How to prepare your San Antonio lawn and garden for winter

With the current heat and moisture, it is hard to think seriously about winter weeds, vegetables and flowers, but it is time.

By the end of the month or the first week of September, apply your pre-emergent herbicide to the lawn and shrub border to help control bedstraw, rescue grass, annual bluegrass, dandelions, thistle, henbit and chickweed.

The list of winter weeds includes both grassy and broadleaf weeds, so technically you would use two different products if you had both types of weeds. The good news is that there are several herbicides on the market including Amaze, XL, and Dimension that handle both types of the weeds on the list. Check the labels to make sure your weeds on that product’s list.

In my neighborhood, the worst weeds are bedstraw, henbit, chickweed, annual bluegrass and rescue grass. The three listed preemergents control all the weeds on our local list.

But if, like me, you treat rescue grass and annual bluegrass as a winter lawn, then use a product designed to combat just broadleaf weeds. When you have shady lawn surfaces growing on shallow and sloped soils, the grassy weeds can be mowed every week like a lawn that doesn’t require much irrigation.

The vegetables planted in late summer — tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra, cucumbers and squash — should still be going strong. It is usually best to let the peppers, okra, squash, and cucumbers run their course, harvesting until they stop producing fruit.

Tomatoes and eggplant might be able to make it through December. Many gardeners fertilize these one more time with winterizer or slow-release lawn fertilizers and prepare to protect the plants from the first freeze, usually in December. If they make it through that first freeze, the plants likely will have another three to four weeks of mild weather to mature a major part of the crop.

September is the “real” winter garden month. It is when we can plant the transplants of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, collards and kale and the seeds of lettuce, carrots, beets, turnips, rutabagas and radishes.

September is the “real” winter garden month. It is when we can plant the transplants of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, collards and kale and the seeds of lettuce, carrots, beets, turnips, rutabagas and radishes.

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Prepare the winter garden bed by incorporating 2 inches of compost and 10 cups of slow-release lawn fertilizer (19-5-9) into every 100 square feet of bed. Plant the winter vegetable garden in full sun.

Lettuce seed will only germinate if it is uncovered on the soil surface. Check with your favorite nursery and see if they have the Crawford lettuce. It is tasty and reseeds every year. Some local nurseries give the Crawford seed to their customers at no cost.

Also consider growing Bright Lights Swiss chard. Chard is tasty and produces into the spring. Use it as a decorative, nutritious vegetable in a container on the patio or garden. If you want to take advantage of kale’s nutritive value but find the taste a little overbearing, use it in dishes with the milder Swiss chard. Wait until November to plant spinach and until December to plant onions.

This is the time of the year when the hot-weather flowers and cool-weather annuals are both actively growing and blooming. The zinnias in the cut flower garden should keep blooming until Thanksgiving, but you may want to replace some of the zinnias with snapdragons and stocks in September.

In the shade, begonias and pentas will also bloom until the wintry weather arrives. Begonias in sheltered beds will sometimes bloom all the way into the spring. Wait until November to plant primula and cyclamen.

Calvin Finch is a retired Texas A&M horticulturist. [email protected]

 To speed up decomposition in your compost pile when the portion of green material is in a smaller than recommended proportion to brown material, add 1 cup of lawn fertilizer per bushel of material in the pile.

 With the growth of pigweed in many gardens this summer, it is tempting to weed rose beds with a string mower. That’s not recommended because the wounds from the string on the rose plants do not repair themselves well. Pull the weeds by hand or with a pruner, and then rely on mulch to prevent more weed germination.

 If Bermuda grass is allowed to grow taller than 5 inches and then is mowed at the recommended mowing height of 1.5 inches, it will appear to be damaged because the wider part of the grass blade gets mowed off. Keep mowing at the recommended height, and in three or four weeks, it will show the expected growth pattern.

 Fill your hummingbird feeders with a sugar solution of one part of sugar to four parts of water. Food coloring is not necessary. Rinse and refill once per week.