Monday, November 9, 2009

What to do in November

Living and gardening in the Hill Country of South Texas affords us the luxury of being able to garden practically year round.  However, that doesn't mean one can plant anything at anytime.  One of the advantages to growing cool-season vegetables in the fall is the quality...they just taste better (imho :-).  The vegetables mature as the days get shorter and cooler and this alone, creates better taste. 

Here are some cool season crops that can be planted now: 
  • beets
  • broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • cauliflower
  • collard greens
  • green beans (best to use fast maturing bush beans)
  • kale
  • mustard greens
  • lettuce (leaf, butterhead, romaine)
  • radishes
  • spinach
  • sugar snap peas
  • swiss chard
Additionally, insects are less of a problem in the fall.  Although that doesn't mean pests don't exist.  Keep an eye out for cabbage loopers (a real nuisance for me) eating your broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and lettuce.  I try to pick the little buggers off my plants as I see them; but if that's not possible, I use the least toxic, effective insecticide; generally an organic pesticide, such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), neem oil or spinosad. 

But perhaps the best thing about gardening in the fall and into winter is "it's not so hot"!

Now is also the time to mulch flower and shrub plantings and vegetable gardens.  Mulching now will trap soil warmth and moisture that will benefit plant roots.  Mulching also reduces winter weeds.  I use cedar bark mulch; mostly because that's what I have!  We cleared a bunch of cedar on our property a few years ago and had the trimmings mulched.  I have *mounds* of this stuff and it's great. 

Another thing I use the mulch for is putting my beds to rest (the ones I'm not using) for the winter.  I thoroughly clean out the bed, remove all the weeds and put a thick layer of this mulch over the entire bed.  This not only reduces the weed growth over the winter but it also adds organic matter to the soil as it decomposes over the winter.  When spring comes, I rake off most of the large pieces of cedar bark mulch and just till the rest of it into the soil with additional compost.  It really helps improve the health and texture of the soil.  The importatnt thing is to mulch.  I have a friend who uses alfalfa hay and that works for her and her garden. 

Now is also a great time to enjoy the fall blooming perennials that we Texans are blessed to be able to enjoy through the fall and winter season:  chrysanthemum, firespike, Mexican bush sage, snapdragons, and Mexican mint marigold. 

We cannot forget the birds and butterflies.  Most of our bird population does not migrate so it's important to keep the feeders full and plenty of fresh water in the bird baths.  I know my feeders are abuzz with cardinals, chickadees, tufted titmice, lesser and American goldfinches (these little guys *love* the wild sunflower seed heads), house finches, pine siskins, cassin's finches and sparrows.  Unfortunately, my camera isn't powerful enough to get photos of these beauties...and it is *very* difficult to sneak up on them!

The butterflies are everywhere!  They love the lantana, purple coneflower, cosmos, salvias, verbena and the wild cowpenn daisies.  These guys were all over the place this past weekend. 

And finally, what to do with all the tree leaves that are falling right now?  Shred them, mow them, mulch them, compost them, rake them but please don't bag them up and send them to the landfill. 

Here is a shot of a little piece of heaven in the Texas Hill Country

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