Autumn in the garden – can’t you just feel the air changing?  Being out of doors is bearable again, and it’s high time to do those chores you put off because it was just too darned hot for too darned long. 

Flower beds and potted plants have probably passed their peak with any annuals you have placed in them, so freshen them up with something new. 

Late summer here in Chambers County allows you a choice; you can go with the autumn traditionals like mums, or you can coax some salvia and petunias to brighten the beds.  And have you ever considered planting some colorful vegetables among your pretties?  Swiss chard is a great example; it not only takes the heat of summer, but survives quite well through the winter, and the color choices available these days are stunning.  Other greens may not be as glamorous, but they can fill a bare spot in your flower bed for the winter, and they make great eating as well.

 Autumn is bulb season.  The bulbs, corms, tubers, and rhizomes that make up these blooming beauties are all out for sale right now, both in the big box stores and at a host of “bulb sales” in the greater Houston area.  While now is the best time to get the best selections, make sure you plant them at the best time for each type of bulb.  Tulips, for example, need to be chilled for several weeks here, wrapped in paper towels and in a paper bag in the vegetable drawer of the fridge.  Plant them from Christmas to New Year’s Day.  And plant your bulbs in groups so they will show to the best advantage at their bloom times.

 If you have a traditional vegetable bed, you know you are in peak fall planting season right now; fall is a much better season for veg gardening around here than spring.  Transplants of broccoli and cabbage and the like (the brassicas) are widely available, and English and snap peas can go in now and in the months ahead.  Radishes, carrots, onions, turnips, and beets are ready to shine now that the heat has dissipated, and all those greens we mentioned above are just waiting to be scattered in the soil.  Keep the water coming, of course; those seeds will return tenfold if you just keep their growing conditions happy, and it is still quite dry around here.

 

Shrubs that bloom in the spring should be spared at this time, since they are setting their flower buds, but those with spent summer bloom can be trimmed and clipped. Red-tipped photinias could use a light prune early in September, to get some red on the new growth for the winter.  Don’t fertilize your bushes now; they need to slow down for the cool temps.  And now is the start of the perfect season to buy new shrubs and trees for planting.  They will thrive over the winter by building their root structures, and be ready to tackle our Texas summers in a few months.

 

Lawn junkies should be on the lookout for the cool-season weeds, which start to show up in this pleasant weather. (It’s always a trade-off, isn’t it?)  Mowing will continue to help control weed seed production, so don’t give up on this task – besides, it’s much more pleasant to mow this time of year!  If you feel you must use a pre-emergent weed control, get it in now.  Don’t wait for October, and read the instructions!

 

And just because it’s cooler doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep an eye out for potential issues in the yard and garden.  Poison ivy looks gorgeous in the fall with its colorful leaves and berries, but a timely spraying program can keep this bad boy out of the way, so something equally pretty, like Virginia creeper, can take its place with less painful effects.  And those pretty butterflies and moths are laying eggs; those eggs turn into those weird worms on your plants!  So, make your choices (butterflies/bugs, or gorgeous plants/veg?) and proceed accordingly.  Autumn in Chambers County is the best time of year, so get out and enjoy the yard.  And if you do need help, call the Chambers County Agri-Life Extension Office for assistance.