Fall Gardening Tips

Ah, cooler weather — how delightful it is to a Houstonian! After the heat and humidity of what feels like an eternal summer season, many homeowners welcome the chance to enjoy the nicer temps by getting their hands dirty in the garden.
While autumn may not seem like the proper season to be planting anything, gardening experts actually say that this is the best time to plant new trees, bushes, and even flowers here on the Gulf Coast.
Here are some tips for successful fall gardening in the Houston area:
First, clean up
Spend one of these nice cool mornings removing dead plants. It’s hard to know what or where to plant something new until this task is done.
Raise the beds
Enough words cannot be said about the importance of good dirt. It’s a good idea to perform a soil test in order to know the pH and what nutrients might be missing. Then you’ll know the proper garden soil to purchase and mix in with your own dirt. Wondering how much to buy? Ideally, flower beds and shrubbery beds should be raised about four inches.
Before you buy, know your zone (Houston is 8B)
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) publishes a plant hardiness map that is the standard by which gardeners determine which plants are most likely to thrive for their geographic region. Broken down into zones, this map is based on the average annual extreme minimum temperature during a 30-year period in the past. By knowing your zone, you can select plants that will have a very good chance at thriving in your area.
Plant Now!
Now is the perfect time to plant colorful cool-weather flowers! By planting trees, shrubs, rose bushes and perennials now, you will increase the odds that they will survive next summer. In addition, planting in the fall usually means earlier blooms in the spring.
Go Native
Plants native to this region of Texas are adapted to the extremes of heat, cold, heavy rain, wind and drought conditions that we sometimes have. Here are a few native plants to consider:
  • Autumn Sage- Native to the area, this plant flowers constantly from late spring until hard frost. Autumn sage is one tough plant, both drought-tolerant and preferential to full or part sun. Sporting red flowers with small pale leaves, this plant is also a great food source for hummingbirds!
  • Beautyberry- Also native to the area, this pest-free plant really shines in late summer into early fall with a show of gorgeous purple berries. Birds love them!
  • Ornamental peppers- While technically not a flower, this plant is a great choice due to its colorful peppers in intense purples and oranges.. It loves cool weather and will grab attention if planted near the entrance of your home. Just remember that the peppers are for show, and not to eat.
  • Ornamental kale and cabbage - these are also great choices to add to flower beds and are perfect choices for the cool weather ahead.
Plant a tree
The fall season isn’t just for planting flowers; it’s a great time of year for planting a new tree! The Mexican plum tree is a nice choice; it’s native to the general area and bears pretty purple fruit in late fall. You will be rewarded again in the spring when it is covered in fragrant white blooms.
Know where to plant
For the cooler months, plant seasonal flowers where they will receive some decent sun and also be protected from any strong wind.
Mulch, mulch, mulch
Last but not least, add mulch. The layer you applied last spring is probably in need of another. Mulch protects plant roots, maintains moisture and prevents weeds from getting out of control. Look for natural mulches that do not contain dye, which cannot only leech the nutrients from soil, but they can also be poisonous to pets.