Lazy Gardener & Friends December 14, 2018

By: Nature's Way Resources | Published 12/14/2018

Here is the 277th issue of our weekly gardening newsletter for Houston, the Gulf Coast and beyond. We really appreciate all of our readers hanging in there with us, sharing stories and inspiring us in so many ways. 
Thanks so much!
This newsletter is a project of The Lazy Gardener, Brenda Beust Smith & John Ferguson. (John is with Nature's Way Resources). We also have a great supporting cast of contributing writers and technical specialists who will chime in and tweak away regularly. We would love to keep receiving your input on this newsletter . . . . comments . . . . suggestions . . . . questions. . . .Email your thoughts to: Thanks so much for your interest.
Please forward to a friend or sign yourself up to receive this newsletter by clicking the "Join Our Mailing List" link just below. We will never sell or share our mailing list to protect the privacy of our subscribers.
I think that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest / Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day, / And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear / A nest of robins in her hair;  
Upon whose bosom snow has lain; / Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me, / But only God can make a tree.
                                                                            -- "Trees" by Joyce Kilmer (1886-1916)
I'll use any excuse to reprint one of my most favorite poems and was there ever a more expressive phrase than "...Who intimately lives with rain"? Gives me goose bumps!
Speaking of trees, hope you enjoyed one of the most colorful fall seasons we've had in a while . . . thanks to the sudden deep cold spell that triggered a sudden drop in chlorophyll production (unusual for us), making the color green disappear and voila! We have that yellow to orange and red leaves known as fall splendor.
Not all trees produce gorgeous fall color here.  Trees for Houston recommends these for the Greater Houston area . . . and now through spring is the best time to plant:  
L to r: Texas Persimmon, Crape Myrtle ('Muskogee'), Japanese Maple, 
Winged Sumac and Mexican Plum (or anything in the prunus family).
Native dogwoods also have beautiful fall color but are not generally recommended for areas south or west of downtown Houston.  If you want to try, make sure you plant in an extremely well-drained site, ideally around pine trees since they like a slightly acidic soil.  
Unfortunately, most of our fall color comes from Chinese tallows that have become dangerously invasive. Seeds are spread by birds and wind. Those who care about wildlife are begging us NOT to plant these and, in fact, to remove them whenever possible. Chinese tallows are literally wiping out habitat so vital to both our native plants and wildlife.
Tip o' the trowel to Trees for Houston and Aramco employees, who planted 50 native trees along the Columbia Hike and Bike Trail, not only beautifying, but also providing shade and helping to reduce air and water pollution for decades to come. Since its founding in 1983, Trees for Houston has planted over 570,000 trees in the Greater Houston area and maintain tens of thousands of our trees. Membership in this group would make a great Christmas gift that will keep on giving and benefit all of us.  
Speaking of easy-to-give Christmas gifts, another great one would membership in organizations that offer continuous advice, like our largest one: Urban Harvest. A smaller group that has attracted a lot of members because of it's focus on smaller urban gardens/landscapes is Urban Houston Gardeners. In addition to great programs, the monthly newsletter, produced by Linda Foss, is full of great tips.  For example, December's issue reminded me of:
HUG'S December Garden To-Dos for Houston
(excerpted from December 9, 2018 issue)
  • Prepare for a freeze.
    • Gather sheets, blankets or frost cloth to protect plants. 
    • Save jugs to be filled with water and tucked under blankets to help regulate temperatures.   
  • For pollinators:
    • Cut tropical milkweed (that hasn't already died back) to about 6" from ground (will return from roots).
    • Some native bees nest in dead stalks (sunflowers, etc.). Leave them a foot or so high. 
  • Time to plant:
    • Peas such sugar snaps & snow peas.
    • Try succession planting herbs & greens such as cilantro, radishes, beets, lettuce, bok choys, arugula, spinach & mizuna, etc. 
    • Plant the slower growing brassicas such as kale, collards, cabbage, broccoli if you hadn't already done so.
    • Leeks & onions can also be planted now & over the next few months.
Check out HUG's great website:
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NEED HELP DECIDING WHICH CITRUS TO PLANT?  -- January and February are our best tree planting months, which is why gardening groups are holding big sales of fruit, nut and other trees early in 2019. New to growing fruit in the Greater Houston area? Urban Harvest's big CitrusFest is a great place to find out which varieties of which fruits do best here (key to success!)  Dr. Bob Randall will be on hand to offer advice and tasting opportunities will abound at the free Sat., Dec. 15, 8 am-noon event at 2752 Buffalo Speedway.   
Then you can drop by Urban Harvest's annual Fruit Tree Sale Feb. 9 or one of the many other sales listed in our calendar below.  The Jan. 1 edition of this newsletter will include a listing of fruit tree sales.
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