Spring vegetable varieties that do well in The Woodlands


 

As reported in the last blog, it’s not too early to begin planning for your spring vegetable garden, if you’re so inclined.

My winter cabbages are well on the way, lettuce is up and broccoli is looking good. Raccoons got into my onions and wreaked havoc. None of them have sprouted yet, so I’m doubtful I’ll have a good crop. I’ll probably need to plant again.

I’m already planning for my spring garden.

Tomatoes

Everyone loves tomatoes.  Some of my friends start them from seed. However, starting tomatoes from seed is not for the faint-hearted, or the impatient, or the forgetful…I fall into at least two of those categories, which is why I prefer to buy my seedlings, come warm weather.

Tomatoes from seed need to be started in January INSIDE. Why? Because it takes about six weeks for tomato seeds to sprout and grow into seedlings large and healthy enough to transplant into the ground. And, since spring weather here comes around the middle to the end of February, tomato seeds need to be planted early. Since it’s a little involved, I’m going to spare you the details. However, if you’re really interested in experimenting, here’s an excellent how to video: Growing Tomatoes From Seed To Harvest. Remember to order seeds soon.

If you’d rather do as I do and purchase seedlings, remember that it gets hot here quick, and tomato plants quit producing when the ambient temperature at night is 90 degrees or hotter. If your seedlings are not in the ground by mid-March, you’ve probably waited too long.

Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service has put together a list of tomato varieties that do well in Montgomery County. The list actually includes all vegetable varieties that are proven producers in the area.  Recommended Vegetable Varieties for Montgomery County. The list includes vegetables all the way from green beans to watermelon, and also indicates “days to harvest. Another valuable tool is the Vegetable Garden Planting Chart, available on the Montgomery County Master Gardeners website.

In my last article, I have provided a list of good seed companies. Order the catalogues now, or access the websites from that post.

 

 

Spring ain’t here yet, but it’s not too far off


Spring always arrives early in The Woodlands…at least earlier than it does in most of the rest of the country. And when spring arrives, gardeners begin to get itchy fingers.

Worldwide, spring officially begins on March 20, the date of the spring equinox. The spring equinox is the date when the sun shines directly on the equator, and the length of day and night is almost equal.

But to gardeners, farmers, and horticulturalists, spring arrives the day after the last frost.

When we lived in Santa Fe, NM, the last frost generally didn’t arrive until mid-April. The same is true for Chicago and New York. Milwaukee and most of the Upper Midwest and the West don’t see the last frost until May.

But, here in The Woodlands, spring usually arrives in mid- to late-February … a surprise for newly arrived Midwesterners and East Coasters. To complicate matters, this information is based on the AVERAGES of last frost dates from 1980.  In actuality, predicting exactly when that last frost is going to occur is an inexact science. Who knows when that last norther will zip down from the Arctic and freeze everything.

That happened to me three years ago. February 27 came along. The temperature had been in the high 60’s for a week. According to weather reports, no more cold fronts were expected. We put in tender baby tomato plants on that day. That night, from out of nowhere, a freeze freight-trained down through the Plains, devastating the tomatoes.

For me, it was disappointing, but not the end of the world. But it did make me understand how the vicissitudes of weather affect farmers who rely on crops for their livelihood.

Regardless of that, it’s important to get your spring garden in as quickly as you can. Spring comes early here, but so does summer.

For instance, tomatoes are a warm-season annual that grow best when the soil temperature is at least 55°F and the air temperature ranges between 65° and 90°F. Over 90°F, production decreases rapidly. At 95°F, production generally ceases. There are, of course, ways to extend the growing season for tomatoes and other warm weather crops, but I’ll save that for another time.

Early spring is also a great time to put in fall blooming plants like Barbados Cherry, Turk’s Cap, Carolina Jessamine, Rock Rose, Plumbago, Passionflowers, and a list of other plants. Getting them in the ground in early spring allows them to create root systems before the dog days of summer arrive. For a list of fall plants that do well in The Woodlands, search the Texas A&M Earthkind Plant Selector here.

February comes fast, so it’s probably a good idea to start planning your spring garden now, with seed catalogues (great for rainy winter days) and great gardening websites.

Here are some sites that you might be interested in:

 

Wildseed Farms

Johnny’s Select Seeds

Burpee’s Seeds

Gurney’s Seeds

Park Seeds

Mother Earth’s List of Best Seed Catalogues

Rodale’s Organic Life Seed Catalogue List

You can order seed catalogues from the above. If you’d prefer to save a tree, you can search their websites.

These two sites below are great sites for local information or more specific information about plants. The Lazy Gardener, Brenda Buest Smith is a local (and knowledgeable) gardening blogger who gives invaluable advice on growing locally. Dave’s Garden has tons of information on plants, has reqional chat rooms for gardeners to exchange information, and also has a seed exchange operation.

The Lazy Gardener

Dave’s Garden

Plant early, but be careful of the weather. Landscape perennials tend to be more forgiving than tender vegetables. And enjoy all those wonderful color photos of bountiful vegetables and gorgeous plants.

 

 

More lawn information


 

I’m not an enemy of lawns, but I do think there are better, more aesthetic, and responsible landscaping methods that many of us haven’t thought out.

Texas was once part of America’s breadbasket. Farms reflected the epitome of rural life in this nation. But things have changed. And not necessarily for the better.

Here in Texas, lawns far surpass any other crop. There are approximately 3,260,000 acres of lawns here. Running a far second is cotton, which has 1,230,000 acres under cultivation. Corn acreage is estimated at 749,000 acres while sorghum is around 708,000 acres. Lawn acreage exceeds wheat by almost 7 times.

Texas isn’t the only area where lawns exceed food and textile crops.

Based on a study conducted by ScienceLine, a division of New York University, more than 40.5 million acres of green grass carpets in the U.S., far outpacing corn, which stands at about 10 million acres, alfalfa at 6.2 million acres, soybeans at 5.32 million acres and orchards, vineyards and nut trees at 4.1 million acres.

And where we have plants, we need water. Americans use about 59.6 million acre-feet of water every year on our lawns. That’s almost 2 trillion gallons of water. In comparison, water used for all major crops in the U.S. totals 42 million acre feet, or about 134 billion gallons.

In The Woodlands, during peak summer usage, residents can use about 150 million gallons a month, just for lawn irrigation.

There is progress though. Woodlands residents have significantly reduced their overall usage by about 30%. While there are still some recalcitrant homeowners (and businesses), most have heeded the call for water conservation.

To put things in perspective, the average cable television bill in The Woodlands is north of $100, as is the average electric bill. We can live without cable tv (although I have the service), and we could live without electricity (although that would be extremely uncomfortable and inconvenient). However, none of us can live more than two or three days without water. At less than one cent per gallon, it’s still the best bargain in town.

 

Statistics about Lawn Care in The Woodlands


  • The typical homeowner in The Woodlands uses 10,000 gallons of water a month. This includes bathing, showering, brushing teeth, shaving, washing clothes, washing dishes, drinking, cooking and lawn irrigation. During the summer months, lawn irrigation accounts for 50 to 80% of water used. Unfortunately some homes here use three or four times that amount per month and a number of those homes use more than 10 times that amount.
  • The average lawn size is about 1/5 of an acre in The Woodlands. Although there are larger lawn sizes, there are also smaller lot sizes.
  • There are about 20,000 acres of lawns in The Woodlands.
  • An average of 18,000 pounds of pesticides and 70,000 pounds of chemical fertilizers are applied to our lawns each year.
  • The typical homeowner in The Woodlands spends about $363 per year on their lawn and gardens. That amounts to about $12,000,000 per year – a sizeable sum. The amount spent on lawns in the U.S. exceeds $50 billion.
  • The average homeowner in The Woodlands spends about 208 hours a year caring for their lawn.
  • Grass plants are 75 to 80% water
  • Up to 90% of the weight of a healthy grass plant is in its roots.
  • Grass clippings contain nitrogen and other nutrients which, when left on the ground, will help nourish the plant, reducing, or in some cases, eliminating the need for extra fertilizer.
  • A healthy lawn absorbs rainfall six times more effectively than a wheat field and four times better than a hay field. Healthy lawns also prevent runoff.
  • A single grass plant can have up to 390 miles of roots.

 

Potted (as in plants)


Connection with gardens, even small ones, even potted plants, can become windows to the inner life. The simple act of stopping and looking at the beauty around us can be prayer.                              -Patricia R. Barrett

We have a number of potted plants in and around our home. In the front yard, a lei plant (plumaria) sits outside the front entrance. Two rosemary plants pose like sentinels, each ensconced in large glazed pottery. Another very large glazed urn outside the kitchen window holds irises and crinums.

The back yard is filled with potted plants. Some are in nicely aged terra cotta, others in glazed urns and still others in black plastic nursery pots. The plants in nursery pots are those I have started from seed, cuttings or tubers. They include ginger (the kind you eat), milkweed (for the monarchs), mint, night-blooming jasmine, angel trumpets, and more, and are waiting until I can get them into the ground or in permanent pots. Many seeds I’ve collected will go into pots in the fall.

But you don’t need a yard to have container plants                                                                         Our inside plants include a small herb garden, some African violets my wife cares for and various other plants that need more tender care – all sitting on the kitchen windowsill. We’ve got pothos (you know that ivy thing that you see in just about every doctor’s office) in many rooms in our home.

Pothos, by the way, is the Greek word for “longing,” which was considered a divine power. In mythology, Pothos (the god of longing), his brothers Eros (love) and Himeros (desire) were the sons of Zephyr, the westerly wind.

Pothos (the plant, not the god) has a great reputation for scrubbing the air. Along with the peace lily, spider plant (also called airplane plant), and several other indoor plants,  , it can remove formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, toluene, xylene, ammonia, and carbon monoxide from the air.

What to use for pots                                                                                                                                   I get ill when I have to use euphemisms all the time. “Plant container” is a high sounding word for “pot,” which comes from  the Old English word “pott,” which means, unbelievably, “pot.” There are a lot of different types. Clay (terracotta), hypertufa, metal, molded plastic, glazed or unglazed pottery, stone, and simple recycled materials (old shoes, washtubs, wheel barrels, wagons, carts and toys are possible receptacles.   Imagination can work wonders. For pros and cons of different container types, see here.

Put the soil in the coconut                                                                                                                 Soil in planters tends to dry out and compact very fast, even indoors. Never, never, never use regular topsoil or even soil from the yard for your potted plants. Instead, mix a batch of good soil yourself. Mix  a third compost, a third perlite, and a third coconut coir into a wheelbarrow or tub. I used to recommend peat instead of coir, but peat moss is not a renewable resource. Coir, made from coconut fiber, is. Add some solid, slow-release organic fertilizer perhaps about a quart for a cubic foot of mixture.

Clean pots make good neighbors                                                                                                           Wash your pots, especially if they’ve been used before. Plant diseases, insect eggs and pathogens may exist in the pots. Use soap, warm water and a scrub brush. Rinse and let them dry – except for terra cotta. Terra cotta needs to be soaked throughout before planting anything it.

Ready to plant?                                                                                                                                           Fill the pot halfway with your new mixture. You may want to add a tablespoon of organic fertilizer to the top of the soil at this time. If you’re using a nursery-bought plant, remove it from its nursery pot. With a sharp knife, slice through the root ball from the top to bottom on four sides of the plant. This stimulates the roots to grow.

Put the plant into the pot, and fill in the spaces around it with your prepared mixture, until the soil reaches the base of the plant. Now, add more in, because when you water it, the moisture will compress to soil down.

Place your plant in a sunny window, water it well, and let it do its work.

Watering                                                                                                                                                 Your plant is going to need water. There are two ways to check that: a moisture meter, or the finger meter. Stick the moisture meter (available at any garden store) into the soil around the plant, and wait for the meter to register. I use the finger meter, which works like this: stick your finger into the soil. If it comes out dry, it’s time to water your plant. If not, it doesn’t need water yet.

Add a teaspoon of fertilizer about once a month. Scratch it into the surface of the potting soil, and water.

 

If you have any questions about potting plants, please address them to the address on this website.

 

 

Will your water bill go up when it stops raining?


It’s August and hot, dry days may be coming our way. At least that’s what happened last year. With all the rain we haven’t had to use our irrigation systems for a while. We’ve had our systems turned off (hopefully) during the monsoons. Some  of us are anxious to see those sprinklers throwing water on our lawns again.

Be cautious, though. Last summer when the rains ended, residential usage went from 500 million gallons to over a billion gallons. When water bills went out of sight, some outraged residents blamed leaks or misread meters for the spike.

However, the meters were correct. After checking over 1000 meters, The Woodlands Joint Powers Agency  found only a 1 percent discrepancy. The other 99% of the readings were accurate.

That left only one conclusion: some residents (but not most) heavily increased  irrigation when the rains ended – generally to the detriment of their lawns (and pocketbooks).

Now that same pattern may occur this year, with water use rising significantly, and cost of water escalating in relation to use.

However, if you do think your water meter has been misread, you can double check the meter reading yourself. As soon as you receive your water bill, turn off all running water inside and outside your home and read your water meter. For a step-by-step guide, go  the Waterworks NewsBlog at The Woodlands Joint Powers Agency. An in-depth article on how to read your water meter is posted there.

Fungus, insects, disease

St. Augustine, Zoysia and Bermuda grasses, already saturated by unprecedented rain, are now highly susceptible to fungal diseases and insect damage. Too much water at this time makes these problems worse, not better.

Doubling water use during August is not a solution to maintaining healthy lawns. Instead, moderate watering (if it hasn’t rained),  following  two day-per-week Defined Irrigation Schedule that covers most of The Woodlands, monitoring rain events and turning off sprinklers during that time, and caring for your lawn in other recommended ways (irrigating no more than an inch of water a week, sharpened blades on your mower, not crew-cutting the lawn but mowing a third of the length of the grass blade, aerating, adding organic material, and following best practices) lead to a healthier lawn and much less costly water bill.

 

 

 

Why have the squirrels eaten my green tomatoes?


 

The other day, I found one of my large tomatoes, still green, sitting half-eaten on my back deck. The next day, another. A few days later, my daughter caught a fat little rascal munching down on another green tomato.  He (or she…I haven’t learned to tell them apart) dropped it and ran for the  large oak in the back yard.

Now, I don’t mind the squirrels eating some of my tomatoes. After all, they have to eat too, and The Woodlands has an ordinance against using firearms. A BB gun did come to mind, but after thinking it through, I decided that sitting in my back yard in the mid-day heat, waiting for one of them to approach my vegetable garden, wasn’t that appealing either.  Besides, growing up, I hunted squirrels often in the piney woods of south Louisiana. That took some skill and the squirrel had a chance of surviving –especially if one was a poor shot. Shooting backyard squirrels is like shooting fish in a barrel.

I have found out that squirrels are pretty opportunistic eaters. In fact, there’s not much they won’t eat – they’re not picky by any means.

Native fruits (ever wonder why your passion vine rarely has fruit), flowers , nuts, trees, insects, berries,  and mushrooms. (I do not know how they can tell the difference between edible or poisonous mushrooms, but from the way they act sometimes, I think they may sometimes consume psilocybin fungi). And, of course, they also consume TOMATOES!

While the kids are trying to avoid eating their vegetables, the squirrels will go after just about anything you have planted in your garden. They’re fond of  radishes, corn, squash, beans, greens, okra, eggplant, Brussel sprouts, carrots, asparagus, cauliflower, cabbage, and leeks, to name a few.

Speaking of kids, squirrels also love children’s breakfast cereals:  shredded wheat, corn flakes, grape nuts, and  any cereal with extra sugar. The little monsters (the squirrels… not the kids…although that could be true as well in some cases) also like pizza, cheese of any kind and crackers.

Squirrels don’t restrict their diet to vegetation and human food. They will also eat lizards, snakes, worms, birds (babies and eggs mostly).

As the world gets more and more populated, the squirrel population has expanded as well, sharing our space, and also sharing our eating habits. Now, squirrels will eat discarded food in parks (or anywhere else). This includes half-eaten sandwiches…hamburgers, hot dogs,  bologna, egg salad. They consume dog food with as much relish as your family pet, your cat’s treats, and just about anything else you leave out.

They even ate the  mealworms we put out for the bluebirds. We tried putting hot pepper on the worms, but that didn’t deter them, although the hot pepper suet did keep them away from the bird feeder.

I have to admit, I do like to see them scrambling through their little highways in the trees, barking as they twisted and turned through the meandering branches.

I realize that squirrels, like everything else, don’t live forever.  They are a part of our new suburban ecosystem though, and have adapted to survive, just as we humans have. And they have natural predators…feral (and domestic) cats, hawks and eagles, and snakes all predate on the furry creatures.

Several years ago, as I was sitting in my backyard reading Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac, a squirrel   apparently disturbed by my blocking its way to greener pastures, was scolding me from the oak tree. Something whooshed above my head. As I looked up, I saw a very large red-shouldered hawk flying away with the very fat little squirrel in its talons.

Every living thing has two moments of pure truth: when we are born and when we die. The squirrel met his moment of truth naturally. I suppose we need more hawks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zen and The Art of Composting


Abundant earthworms a sign of healthy soil

I love making compost as much as I love actually putting it in my garden. Last week found me turning my bin of cooking compost. The process of putting the pitchfork in, bending my knees and swinging my torso to drop the load into a new pile reminds me of Tai Chi. I find that practicing fluid, unhurried movements – fork to pile, swing to the new pile, dump the detritus onto the new pile, and then swinging back for another fork load, becomes a spiritual exercise as well as a physical one.

In my mind’s eye, I see a complete ecosystem of organisms, from the tiniest bacteria to the fat earthworms that wriggle in and out of the decaying vegetation. There is a certain thrill to the fact that I am part of the process of this cycle of life…and death.

I can’t see the microscopic bacteria, amoebas, mites and protozoans, but I can see their handiwork as they consume nitrogen and sugars from the green and brown materials I have mixed together in this nature cake. I can see the smoke rise and feel the heat as their billions multiply, die and are consumed by larger, but still microscopic  predators – themselves destined for the same fate by even larger organisms. Composting is one of the most “mindful” activities I can think of. I’m not going to belabor the Zen thing, but you get the idea.

Earthworms begin to populate the pile when it cools. I pick out worm every tenth load or so and throw it into a bucket…not for fishing (although I do like to fish), but to add to the worm population in my vegetable garden. I throw in some rotting vegetation for the worms to eat and hide in while I finish turning the pile.

I turn my pile every week or two, until I’ve got good, rich, dark humus, letting it heat up as bacteria begin to multiply again. I could go on about mesophilic and thermophilic bacteria species that alternately heat and cool the pile, but I’m going to spare you the agony. Just know that as the pile heats up, the worms head for cooler pastures, only to return when the pile cools off again.

Earthworms are fascinating creatures. They eat decaying, green vegetation, apple cores and even coffee grounds. That goes through the enzymes and bacteria in their gut and comes out in rich worm castings, which is a euphemism for… well…you know. The castings are also filled with beneficial bacteria which continues to inoculate the soil long after it has left the worm.

A good population of earthworms in an acre-foot of soil can turn eight tons of soil per year. That’s over 1,613 cubic yards. My small pickup can carry about one cubic yard of soil, so that gives you an idea of how much earthworms work.

I’ve always said that if you have earthworms in your soil, you have good soil. Some experts argue that good soil attracts earthworms, while others say that earthworms make good soil. Either way works for me.

Many of the earthworms found here are not indigenous to North America. Instead, they came from Europe. Early colonists – the Jamestown settlers, the Spanish conquistadores, the French, Dutch and German farmers – unknowingly brought native European worms over in plant soil. Once having breached the ocean, the annelids (that’s a generic name for them) didn’t need human assistance to spread themselves across the continent. In some cases they replaced populations of native worms. In other cases they took over areas that had no worms. In Canada and the Upper Midwest, where glaciers scraped the soil from the rock 10,000 years ago, European worms exploited this niche successfully.

Here in Southeast Texas, scientists tell me that we have abundant populations of European species, as well about a 100 native species. Believe me, I can’t tell the difference, although I have no doubt the worms can.

Charles Darwin was one of the first contributors to the study of earthworms. In fact, he published The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, with Observations of their Habits, the compilation of years of studying the lowly creature. In fact, the book actually outsold his previous book, On the Origin of Species. Read more about Darwin  and his worm studies here.

Photograph by Cliff Roe Photography

Aerate your lawn to keep it healthy and lush


Aerate your lawn to keep it healthy and lush

Landscapers know that one of the most crucial elements to having a beautiful lawn is healthy soil. Healthy soil is loose and aerated, a place where roots can spread deeply and organisms thrive.

Compacted soil, which lies underneath most lawns in The Woodlands, actually sets off a chain reaction.  It encourages puddling.  The soil dries out quickly and becomes rock hard. When that happens, air, water and nutrients cannot penetrate the soil. Beneficial organisms that are necessary for healthy soils die and the soil becomes barren.  The consequences don’t stop there.

Lifeless Soil

Insects, disease and weeds thrive on barren soil. Fungus infections, chinch bugs and other pests attack shallow-rooted grass. Roots struggle to penetrate the compacted soil. They become weak and thin. The beneficial organisms which help process nutrients for the turf and decompose organic material cannot survive in such an environment.

Instead of growing lushly, turf will focus energy on simply surviving. Without moisture, air flow and organisms, it eventually loses the battle. Then the homeowner is forced to resod.

Aeration

The best practice to combat compacted soil is to aerate followed by a top dressing of organic matter. This allows oxygen, nutrients, micro-organisms  and moisture to penetrate into the soil. Aerations  involves removing plugs of soil at intervals. Top dressing with organic matter (compost) and water it in, the compost will filter down into the holes.

How to aerate

It’s much better to remove the plugs of soil than to simply spike the soil. Spiking simply compacts the sides of the holes. Aerators come in different configurations. Several are simply hand tools resembling garden forks. However, instead of solid tines, they have small cylinders which remove plugs of soil. Some come with hose attachments. These add water to the hole at the same time they are taking plugs out. There are push aerators, which resemble reel lawnmowers, and larger ones with gasoline engines that power themselves. There are also professional landscaping companies which have large industrial aerators. Some outlets rent aerators.

Organic matter and fertilizer

After aeration, add organic matter. Simply spread ½ inch of compost over the turf and either rake or water it in. A 1,000 square-foot lawn needs about 1.5 cubic yards of compost.

Fertilize lightly. Too much fertilizer, or fertilizer with too much nitrogen, can actually harm turf grass by attracting insects that feed on the grass, or damaging the lawn with high levels of mineral salts.  Too much fertilizer will also cause a high flush of growth that can lead to fungal diseases.

Weed and feed products  also stresses turf, especially St. Augustine. These can also damage tree roots.  It’s also a waste of money. Herbicides  need to be applied in late winter, while fertilizer should be applied in late spring. Using them both at the same time wastes one or the other.

Amaryllis: The Herald Trumpets of the Spring Garden


By Bob Dailey

Resembling trumpets heralding the arrival of a king, amaryllis blooms are some of the most striking flowers in Montgomery County gardens.

Sold mostly as indoor plants, they fare well in outdoors in southeast Texas,  jazzing up the spring garden, just after irises and before daylilies and crinums (which are also members of the amaryllis family).

These dramatic flowers originated in West Cape, South Africa. They have attractive strap-like leaves, which generally keep their shape and color all year round in Montgomery County.

All the varieties are showy. There are really bold colors – red, bright pink, orange. There are other cultivars that are more subdued, but equally dramatic. Subdued shades of salmon, rose, pink and white are available. Others are striped and multicolored.

Caring for and planting amaryllis outdoors

Amaryllis do not like their feet wet. They need well-drained soil.  Build up a low area with compost to help drainage. The plants like sun, although they will grow in partial shade.

Amaryllis grow from bulbs. They can be planted from September through April.  Set the amaryllis bulb in a hole and cover it so about an inch of the bulb is above the ground. To tell the difference between the top and the bottom of the bulb, look for a flat area, which probably has roots on it. Plant the bulb with that part down.

Water the bulb well after planting. Don’t flood it with water, but gently soak the soil around it. Then, slow down on the watering. Unless it’s sending up flower stems, it doesn’t need much water.  Amaryllis foliage is evergreen in the county. The leaves are about 1.5 inches wide and can grow up to three feet long.

Before it blooms, the amaryllis plant will send up one or two stalks. Both stalks may not appear at the same time. At this point the plant will need about  1/2 “ – 1” of water. Again, water slowly and gently, letting the water soak in deeply.

The stalks are leafless, with a bulge at the top. The bulge will explode into three to four large flowers  each of which can be up to eight inches across.

After blooming has ended, cut off the flower stalk at the neck of the bulb, but keep the leaves on the plant. It needs the foliage to produce food so the bulb can again offer beautiful flowers next spring.  Add a handful of slow release fertilizer and water well again.

In late fall in the northern part of the county, add about 3 inches of mulch (leaves or pine straw work best) to protect the plant from freezing.

Many garden amaryllis started life as a “forced” Christmas flower. Once the “forced” bulb has finished blooming, it can be planted in the garden.

Amaryllis in planters

Amaryllis bulbs grow quite large. Additionally, the flowers and the stalks are heavy. Use a planter large enough and heavy enough to withstand the weight.  If not, the pot may tip over in a wind.

Use good soil in the planter. Don’t use topsoil in any planter for any vegetation. Instead, use a lawn and garden soil, and add enough compost to take up about a third of the volume.

Subtropical plant

A good point to remember: amaryllis plants originate in the West Cape of South Africa. The climate there is Mediterranean-like:  warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. In their native habitat, they do not receive a great deal of water, so they should not be overwatered or over-fertilized.  The soil should be well-drained.

Taken care of properly, amaryllis plants will provide years of beauty to the spring garden.