about 10-12 feet tall for upright varieties and 2-5 feet tall for spreading varieties. Japonica camellias have larger

Nuccio's Gem Camellia in my garden
Nuccio’s Gem Camellia in my garden

leaves and usually have bigger blooms. The forms of the Japonica Camellia blooms are usually single, semidouble, anemone, peony, rose, or formal double. Japonica camellias start off as shrubs, growing to about 6-12 feet tall and wide, but can slowly become a tree reaching 20 feet tall.

Camellias are easy to grow here and are just too beautiful to not be included in your garden.  For the healthiest plants, with the most blooms, give your camellias good organic soil that drains well, regular water, and a fertilizer for acid loving plants.  Protect them from our afternoon sun and strong winds and prune them at the right time, just after they finish blooming. Your camellias will be simply beautiful.

November is so alive with vibrant color to enjoy,

Pat

 

Keeping Gift Plants Alive

By: Deb Pavlosky

 

Are you sentimental, but terrible at keeping gift plants alive?  If your answer is yes, this article series is for you.

Part One

Celebrations at the beginning, end and milestones of life, often beget similar gifts.  Houseplants given in honor or memory of loved one(s) can be very thoughtful and can provide lasting memories from the occasion.  Unfortunately, these plants are usually given without care instructions or even identification information.  How disappointing is it to lose a memorial plant that you try so hard to keep alive?  VERY.  So, over the next few newsletters, I am going to cover some of the most common plants given in remembrance, memorial or celebration and how to care for them.

The first thing you need to know is that gift plants that come from florist shops are grown in very protected environments.  These plants need a little more initial pampering than the same varieties that you might purchase at Maas Nursery or any garden center.  Think of them as delicate babies that need to be gradually introduced to what would normally be their optimal growing conditions. If plants can take full sun, gradually move them to increasing amounts of sun for longer periods of time until they adjust.   If plants can be grown outdoors, it’s probably best to move them outdoors when temperatures are not at extremes.  Plants can be sensitive to moisture, humidity and container type as well as temperature and light.  Therefore, use the information provided as a guide for optimum, long-term care, but don’t necessarily subject plants to conditions that are new to them right away.  Allow them to adjust gradually.  Confusing?  No worries, I will hit the highlights of common pitfalls with specific varieties of gift plants too.

Many times gift plants make great houseplants.  This usually means they can tolerate indirect light and some can even thrive in very low light.  This also usually means that they don’t require a lot of care, watering or thought.  However, this isn’t always the case.  Follow along to find out more…

Aspidistra Cast Iron Plant
Aspidistra Cast Iron Plant

Aspidistra elatior, also known as the Cast Iron plant, is an excellent houseplant, but it can also be grown in the shade outdoors (hardy to temps as low as 23F).  Aspidistra are in the lily family.  These plants like very low light. Their leaves will bleach if they are getting too much sun.  Inside, these plants can be grown feet away from a North-facing window.  So, if you have a window with even minimal light coming in, you can grow an Aspidistra inside.  These plants are very slow-growing and long-lived; people have reported having them from previous generations and over 100 years.  Cast Iron plants don’t like their roots to be disturbed and repotting is not needed very frequently.  Drainage is important because this plant needs to dry out between watering.  So, be sure to check the pot to be sure water drains well, if not, you will have to repot right away.  When you repot, it’s the perfect time to divide clumps and share with friends.  Who knows, maybe a distant generation will talk about the Cast Iron plant they got from the great, great, great grandparent who lived in the Houston area.  Knowing all of this, you can relax when growing this plant – There is a reason they are known as cast iron plants, they can withstand very infrequent watering and neglect.  Flowers are rare for Aspidistra that are kept indoors, but if they do flower, the bud appears at the soil line.

Cast Iron plants are often confused with Peace lilies, another common gift plant.  But these two are actually really easy to distinguish.  Cast Iron plants have leaf veining that runs parallel on the leaf and the midrib is not clearly defined.  Peace lily leaves have a defined, thickened midrib and veining that runs at angle toward the midrib.    To put it a little more simply – Peace Lily leaves are clearly lined with veins that run toward the thicker middle part of the leaf.  Cast Iron plant leaves don’t have clearly defined veins or a thickened midrib.  Also, Peace lilies bloom frequently in the spring and on a tall stalk, Cast Iron plants bloom infrequently if at all and blooms appear at the soil line.

Spathiphyllum
Spathiphyllum Peace Lily

Spathiphyllum spp., or Peace Lillie, are actually not in the lily family at all.  Peace lilies bloom with a spathe that is usually white and at the end of a tall stalk.  Peace lilies like low light to indirect bright light and evenly moist soil.  Care is similar to Cast Iron plants except that they are sensitive to drafts, can’t be grown outdoors in the winter (they are tropical, preferring temps from 60F to 85F) and they need moist, but not wet soil.  As a bonus, Peace Lilies will let you know when they are thirsty – their leaves will droop.  Once you water, the leaves will recover quickly.   How nice is that?

For both Peace Lilies and Cast Iron plants, fertilize with a slow release organic fertilizer in the warmer months.  Cast Iron plants like acidic soil, so you can add a little acidic fertilizer once a year in the spring.  But if you forget to do that, no worries, it’s a Cast Iron plant!

That’s about it for these two common gift plants.  Relax and enjoy.  Read next month for more gift plant help.

Let’s Talk About October

By: Pat Cordray

October, the month that we pay for all summer with the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes, is here.  Sometimes we get a week or two of incredible weather and then right back to summer.  But, I’ll happily take any relief from our summer weather that I can get.

The gardening in October is at the top of the list, we are free of the oppression of the heat and humidity, what a joy.  This is a busy gardening month; from planting bulbs, to planting beautiful bedding plants and seeds, to planting trees.  Now that is a list!

Bulbs, bulbs, bulbs are some of the easiest plants to grow in the garden.  How is that?  When planted in a raised bed or container that has drainage, full sun (part sun in summer, under a deciduous tree would be perfect), and water, it is going to bloom.  The bulb spent the last year getting everything it needs to bloom this year.  So plant them and they will bloom in amazing colors.  Toward the end of this month and through November plant Dutch Iris, ranunculus, calla lilies, Leucojum, Lycoris, and daffodils.  Tulips and hyacinths will need to be refrigerated 4-6 weeks before planting.  Hyacinths need to be planted from mid-November through early December.  Tulips will need to be planted mid-December through early January.  Plan ahead if you want to grow tulips and hyacinths, it is a good thing that we store these bulbs in the fridge so they will be ready for you to plant.  Keep tulips and hyacinths at about 45 degrees and make sure you open the fridge a couple times a day.

And now for more bulb news, are you ready?  Okay, then here you go.  Amaryllis bulbs will be here in October, our first shipment will arrive about mid-month and the second shipment should happen about a week after that.   Amaryllis bulbs are so beautiful and can be grown in your home and/or out in the garden.   I usually force my amaryllis bulbs indoors and move them to the garden when the blooms are spent.  They are perennial here, so think of this, gorgeous blooms year after year with very little help from you, what could be better than that for the garden?

To force amaryllis inside you don’t even have to use soil, but you can.  Fill container with soil and add bulbs.  The bulbs should be planted to the “shoulder” of the bulb and shouldn’t touch each other.  Once the stem starts to grow, turn the pot daily so the stem grows straight. The blooms are heavy; they may need to be staked.  When the blooms are spent, cut them off leaving the leaves intact.  Plant the bulbs in a raised bed in the garden.  The soil level should be to the “neck” of the bulb.  Start bulbs every 2 weeks for fresh flowers in your home all season.

What about for your outside containers and your garden?  Plant bulbs and add fall and winter color plants on top, for instant color now, then the bulbs will grow through the bedding plants for even more color later.  What color plants to grow this time of year?  You can grow dianthus, sweet alyssum, ornamental kale & cabbage, snow princess lobularia, lobelia, calendulas, snapdragons, marigolds, nasturtiums, calibrichoa, forget-me-knots, celosia, petunias, stock, verbena, diascia, phlox, violas, sweet peas and hollyhocks. Leave room for pansies and cyclamen, they like it a little cooler outside.

Do you want to grow from seed?  October is the time to get those seeds in the ground for the early spring color.  Before you plant your seeds, check the package to see if there are any special instructions for the seeds you picked.  Examine the seeds to make sure they are not broken.  Broken seeds will not germinate.  I usually soak all of my seeds overnight in tepid water to help the germination process along.  I plant mine in raised beds or containers with organic soil topped with worm castings.  The worm castings will give the young plants the boost they need without burning.  Gently water your new seed plantings to keep them moist, too much pressure will wash your seeds from where you planted them.  Seeds are great way to add loads of color and variety to your garden.

October is a great tree planting month!  Pick the tree that will best fit your needs and yard when it is full- grown. You wouldn’t want to plant 2 live oaks in a small yard. For a small yard consider crape myrtles, Mexican olives, Mexican plums, redbuds or even shantung maples. There is also the Slender Silhouette Sweetgum.  This sweetgum is a columnar tree growing up to 50 feet tall but only 4 feet wide.  This is a great sweetgum for fall color and no need to worry about the seed balls, the Slender Silhouette doesn’t produce very many and because of the shape of the tree they fall in a smaller area.   We have many trees to pick from, here at The Nursery. Fruit trees, flowering trees, shade trees and even specialty trees like Japanese maples. Most trees do not like standing water so don’t plant them where water stands after a rain. Get your tree in the ground and remember to not plant deep. We have a complete planting guide to help you with the planting. The number one thing is to water. Water a newly planted tree where the roots are, around the base of the trunk; it can take a couple of years for the roots to become established.

We can have so much fun playing in the dirt this month, yay!

Pat