Gardening with Laurie: Add heat-tolerant, cool-season annuals to your landscape
By Laurie Garretson
Oct. 18, 2012 at 5:18 a.m.
Ever so slowly, but surely, cooler fall-like weather is coming. The days continue to get shorter and the temperatures are getting cooler. For us gardeners, this means a kind of "changing of the guards" time. In other words, it's almost time to do away with many of the heat-loving annual plants and put in cool-weather plants.
Cool-weather annuals are plants that are going to provide your landscape with the most color from now until the temperatures warm up again in the spring. Although some of the warm-season annuals could still look nice, you might have some bare spots that could use some new color. Since October is still a transitional time of the year when we can still have muggy, hot days, it might be too soon to plant some of the true cool-season annuals.
There are many heat-tolerant, cool-season annuals that can be planted now. You can select from beautiful snapdragons, dianthus, lobelia, calendulas, alyssum, phlox, violas and many others. These cool-weather annuals are better able to handle muggy hot days and still do well in the cooler months to come.
Pansies are one of the most popular of the cool season annuals. These true sun-loving beauties will do well in any sunny spot as long as the daytime temperatures stay in the low 80s or below. This means it is still too soon to plant them in our part of the world. Warm, muggy days will usually cause pansies to rot. Once a pansy rots, your only option is to pull the rotten ones up and plant new ones. Every year at this time, I have many gardeners ask me why their pansies are dying. There's always one simple answer: it's too soon for pansies. To be safe, wait until the end of the month, or better yet wait until the second or third week of November to put out pansies.
Before planting any of the cool-season annuals, prepare the planting areas by working in lots of compost and organic fertilizer. There is still time to direct seed any of the cool-season annuals. Seeding is much cheaper than transplants, but most gardeners like the instant beauty transplants provide. Why not do both? Plant some of your annuals by transplants and leave room to also put out some seeds.
Newly planted annual beds will need watering as the soil dries out. Keep the beds well mulched to help hold in moisture, deter weed growth and to keep the soil warm during any really cold nights. Fertilize annuals once a month or more to have blooming plants all fall and winter.
Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.
Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.