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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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Questions for the Week

by Jerry Parsons, Ph.D.
Horticulture Specialist, Texas Agricultural Extension Service in San Antonio

It's time to start it all again!

It seems like it was only a few weeks ago that I was picking baskets full of fresh tomatoes and gobbling down the best tasting produce in the U.S. But, as I survey my garden plot today, it looks
alot like Hell with the fires out!

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we don't want to be blinded by "what used to be". Yes, the cute little seedlings and transplants that you raised from infancy were productive, and we all appreciate their efforts on our behalf. But all good things must come to an end and it is time to put your plants to rest-in the garbage!

Gone but not forgotten! Those discarded plants will not be alone. They are accompanied by hordes of spider mites. Not to mention the multitude of eggs and immature stages of every size, shape and description of every destructive, plant sucking bugs known to man. Plus, every spore-forming fungus that can possibly annihilate a garden. Now, I know that you have enjoyed annihilating those persistent devils with every pesticide known to man (or woman!), but the fun is over-put all of your pest grief in the garbage.

Now is the time to re-start your gardening experience, so that more pleasant memories will be generated this fall.

Some gardeners think that it's too soon to begin again. They want to take a break from gardening and eat all of the frozen and canned spring produce. That sort of thinking will only lead to regret this fall when neighbors who paid attention to the following sound gardening advice are harvesting fresh tomatoes, huge heads of broccoli, beautiful cauliflower, sweet carrots and healthful spinach.

You may try to convince yourself that canned and frozen is just as good as fresh. Good luck! Remember, if you do start a garden now, you will not begin significant harvest until October which should give you a long enough dietary rest from fresh produce to be craving it once more. Also, be aware that procrastination or waiting until it's too late to start is one of the primary mistakes that would-be fall gardeners make. Spring gardening is just practice for the joys of fall gardening.

Ok, so now is the time to start, but let's do it right this year. Some folks have trouble with fall gardening but fall gardening does work in this area if you do the right things at the right time with the right plants. Fall-growing has been successfully accomplished in this area for more than 100 consecutive years by local farmers. For a listing of what to plant and when to plant in your area, see:

For a listing of recommended varieties, see:

Let's start with the basics. Let's determine whether you should even attempt a garden, or just find a source of fresh fall produce such as a local farmer's market. The basis of this initial "yea-or-nay" decision is sunlight. If your proposed fall gardening location does not receive at least 8 to 10 hours of direct (no shade) sunlight each day, you will never produce maximum yields. Few gardening locations receive continuous direct sunlight all day but you need at least 8 to 10 hours of direct sun exposure at some time! Shade in the afternoon (after 3 p.m.) is wonderful; shade in the morning is acceptable.

There are vegetables that produce passably in the shade. Generally, those crops such as greens, broccoli, cauliflower and root crops such as carrots and turnips which do not produce a fruit with seed will yield sparingly in semi-shaded areas. But even these crops will do better in a full sun condition.

Crops such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans and cucumbers may not produce anything if grown in the shade, and the plants will grow tall and spindly. The production potential of the garden's most popular vegetables depends solely on the amount of direct sunlight they receive.

Many non-productive gardeners deny that their main problem is a lack of sunlight. I don't know whether they want to garden so badly that they don't want to admit their efforts are doomed because of the absence of sunlight (the necessary element for success), or if they just enjoy working in the cool of the shade. Instead of recognizing and admitting the truth of shady-garden failure, they will blame such gardening variables as varieties, fertilization, watering, pests, etc. Remember the old saying: "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear". Don't expect quantity and quality production from a shady, "sow's ear" garden location.

Be realistic when you evaluate your garden location. You must be able to sunbathe in the garden area for 8 to10 hours during the day.


In areas of dense and mature trees, and large buildings, shade is the primary gardening problem.

Shade "problems" can become opportunities for beauty if the right choice of plants is made. However, at this time of the year you had better be precise on your definition of "shade". At this time of
the year temperatures can be over 90 degrees F. in the shade. This means that some normally "shade-tolerant" plants will quickly perish when planted in a "shady" spot. The "morning sun only" situation which is usually beneficial to shade-lovers can spell disaster at this time of the year.

Some of the best shade tolerant annuals are:

Vinca (periwinkle): If full sun conditions prevail, periwinkle can be used. It will also perform well in partial shade. Vinca (periwinkle) should not be confused with the perennial groundcover of the same name. Flowers of pink, white or violet are often highlighted with a contrasting red eye. This is one of a very few annual flowers which the deer won't destroy.

Begonia: The begonia is one of the least planted, most adapted, spectacular bedding plants of this area. Many people confuse the very adapted seed-begonia type with the next-to-impossible-to-grow tuberous begonia, which is not suited for this area. Tuberous begonias thrive in the northern areas of the U.S. For those people who devote their tender, loving care to nurture these sensitive plants, they are rewarded with large, showy blooms. But most of us aren't going to go to all that time and trouble. For that reason, when someone says "begonia", people mentally think "trouble"! But just the opposite is true of begonias that are grown from seed. The plants are inexpensive, the bloom is spectacular and the life of the plant and bloom is lengthy. The plants are well adapted to this area's "soil". If planted in a somewhat protected area, the plants will many times overwinter and provide another spring and summer bloom as well. Seed begonias are available in many colors with even different colored foliage (red and green). So don't be "turned off" by that word begonia--you may be avoiding the best annual, sometimes bi-annual, of them all! The Vodka series is one of the best.

Regardless of the choice you have to make because of the growing conditions available, the previously mentioned flowering annuals when properly planted and nurtured can transform the barren, wasteland which you call your "flower bed" into a beautiful late summer and fall display which you and the neighborhood can be proud of. For a striking display of color, make large plantings of the same flower type. For a listing of other flowers for fall planting and their growth requirements, see:

Some nurseries will sell flats of transplants cheaper than if you brought them as individual transplants. Ask around! Make a floral statement this fall. We need more beautiful statements in this world! The psychological rewards will far outweigh the physical and financial inputs required-I'll guarantee it!!