October 2006
Victoria County Master Gardener Association
Ground rules and tools for October

ANNUAL GARDEN TOUR

October 05, 2006
BY MONICA PILAT - VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER INTERN EDITED BY CHARLA BORCHERS LEON


Now that we've made it through the hottest days of the year, it seems like everyone has gardening fever again. And this month there is ample opportunity to take advantage of the newly arrived fall season.
There will be educational gardening opportunities at the upcoming South Texas Farm and Ranch Show the last week of October, immediately followed by the Annual Garden Tour and plant sales on that last weekend.

First tip of the month: Come learn from the master gardeners at these events. Reserve these dates on your calendar now.

OCT. 25-26: SOUTH TEXASFARM AND RANCH SHOW

You may remember in past years a garden expo coordinated by master gardeners with judged entries in numerous categories. While that portion of the program will not take place this year, the master gardeners will provide various opportunities for your personal gardening knowledge.

Held at the Victoria Community Center, nine classes will be presented by master gardeners with topics on the master gardener program itself, raised-bed gardening, turfgrass varieties and management, composting, the best crape myrtle varieties and vegetable gardening.

I will personally make a presentation on xeriscape and EarthKind gardening. And there is no charge to attend. For a complete schedule, call the County Extension office at 361-575-4581.

OCT. 28-29: ANNUAL GARDEN TOUR

The weekend after the Farm and Ranch Show brings the first fall garden tour to Victoria, with five local gardens on tour. The ever-popular master gardener plant sale will take place, in addition to a highlighted plant sale in conjunction with the tour, as well as two exciting workshops for additional fees with culinary demonstrations and holiday decorations from the garden.

Tickets are available in outlets starting this week at Earthworks Nursery, Four Seasons Garden Center and Renken's Nursery Inc.
Each garden is located in Old Victoria and offers numerous ideas for transitional gardening between the hot, dry summer months and cooler season gardening.

THIS YEAR'S COOL SEASON GARDEN

With a little bit of tender loving care, this year's cool season garden can be just as beautiful and bountiful as any spring or summer garden. These tried and true suggestions will get you off to a good start.

* After mid-month, you can begin setting out your annual transplants for the upcoming cooler season. Some of the most popular cool season annuals include pansies, snapdragons, dianthus and flowering kale and cabbage.

Of course, these are not your only options; check with your local nursery to see what else may be available for fall color.

* Beets, Swiss chard, collards, parsley can be direct seeded into the fall garden by about mid-month. Carrots, leaf lettuce, mustard, radish and spinach can wait until about mid-November for direct seeding.

* Your Christmas cactus might need a little help putting on flower buds. Placing it in complete darkness from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. starting now and for the next 30 days will encourage bud formation. They like to be kept in a sunny location with night temperatures below 65 degrees after that.

* Remove all of last season's annuals and cut back perennials when they finish flowering or show signs of frost damage. Remove any leaf debris from underneath shrubs that might be harboring diseases.

COMPOSTING

Fall cleanup is the best time to get a good compost pile going. Ideally, the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (old brown leaves to green leaves) for composting should be 4:1, or 80 percent brown stuff to 20 percent green stuff. Mix them together in the compost and you will have great compost in a matter of weeks. For best results, the height and width of a pile should not exceed 5 to 6 feet.

You can make a quick compost bin by taking a few discarded wooden pallets and constructing a boxed enclosure that is open on top and has a door for easy access. For decomposition to occur there must be adequate air and moisture in the pile. The compost pile's moisture level should be similar to that of a rung out sponge.

Layering the pile with brown, green and then sprinkling with water is a good rule when adding new materials, and make sure to monitor moisture levels later, adding water when needed. Turn your pile frequently to provide adequate aeration of the pile, which allows for quicker decomposition. Maintaining an inside temperature of about 113-158 degrees Fahrenheit is needed for decomposition. If you begin to have odor problems with a pile, this means there is too much nitrogen in the pile, so add some more "brown stuff."

When done right, a compost pile can be ready for the garden in as little as 8 weeks!

PREPARE FOR NEXT YEAR

Finally, there are various practices you can do in the fall to prepare your garden for next year.

* Divide Plants. October is the best month to divide plants such as daylilies, ferns, ornamental grasses, monkey grass, liriope and bulbine, just to name a few. This gives them room to grow next season and can also help their bloom potential.

* Set out perennials, trees and shrubs. Although most people think that early spring is the best time for planting, setting out new perennials, trees and shrubs this time of year gives them plenty of time for good root establishment. This way the plants can spend their energy on growth and flowering in the spring.

* Purchase and plant bulbs. October through November can also be a good time to plant bulbs for the spring. As a general rule, the base of the bulb should be planted at a depth three times the diameter of the bulb. Plant a little shallower in clay soils, slightly deeper in sandy soils.

Got the gardening fever yet? Look for a lot more information on the Annual Garden Tour in next week's publication that is sure to raise it.

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas Cooperative Extension-Victoria County.

Annual Garden Tour Info

WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 28-29

TICKET OUTLETS: Earthworks Nursery, Four Seasons Garden Center, Renken's Nursery Inc. Tickets available at these locations starting this week.

TICKET PRICES: Advance sales: $15 for five gardens; Starting Oct. 23: $18 for five gardens; Tour days: $5 per garden

WORKSHOPS, SATURDAY, OCT. 28

* An Autumn Array of Cuisine and Décor: Culinary Demonstrations from the Garden, presented by Ric Tinney/Panache of Goliad, 3-4 p.m.

* Holiday Designs from the Garden, presented by Stanley Schweke/The Foliage Shoppe of Victoria, 4-5 p.m.

TICKETS: $10 per workshop; advance purchase required; available at ticket outlets starting this week