October in East Texas brings welcome relief from late summer heat and heralds our second cooler growing season. For the gardener, October is the best time to plan and plant for spring and to prepare gardens for the upcoming winter temperatures.
Most plants start to put their resources toward new root growth before they go into dormancy in winter. Two seasons of mild temperatures in the fall and upcoming spring provide a head start for contending with East Texas summer temperatures. Planting now allows the plant to develop a stronger root system, which help protect against disease, temperature extremes and drought stresses.
Here are some tips and activities to do this month.
- By getting major planting done in the fall, chores normally done in the spring are simplified and focused on pruning, weeding and planting a few annuals to refresh containers and flower beds in spring.
- Visit local nurseries and stock up at fall plant sales to add cool season vegetables, perennials, and annuals.
- Set out annuals such as violas, mums, pansies, dianthus, snapdragons, stock, ornamental cabbages and kale.
- Attend area plant and bulb sales and plant time-tested spring blooming bulbs.
- Direct sow poppies, larkspurs, sweet peas and native wildflowers including bluebonnets.
- Start cilantro, mustard and turnips, carrots, radishes, lettuces, arugula, and parsley from seed.
- Plant transplants of cool season vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, collards, lettuce, spinach, and Swiss chard.
- Establish perennial herbs. Transplants of oregano, rosemary, thyme, chives and Mexican mint marigold can be planted now.
- Now is also the best season to dig up, divide and relocate plants as they experience less transplant shock.
Start to prepare for the winter season:
- Submit a soil test if not done in last 3-5 years to determine if your soil requires amendments. Soil test submission instructions can be found on the Texas A&M Soil Lab website: soiltesting.tamu.edu, or picked up at the Agrilife Extension office, 1517 W. Front St, Suite 116, Tyler, TX.
- Prepare beds for fall and winter by adding organic compost and slow release fertilizer.
- Water only as needed to keep up with active growth.
- Refrain from pruning shrubs and trees to the removal of damaged or dead branches to allow plants to adjust to cooling temperatures.
- Stay alert to pests by monitoring newly planted annuals.
Remember that fall is for planting. October is an ideal time to plant trees, shrubs, woody vines, perennials, bulbs and to seed herbs and wildflowers. Planning, planting and preparing now will result in more well adapted plants next spring.
— The Smith County Master Gardener program is a volunteer organization in connection with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.