Phyllis Webster earned a degree in journalism before embarking on a long career in public relations and marketing. A Granbury resident since 1998, she has been deeply involved in the community. She is an award-winning writer and photographer, as well as a Master Gardener. She has authored Garden Patch since 2001.
In late November, thoughts turn to holiday feasts and shopping lists. But before you feast on that stuffed turkey, it’s best to complete your fall gardening chores, especially those that are time sensitive, such as planting bulbs and preparing beds for freezing weather.
Finish planting cool season annuals, such as pansies, in containers or in the ground. Add a layer of mulch atop roots and water deeply prior to hard freezes. As needed until spring, pluck away any winter-damaged blooms. Also, finish planting cool-season vegetable transplants and remember to stock up on floating row covers to protect vegetable and herb gardens. Make a list of other tender plants and plan to protect them in freezing weather.
Continue planting trees and shrubs. Water them well to promote root growth, which continues all winter. Also, finish planting spring-blooming bulbs, such as daffodils. Trim away spent or winter-damaged annual and perennial foliage and flowers. Leave some seed heads as food for birds. Finish digging and dividing spring blooming perennials, such as iris.
Take advantage of fallen leaves. Add leaves and trimmings to a compost pile, but do not include any diseased plant material. Also, run a mower over any fallen leaves on the lawn. The leaf debris, similar to grass clippings, acts as free fertilizer.
Although tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) may continue to bloom, it’s time to practice tough love. Cut the plants back to about six inches tall. Unlike the native milkweed, tropical milkweed can harm monarch butterflies if it proliferates in gardens during winter. Why? First, it can disrupt the monarch’s migration. Butterflies will linger in Texas gardens long after they should migrate to Mexico.
Also, monarchs will continue breeding, resulting in winter larvae that are more likely to be infected with the debilitating parasite Ophryocystis Elektroscirrha (OE). OE spreads by spores. Infected milkweed plants pass the parasite to butterflies. Newly hatched butterflies then migrate to overwintering sites, spreading the deadly disease to entire populations. In mild winters, topical milkweed may re-grow so continually cut back the plants.
Native milkweed, which dies back on its own, is the ideal plant for attracting and supporting monarch butterflies. For example, the native antelope milkweed is a preferred plant for use in Hood and surrounding counties. Although hard to find in nurseries, native milkweeds are available through the Lady Bird Wildflower Center in Austin.
For answers to your horticulture questions, please call the Texas AgriLife Extension, Hood County at 817-579-3280 or go online to visit lakegranburymastergardeners.org.
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