Hi, Victoria. Happy fall.

We officially entered fall on Thursday. In our part of Texas, we can look forward to cooler temperatures, shorter days, and pleasant evenings. What is not to like?

My favorite part of fall is it is the perfect time for planning and planting for spring.

Did you know that plant roots will continue to grow until the temperature drops to 40 degrees? Thus, fall is the ideal time to plant trees, shrubs, bulbs and wildflowers. By planting now, in the spring your plants’ root systems will be well established.

Fall is a good season for transplanting. I plan to transplant my peach trees this season. Cooler temperatures of fall and the fact that we get more rainfall during this season are factors contributing to success in spring gardens and landscape.

For vegetable gardeners, your hot season vegetables, tomatoes, peppers and zucchini will taste better because of the cooler temperatures. Now is the time to plant cool season vegetables. Some of my harvest will include:

  • Broccoli
  • Bush beans
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Sugar peas

While I mainly grow vegetables and herbs, I do have flowers for the local pollinators. Do plant your wildflowers soon to get some wonderful native flora next spring.

According to Doug Welsh in Texas Garden Almanac, the best time to plant wildflowers is late August and September. I have planted wildflowers as late as early November and had them bloom the next spring.

For best success get a seed mix that has 15-20 species of wildflowers. It is important that the seeds are from this year’s crop.

Some native plants that grow well in this area are:

  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Bluebonnet
  • Evening primrose
  • Indian paintbrush
  • Maximilian sunflower
  • Mexican hat
  • Plain coreopsis
  • Spotted bee balm
  • Wine cup

You can start selecting the spring flowering bulbs for your garden. You can purchase bulbs now, but do wait to plant them when the soil gets cooler. Welsh recommends planting bulbs in November and December.

Treat these flowers as annuals because odds are they will not come back year after year because of our hot summers. Some types of bulbs for this area are:

  • Daffodils
  • Hyacinth
  • Jonquils
  • Narcissus
  • Tulips

Some bulbs will require special handling to get them to bloom, so research before you purchase your bulbs. I’m getting daffodils because they don’t require special handling and they have the greatest chance of having repeat blooms.

Now that I’ve talked about the fun parts of fall, here are some precautions. During the fall season the temperatures drop and with it come dry winds. Both of which can damage your garden. A few ways to protect your plants include:

  • Mulch your garden. Mulch will insulate your plants by trapping heat in the soil. It also preserves soil moisture so you don’t have to water as much.
  • Move your container plants into your house, garage, or shed. This effort will protect them from the wind and freezing temperatures.
  • For your in-ground plants water before a freeze. The moist soil acts as an insulator and will therefore, protect the roots better than dry soil.
  • Cover plants that are more likely to freeze, especially tropical plants like hibiscus, bougainvillea and mandevilla. I keep all my plants that are likely to freeze in containers to make it easier to move them. I have also made sure there is room in my house and shed for them this winter.
  • Uncover your plants after the temperature is above freezing. That’ll make the plant resume its normal functions.

Good luck planting everyone.

Sources: Welsh, Douglas F. Doug Welsh’s Texas Garden Almanac. Texas A&M University Press, 2011. p. 338-340, p. 357-359, p.364-365, p.369-370, p. 402

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The Gardeners’ Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.