Garden Planner: Nov/Dec 2005

What to plant, what to prune, and what’s in bloom in Dallas gardens. Plus: How to start your own compost pile.

Your November/December Gardening Checklist

November is the best time to plant spring-blooming bulbs such as daffodils. Add your pumpkins to your compost pile in December.

It’s a glorious time to be in the garden in Dallas. Cool days, warm sun, and plenty of rain to keep the soil moist and workable, make this one of the most delightful of gardening seasons. On such days, even raking leaves can seem romantic.

If you’ve never composted before, start now. Fall is the time to collect a substantial amount of material to begin with, and when you pull out the first wheelbarrow full of rich, fresh compost in a few months, you’ll be glad you did. See the next page for a composting how-to.

NOVEMBER

In Bloom
Camellia, chrysanthemum, cyclamen, fall aster, roses, pansies,
and kale

To Do List
–  Remember, fall is a great time to plant perennials. Spring-blooming varieties will have time to get established before spring and will be stronger and fuller.

–  Begin planting spring-blooming bulbs such as Dutch iris, daffodils, anemones, and ranunculus.

–  Remove debris from flowerbeds to control insects and disease.

–  Rework beds to prepare for spring plantings and add new mulch.

–  Make a trip to the Farmer’s Market to buy your seasonal pumpkins. It’s a fun fall excursion.

–  Take time to drive around and enjoy the beautiful changing colors. Especially breathtaking are the sweetgums, Bradford pears, Japanese maples, ginkgoes, crepe myrtles, and Chinese pistache, which remind us of something else to be grateful for in this season of Thanksgiving.

DECEMBER

In Bloom
Camellias, pansies, kale, cyclamen,
and Lenten rose

To Do List
–  Add your pumpkins – chopped up, of course – to your compost pile, and be sure to keep it turned. Otherwise, you may end up with a pumpkin patch in your compost bin, which is actually kind of fun.

–  Pansies are heavy feeders, and the easiest way to keep them floriferous and happy is to use a time-release fertilizer such as Ozmocote when you plant them. But, if part of the pleasure of gardening for you is the care and feeding of your garden, regular applications of blood meal, a natural slow-release, low-salt source of nitrogen, will keep these tireless winter bloomers
prolific.

–  Plant chilled tulips.

–  Sow seeds for larkspur, poppy, sweet alyssum, phlox, cornflower, sweet peas, and stock.

–  Start to plant bare-root roses late in the month.

–  Use dormant oil to control scale on hollies, azaleas, quince, lilac, euonymus, and camellias.

–  Order spring flower seeds.

–  Clean gardening tools.

–  Feed the birds.

–  Regularly replenish water for your Christmas tree to keep it supple and safe.

THE NUMBERS

NOVEMBER
Average high: 65
Average low: 45
Average rainfall: 2.57 in.
DECEMBER 
Average high: 57
Average low: 37
Average rainfall: 2.57 in.

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COMPOSTING BASICS

Composting is the process by which organic materials, such as leaves, grass, and vegetable scraps, are broken down by microorganisms to form a rich, soil-like substance called compost or humus. Composting is simple. Just follow these basic guidelines, and you will be rewarded with a product that serves as superior mulch as well as an inexpensive natural fertilizer.

Organic materials: Roughly three-parts brown materials such as dead leaves, which are high in carbon, and one-part green materials such as fresh grass clippings, garden prunings, and kitchen scraps including over-ripe vegetables and fruits and coffee grounds that are high in nitrogen.

Moisture: You may need to water your compost periodically, particularly in the summer to keep the decomposition process active. Composting materials should feel moist but not soggy.

Temperature: Compost should feel warm to the touch. In winter, you might notice a little steam rising from your compost pile, particularly when you turn it. This is good. It means the process is working.

Air: To ensure even and complete decomposition and prevent unpleasant odors from accumulating when materials decompose without oxygen, compost should be turned regularly to ensure that air is reaching the center of the pile.

The process will work faster if you have some kind of starter, such as existing compost that is microbe rich. Other substances that can provide the same effect include various kinds of manure and even some native soil. They aren’t necessary, however.

Composting Dont’s
Don’t include diseased plants or leaves in your compost.
Don’t include such things as poison ivy or persistent weeds such as Bermuda grass or Dallis grass.
Don’t include animal waste.
* Don’t include meat, dairy, or vegetables cooked with animal fats.
* Don’t include plants that have gone to seed.
* Although they will eventually decompose, you might want to avoid composting things such as magnolia leaves, as they are extremely slow to break down.
* In some parts of the country, ashes from your fireplace are recommended composting material, but they are alkaline and should be avoided here as our soil already has a high pH.

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