We've assembled a collection of the most pressing issues of fall gardening. You'll find even more detail in Neil Sperry's 2013 Texas Gardening Calendar when it prints within days. Order now at the lowest price of the year.
Plant: Trees and shrubs. Fall is the best time to get them established prior to the return of next summer's heat. Pansies, pinks, snapdragons, flowering cabbage and kale, for winter color. South Texans can also plant petunias, calendulas, stocks, sweet alyssum, poppies. Daffodils, grape hyacinths, Dutch iris and other spring bulbs. Give tulips and hyacinths at least 45 days of "chilling" in refrigerator at 45 degrees F. Plant them into ground no sooner than late December. Protect tender plants from sub-freezing weather with frost cloth. All digging, dividing of spring perennials must be finished early in month. Native plants, also established shrubs and trees that need to be moved, can be transplanted after the first hard freeze.
Prune: Keep mowing at normal height until first frost. Letting grass grow tall actually weakens it. Use mower to remove fallen tree leaves, and shred them for the compost pile. Dead and damaged limbs can be trimmed while you can still distinguish them from healthy growth. Tidy up flower and vegetable gardens by removing stubble and fallen leaves and fruit, particularly if diseases or insects were an issue this season. Save major pruning of trees and shrubs for mid-winter.
Fertilize: Water-soluble fertilizer to new annual flowers to encourage good early growth before winter. Apply one cup of lawn-type fertilizer per cubic yard of compost to aid microorganisms. Turn the pile monthly to keep it blended together. Cut back on feedings made to plants inside your house until brighter days of spring. Apply high-N or all-N lawn food to cool-season ryegrass and fescue turf late in month. Apply at half the recommended rate.
On the Lookout: Brown patch in St. Augustine. The blades pull loose easily from their runners (which remain attached), because the blade sheaths will be rotted. Apply labeled turf fungicide. Apply broadleafed weedkiller containing 2,4-D late in month if you see non-grassy weeds such as clover, dandelions and henbit starting to grow. If you don't spray now, they'll continue to grow all winter, but you'll have to wait until it warms up in spring to treat. Houseplants you're bringing indoors should be checked carefully to detect any pests that might travel with them. Treat while they're still outdoors.