Weekly Column, Week of November
20, 2000 Prime Time Newspapers Calvin R. Finch, Ph.D., Director
of Conservation, SAWS, and Horticulturist
EARLY WINTER ACTIVITIES TO
We have experienced some cold weather now
and lots of wonderful rain; so, we are finally thinking winter.
Here are some early winter activities to consider.
EXTEND THE TOMATO SEASON—Tomatoes are warm-weather
plants. Plants in low-lying areas were ripped by the cold in early
November, but our first official freeze is yet to come. Protect
the plants from the cold of the first freeze and you can often
have four to six weeks more time for your fruit to reach maturity.
Grow-web or other agricultural fabrics sold
at nurseries, when spread over the plants will offer two to four
degrees of protection. Sheets or blankets are even more protective.
Clear plastic over the fabric works very well, but plastic alone
is not as desirable; it does not insulate well in the night and
must be removed early in the morning before the sun heats up the
air under the plastic.
NUTRITIOUS WINTER VEGETABLES—Winter is the
best time to garden in South Texas and the greens are the easiest
things to grow in the winter. The retail nurseries now have spinach
transplants. An eight-foot row of plants every one-foot, if harvested
leaf by leaf the day you want your salad, will provide enough
greens for a one-person salad every day until April.
Collards, mustard greens and turnips can be
planted by seed. Use transplants for cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels
sprouts and broccoli. Even the kids will like greens if you grow
them yourself in a raised bed or series of containers in full
REDUCE THIS YEAR’S SEWER BILL—It is winter
averaging time at SAWS. That means that your sewer rate for the
year is being determined based on the amount of water you use.
The logic is that winter is the best time to determine how much
your household contributes to the total sewer collection. Almost
all water used in the winter is indoor water and almost all indoor
water goes into the sewer and must be treated. To keep your sewer
rate low you want to minimize water use between now and March
15. Watering your lawn is only necessary if we get three weeks
straight of mild weather without any rain.
PLANT IRISES—Dutch iris sometimes gets overlooked
as a landscape plant; it shouldn’t be. Irises are outstanding
plants for South Texas landscapes; their foliage is attractive
all year and serves as a sword-like groundcover in all types of
soil. Plant irises on the surface of the soil in full sun. Disease,
insects or even deer do not bother them. Irises normally bloom
in March, April or May depending on the selection; they are a
great xeriscape plant and, in addition to rich blues, whites,
yellows, maroons and bicolors, the blooms of some selections have
Now is the time gardeners are dividing their
iris rhizomes, so be on the lookout for pass-along plants.
LEAVES ARE A RESOURCE—Leaves are too valuable
to bag and send off to the landfill. If they are mowed and left
to decompose on the lawn they contribute nutrients and organic
material to the lawn. Collect them and use the leaves for mulch
around trees, shrubs, flowers or vegetables. If you already have
plenty of mulch, add the leaves to the compost pile; they will
decompose to provide a great addition to containers, flowerbeds
and gardens. If you bag the leaves for the landfill it deprives
your yard of nutrients, requires tax money to pay the garbage
men to collect them, and takes expensive space in the landfill.
EVENTS—The Bexar County Master Gardeners are
looking for volunteers and are now taking applications for Master
Gardener Training. The next class is scheduled to begin on Wednesday,
January 24, from 1-5pm, and runs for 15 weeks. Training fee is
$125. Do not send in fee with application. Once selected for training,
the fee is due at first class session. Application deadline is
November 30. For an application or more information call the Bexar
County Master Gardeners at 467-6575.