Our resident flower expert Eric is back with more tips to make your flowerbed look amazing all winter long.
Here in North Texas, fall is in full swing. Nights are getting longer. Leaves on trees are starting to change colors and fall. Gulf Muhly grass is putting on a show of pink blooms. We will get a few days of perfect weather and a bunch of days when summer comes to visit, and then winter temps come in and spoils all the fun. Regardless of the weather, we should be doing many things in our yard to make our fall and winter outdoors an enjoyable experience.
My first tip is to do a color change out. Our summer annuals have had their time in the sun, and it is now time to get them out of our beds and replace them with fall/winter annuals. Mums are a popular flower to plant in the fall, and while I think they can put on a beautiful fall splash of color, they will not survive our winter temps.
I'm a little lazy about annuals, so I skip directly to annuals that will survive over winter and provide color through the end of spring. First and foremost, the strongest choice for our annuals in the fall and winter are pansies and violas. These flowers put on a fantastic show of color, and they can survive very cold temperatures making them a fantastic choice for our winters. Pansies and violas require regular fertilization to keep them blooming and strong. Other great winter color and accent plant options are Dianthus, Kale, and cabbages.
When a hard freeze is forecasted, water the flower bed in really well, ensuring that they do not freeze, dry, and die. Some people cover their beds with landscape cloth for extra protection, which can add extra protection. However, I find as long as they are watered in, they survive without the cloth, so I don't cover mine.
Pansies are susceptible to a few pests. First is root and crown rot (phytophthora). Aphids can also be a real problem. If you see them starting to decline, start with those two pests. You can find lots of info on each of these on the internet to see the symptoms and best treatments that will fit into your gardening method.
The second tip is for turf. Fall is a great time for putting out a pre-emergent herbicide for winter weeds. It's also a good time to aerate the soil. Aerating allows air, water, and fertilizer to reach the turf roots by punching holes through the soil to reduce compaction. You can overseed with winter ryegrass at this time. Only do this if you like to mow, water, and fertilize your yard in the winter months.
I prefer to give my mower a vacation for the winter months.
I do, however, bring the mower out once to mow the leaves that fall from my trees. Mulching the leaves saves me the back-breaking work of raking and bagging leaves while providing nutrients for my soil for free. It's a win-win.
If you really want to rake and bag those leaves, use paper bags that are beneficial to the landfill. Or, get a brown lawn cart from the city and you can bypass all bags! This way they will get made into Dyno Dirt compost instead of taking up space in our landfill.
The third tip is for perennials.
Some of our perennials die back after there is a hard freeze. It is best to cut them back to the ground when they do. This helps with the appearance of landscape beds and allows us to spread mulch all over those beds. Some more tender perennials like fire bush or esperanza benefit from an extra layer of mulch to protect their root zone from those really cold temps we sometimes get here. Also, start cutting three quarters off the top of ornamental grasses towards the end of December and the first of January.
Last tip. If you're a fan of tulips and daffodils (narcissus), now is the time to start thinking about planting the bulbs. Tulip and daffodil bulbs need weeks or even months of cold temperatures to prepare them to grow, which is why we plant the bulbs in autumn. When the spring sunlight starts to warm things up, the tulips or daffodils begin to emerge, giving us a great pop of color to start the spring. Keep in mind that daffodils will come back every spring. You can leave the bulbs in the ground, and like clockwork, they pop up every spring.
This makes me prefer daffodils over tulips because most of the tulip varieties we get here will not come back year after year. Don't cut your daffodils back after they flower. It is best to let the plant soak up as much sun and nutrients as possible before they die back on their own.
Hyacinths are another good bulb you can plant now. I recommend wearing gloves when handling them because they can cause some people to itch badly... I am one of those people.