It’s time to plant wildflowers


Wildflowers often appear in spring, sprouting in abandoned or fallow fields, pastures, along railroad tracks or country roads. The seeds initially brought there by birds, or other animals have reseeded themselves. Unlike many of our domesticated and non natives plants, wildflower reseeding occurs in the fall, when the flowers drop off, seeds form and fall to the ground.

A growing number of gardeners along the Gulf Coast are becoming particularly fond of native wildflowers, using them as accents in their yards. Some have entirely removed turfgrass and simply rely on native plants and wildflowers.

Like natural reseeding, most wildflowers need to be sown now for them to sprout in the spring.

How to sow wildflowers

Wildflowers and prairie grasses are best sown on bare ground. Decide the area you want to plant the seeds and then remove any vegetation from it. Rake the bare soil to loosen it, but don’t rake more than an inch. That’s because weed seeds may lie dormant deeper than an inch, bringing them to the surface will cause them to germinate.

Mix your seed with some coarse sand, equal to the volume of the seeds e.g., a palmful of seeds plus a palmful of sand. For larger areas, a pound of sand for a pound of seeds.  Lightly spread the mix on the spots you’ve designated. Then, sprinkle more mixture of sand and seed a second time. Some gardeners add a light compost dusting. I prefer to press the seeds into the soil with my foot. Since wildflower seeds need sunlight to germinate, simply putting them in contact with the earth will be enough to ensure they will grow.

This method works particularly well when you have a patch of lawn that is not doing very well. Wildflower patches quickly replace dead grass, adding another element of beauty to your yard.

Another method

Some gardeners spread wildflower seeds direction over an area already covered by lawn. You will need to use more seed to compete with the turfgrass, but remember, turfgrass usually goes dormant in the winter. Since most wildflowers need cooler weather to begin the germination process, the dormant grass lessens the competition. Just remember not to mow that area in the spring, because, in addition to clipping the green, you’ll also top off the wildflowers.

Don’t expect a wildflower prairie right away. It may take up to three years for the plants to reach their full potential. But when it does, voila! You have a beautiful garden.

Great sources for wildflowers abound, but I have found two that are exceptionally good. And no, I do not make a commission from either of these sources:

Wildseed Farms

Native American Seed

Vegetables for your Fall Garden


Believe it or not, fall is the best vegetable growing season along the Gulf Coast. Snap beans, all the brassica, Swiss Chard, Cucumbers, potatoes, squash (summer and winter), tomatoes and turnips can be put in now or shortly. Others like carrots, beets, garlic, lettuce, mustard, onions, parsley, radishes, spinach and turnips can wait until November.

 Beans: Put in snap beans in the next week or two. Good varieties include Blue Lake, Derby, Roma II, Topcrop, Jade, and Masai (haricot vert). Pintos include Arapaho and Dwarf Horticultural. If you like limas (and who doesn’t), plant Henderson Bush, Jackson Wonder, and King of the Garden. Plant all by seed.

Brassicas: Brocolli (Green Magic, Packman, Premium Crop), Brussels sprouts, cabbage (Bravo, Market Prize, Rio Verde), kohlrabi, and cauliflower can go into the ground around the first of October. The brassicas are cold hardy plants, so you can actually do succession planting for these for a supply well into the spring.

Cucumbers: Sow seeds now until the middle of September for maximum growth. Slicer varieties include Dasher II, Poinsett 76, Sweet Slice and Sweet Success. Pickling include Calypso, Carolina and County Fair 87. Most gardeners find that pickling varieties can be used for slicing and vice versa.

Potatoes: Plant slips around October 1. Suggested red varieties include Norland, Purple Viking, Red LaSoda. Irish recommendation is Kennebec.

Squash: Plant winter squash seeds now. Varieites might include Butternut types, Cushaw and Royal (acorn). Plant summer squash around October 1. Suggested varieities are Burpees Butterstick, Dixie and Multipik.

Tomatoes: Put the plants in the ground now. If you planned to start from seed, it’s too late for a fall garden. It takes at least a month and a half to grow seedlngs from seed, and the plants need to go into the ground now. For larger tomatoes (four ounces and bigger) try old favorities like Celebrity, Early Girl, Better Bush and Amelia. For smaller tomatoes, thy Charry Grande, Gold Nugget and Juliet. If you like to make tomato paste, try the standard Roma, or Viva Italia.

Later Plantings

Beets: Beets can be planted from seed and should go in around the first of November. Varieties might include Detroit Dark Red and Ruby Queen. Beets are a cold-tolerant and a great winter crop.

Carrots: Plant seed by November 20. Suggested varieties: Imperator 58, Nantes Half Long, Red Core Chantenay.

Swiss Chard: Plant seed by October 20. Many good varieties to choose from. Some include Bright Lights, Lucullus and Ruby.

Collards: Plant seed by October 20. Many choices.

Garlic: Best time to plant cloves is anytime in November, or even December.

Lettuce: Plant around Dec. 1.

Mustard: Plant seed by December 1. Some varieties include Blue Max, Georgia Southern.

Onions: Plant bulbs in December. Varieites include Candy, Early Grano 502, Granex, and Texas 1015Y.

Parsley: Plant by Nov. 1.

Radish: Plant around December 1. Champion and White Icicle are two good varieties.

Spinach: Plant around December 1. Varieties include Bloomsdale, Early Hybrid and Melody.

Turnips: Plant around December 1. Varieties include Tokyo Cross and White Lady.

Preparing your fall garden


September vegetable garden chores

In a few weeks, slightly cooler weather will be arriving along the upper Gulf Coast. Now’s the time to get your garden ready for fall crops.

The first step, of course, is to clean your beds. Remove all the spent vegetable plants, chop them up and put them in the compost.

The next thing to do is remove any weeds, including that rampant pest, Bermuda grass. Try to get as much of the root systems out as you can. Since many of them probably are seeding, don’t put these in the compost. Instead, if you have a green waste pickup, put the weeds in there. If you don’t have this service, dispose of them some other way. Hopefully, you won’t burn them. As a last resort, put them in the trash.

Spread organic compost over the entire garden.

You might want to mix the compost into the top couple of inches of soil. Some gardeners simply spread the compost on top of the ground, and let it work itself in over the growing season. After laying the compost, spread about a quarter of a cup per square foot of organic fertilizer and rake it into the compost. Then wet the compost.

In the southeast Texas area, there are several organic composting facilities, but none elsewhere along the coast that I could find. For Southeast Texas, you can find natural composter facilities at this site: http://www.findacomposter.com.

There are many types of bagged compost labeled “organic,” but in many, the “organic” label is misleading. But that’s a topic for another blog.

Cool-weather weeds are a problem. However, since most weeds are annuals and reproduce by spreading their seed around, prevention is worth more than the cure. Some gardeners like to lay down a mulch of straw or pine needles to discourage weeds. Some even put a layer of newspaper down beneath the mulch for further weed protection. After laying paper, wet it down to keep it in place while you spread the mulch.

Wait a few days before planting, but, if you’re in a rush, go ahead and plant.

Good gardening.

Soil-The Living Layer of Earth


A noted French theologian once said that “man is the living layer of earth.” He was referring to the spiritual realm, I’m sure. Because there is another “living layer of earth” right below our feet – the soil.

That’s because good soil is alive with millions, billions, trillions – countless mega trillions of living creatures which are born, live, procreate and die every second. A teaspoon of good soil would contain millions of living creatures, while a shovel-full would hold billions. An acre would contain more living organisms than there are starts in our galaxy… perhaps in the entire universe.

These organisms are part of the complex nature of soil – which is different from dirt. I’ll call good soil simply soil in the rest of this article.

I have already written about how soil is formed. Here is a deeper view. Once the tiny bits of grains have deposited and some organic material begins to grow and die, bacteria, single-celled animals and fungi begin to colonize the growing soil and mineral mixture.

Picture yourself in a forest. A tree sheds its leaves. Those leaves, now on the ground, begin to decompose. It’s not a process that just happens. The organic compounds in the leaves are being consumed by living microscopic creatures (and some larger ones). A single bacterium lives about 12 hours, after which it divides. In 7 generations, that single cell with become more than 16 million duplicates of itself. You could see that, in a year, the total bacteria population would completely cover the earth.

However, there is a failsafe, which contributes to the soil being enriched. Bacteria in the soil are being consumed by larger single-celled animals, like amoebas and protozoans. And while these cells are dividing, they are being consumed by even larger creatures.  Now, while all these microbes and macro-organisms are going through their life cycles, microscopically fine threads of symbiotic fungi are making their way from root to root.

It’s not over yet. Larger creatures – earthworms, pill bugs, beetles and other detritus-eating plants, munch away at the larger pieces of debris that the microbes did not finish consuming. The earthworms are especially adept at this, and they do more. By passing the detritus through their gut, they inoculate the particles with beneficial bacteria, which they then excrete back into the soil. Worms also make vertical tubes, allowing air and water to penetrate the soil.

Spiders, bug-eating beetles, ants, and other predators begin feasting on the earthworms and their helpers, adding their carcasses or depositing it as excretion onto the ground.

Now, even larger creatures come into the soil – like moles and birds. These predators love the other creepy crawlers and provide a useful purpose.


Every time I turn my compost in the spring, a robin perches near me waiting for worms. Since my compost is usually full of worms, except during the coldest days of winter, I don’t mind sharing them with this friendly avian. She waits until I have tossed four or five wriggling ones her way, she daintily picks each one up with her beak until she has all of them captured. Still holding them in her beak, she slams the worms against the crushed granite walkway until she has them dazed enough to her satisfaction. A quick flit to her next in a nearby oak, a couple of minutes there, obviously feeding her chicks and she’s back waiting for a more worm largesse. Occasionally, I’ll find her on top of my compost pile, scratching on her own – which is okay with me. I’ve got plenty of earthworms.  


This is the natural flow of things making up the living layer of earth and an essential part of the planet’s recycling process.

Vegetables to plant in your summer garden*


June is here, hot and heavy. Last week the temp was 95, but the heat index was 131. Either is enough to limit time working in a vegetable garden.

The tomatoes are just about done. Peppers are still thriving, and cukes are still producing some, but now’s the time to put in some summer crops that thrive in our hot summers along the Gulf Coast.

There is a great deal of information here, so you might want to print this out and put it in your journal, notebook or pin it to the wall.

Here are some plants that do well in the summer heat:

Eggplant

This vegetable contains essential minerals,  such as copper, potassium, iron; vitamins C,  B6, A, K and also antioxidants.  Eggplant can be set out as late as the last of June. For the best results purchase seedlings instead of starting from seed. If you start from seed, you won’t be harvesting eggplant – if you harvest any, for 100 – 150 days. Planting from seedling shortens the harvest date to about 70 days. You can plant seedlings through the end of June. Recommended varieties and days to harvest:

Variety Days to harvest
Fairy Tale 50
Neon 65
Purple Rain 66
Oriental
Ichiban 61
Pingtung long 65

Cantalope (or Cantaloupe)

High in beta carotene, Vitamin C, B9 (folate), and K; and also niacin, choline, calcium, magnesium,. Phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium, this fruit makes a well-rounded and nutritious food choice. Plant through the end of June.  Recommended varieties and days to harvest. Plant by seed.

Variety Days to Harvest
Ambrosia 86
Caravelle 80
Magnum 45 80
Mainstream 90

Mustard Greens

Mustard greens originated in the Himalayan area of India over a half millennium ago. High in fiber, folate, copper, calcium, iron, manganese and vitamins K, A, C, E, and B6 and has been proven to lower cholesterol levels. Mustard greens, along with their look-alike, collard greens, can withstand both heat and cold. Mustard and collards look a lot alike but they are not related. Mustard greens are part of the mustard family and is actually considered an herb. Collards are actually from the Cole family (Brassica), which includes cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. The best thing about mustard greens is you can plant them as late as the end of July. Plant by seed.

Variety Days to Harvest
Florida Broadleaf 40
Savanna 35
Southern Giant Curled 50

Okra

Okra comes from the West African word nkru and is a member of the Hibiscus family. Look at okra blossoms next time you grow some, and you’ll see what I mean. Okra probably originated near Ethiopia. The Egyptians cultivated it as far back as the 12th century B.C. Okra has high levels of vitamin A, B1, B2, B6, K, and C. A cup contains 1.93 grams of protein, folate and antioxidants. You can plant okra through the end of July and can plant by seed.

Variety Days to Harvest
Cajun Delight 49
Clemson Spineless 55
Emerald 58
Louisiana Green Velvet 55
Silver Queen 50

Southern Peas

Don’t know why they’re called “southern” peas. Does that mean that only people in the south eat them? They’re also called “cowpeas”, because they were also used as cattle feed. However, give me a plate of purple hulls cooked down with some bacon and onions (and a little jalapeno thrown in for good measure), add a pork chop and some fresh tomatoes, and I’m in heaven. I’ve been known to make a meal out of purple hulls and bread. And crowder peas are my absolute favorite.

All varieties of these beans – black-eyed, crowder, purple hull, zipper and cream, are good sources of protein (100 grams equal 42% of the recommended daily intake). These peas contain lots of fiber as well. These peas are gluten-free, so provide an alternative food source for those suffering from gluten allergies and celiac disease.

I can’t say enough about southern peas. They contain folates, vitamins B12, and a host of copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, calcium and zinc. All varieties of cowpeas can be planted by seed through the middle of August.

Variety Days to Harvest
Blackeye #5 65
Mississippi Silver 65
Texas Pinkeye 60
Pinkeye Purple Hull 65
Zipper Cream 75

Peppers

Some see peppers as a flavoring…a way to spice up a dish. Others see it as a food source, rich in vitamins and minerals.

Originating in the Americas, peppers, both hot and sweet, have amazing health benefits. Raw, fresh chili peppers are very high in vitamin C, B6, K1, A, and minerals such as potassium and copper and antioxidants.

Peppers can be planted (theoretically) through the end of July, but don’t hold me to that.

Variety Days to Harvest
Hot
Anaheim 75
Cherry Bomb 65
Jalapeno 70
Kung Pao 85
Mexibell 75
Mucho Nacho Jalapeno 75
Super Cayenne 70
Sweet
Banana Supreme 65
Big Bertha 70
Blushing Beauty 70
Golden Summer 65
Gypsy 65
Jackpot 75
Lilac 70
Senorita (Mild jalapeno) 80

Pumpkins

Pumpkins are packed with Vitamin A, C, B2 and E. They also contain potassium, copper, manganese, and iron and small amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and folate. Antioxidants are also present. Pumpkin seeds are edible and nutritious.  You can plant pumpkins by seed through the end of July.

Variety Days to Harvest
Cinderella 95
Spirit 100
Small Sugar 100
Sweet Spookie 90-105
Lady Godiva 110
Trick or Treat 110
Triple Treat 110
Streaker 110
 Jack-O’-Lantern 110
Big Max 120

Sweet potatoes

The tubers of this plant are high in fiber, vitamin C, B5, B3, B6 and also high in manganese, magnesium and copper. Beta carotene, which gives it the distinctive color, is an antioxidant. Plant sweet potatoes through the second week in July.

Variety Days to Harvest
Beauregard 150
Centennial 150
Jewel 150

Watermelon

Watermelons are packed with lycopene, an antioxidant.  It actually has more lycopene than any other fruit or vegetable. They are a good source of vitamin C, B5, and A. It also contains potassium and copper. It is also the richest source of the essential amino acid Citruline, which is found in the white rind. Plant by seed through the end of July.

Variety Days to Harvest
   
Bush Sugar Baby 75
Crimson Tide 84
Golden Crown 80
Jubilee 95
MickyLee 85
Yellow Doll 68

*I have put links on actual planting, care and harvesting methods on each vegetable. Note that the sites they are linked to may not contain some of the information presented here, or, because they have been published in different parts of the country, do not reflect some of the recommendations I have made.

Making Your Soil Fertile


It really doesn’t matter what type of soil you have in your yard, garden or landscape. Any soil can be amended to make it fertile and robust.

As you can see from the chart above, each type of soil has its own properties. Clay soil has good nutrient- holding and water-holding capacities, but water and air cannot infiltrate into the clay. Clay is also hard to work. Dig a hole into clay soil and fill it with water. You can see what I mean. It takes forever for it to drain. Since clay is so dense, plant roots find it difficult to penetrate very far, leading to a weakened root structure and unhealthy plants. Soil amendments increase the porosity and allow water and air to flow through the soil.

Silt soils have medium capacities in all the categories, but to get the best results it will need to be changed somewhat.

Sand doesn’t hold nutrients or water very well. Pour water into sand and see how fast it drains through. Adding good amendments to sandy soil increases its water- and nutrient-holding abilities.


Now, loam is a different matter. Loam is an almost ideal plant-growing medium. It’s a mixture of equal parts of clay, silt, and sand. But, to make REALLY good soil, a few more ingredients are needed.

“ A soil amendment is any material added to a soil to improve its physical properties. In other words, you want to increase water retention, permeability, water infiltration, drainage, aeration, and structure. The overriding reason for this is to provide a better environment for roots,” according to a Colorado State University paper by J.G. Davis and D. Whiting.

There are easy ways to develop good soils.

I have found that organic materials are best, although some swear by inorganic methods. Organic amendments have come from something that was once alive…composted leaves and grass clippings (although it’s much better to mulch the clippings as you are mowing), peat moss, manure of many kinds, organic humates,  straw (not hay because hay has tons of seeds),  rotted wood (not fence slats or loading pallets) but wood from trees), fresh vegetable scraps, worm castings, and more. Although wood ash is organic, it is also high in sales and has a high pH.

You should also know this about organic materials. It helps the soil retain water, while also providing infiltration of both air and water. Soil with five percent of organic matter can hold up to three quarts of water per cubic foot. A 4,000 square foot lawn with that amount of organic matter (thus 4,000 cubic feet) can hold up to 3,000 gallons of water, and an acre can hold about 33,000 gallons. If water is a problem (many residents along the coast have their own water wells), it pays to remember that a good soaking rain can save a ton of water-and money – just by adding organic material. Some people make their own compost -others buy organic material (or steal it from their neighbor’s green recycling bin.)

Inorganic materials include vermiculite, perlite, pea gravel, sand, several other mined materials, and man-made crosslinked polymers. These materials are readily available.

I definitely prefer organic methods. I make my own compost- although I can never make enough to meet my needs. I do buy a lot, but I purchase it from local organic compost manufacturers. You can find a local organic composter near your area here.

One other good thing about organic material is that it inoculates the soil with beneficial organisms, which in turn help make nutrients more available to plants, as well as increasing the health of the soil.

What is Soil? It’s not just dirt!


Plants obtain water and nutrients from the soil surrounding their root systems. Plants also use the soil to anchor them physically, allowing them to stand upright.

Soil is made up of weathered rock fragments which contain minerals, the decaying remnants of plants and animals, including micro-organisms, and the secretions from the plants and animals living in it. It contains varying amounts of air, water and micro-organisms.

Good soil is made up of about half solids and half pores or open spaces between the solids. The solids consist of minerals and organic matter. The minerals consist of a myriad of particle sizes, from those that can be seen with the naked eye to those so small that an electron microscope is needed to view them.

These minerals make up about 45 to 48 percent of all the solid matter in soil. An additional 5 percent is made up of organic matter – decaying plants and animals.

An ideal soil would consist of the above concentrations of minerals and organic matter and the other 50 percent would include 25 percent air and 25 percent water in the porous areas.

The air and water provide sustenance for plant roots. The organic material allows microbes to grow. The microbes in turn, help the plant retrieve minerals and nutrients from the soil.

For more information on soil, please click here.

Is Spring Early This Year?


Officially, spring arrives in the United States on March 20. Spring comes early along the Gulf Coast though, and gardeners shouldn’t be too eager to plant just yet. A few warm days toward the end of February has prompted many, this gardener included, to jump the gun and begin putting in tender plants.

Even thought the USDA has published cold hardiness zones, and has projections for last frost, the parameters are quite large. For instance, the USDA indicates that absolute last frost date in region 9A (which includes a great deal of the Gulf Coast) is March 20. However, there are very few years when we had a frost that late. Not to say it can’t happen, The average risk for last frost in our area is March 1, although it may be a little later in the northern part of the county.

Before you start putting in tender tomato seedlings you might want to wait until nature tells you it’s actually springtime. Here are some indicators that herald the real arrival of spring:

The birds are singing

Backyard birds are one of the best indicators that springtime has arrived. Birds are extremely sensitive to weather. Bluebirds, for instance, are good harbingers. As the old poem goes: “Bluebirds are a sign of spring and gentle south breezes they bring.”

Other “early birds include the American golden plover, the purple martin although they sometimes arrive before the last frost, barn swallow and yellow-throated warbler. Check out the Audubon website or Cornell Ornithology website for identifications of these birds.

Doves (white-wing, mourning and Aztec, begin their cooing mating rituals in the backyard and elsewhere. Carolina wrens and pileated woodpeckers begin visiting trees in the neighborhood.

Trees

In about a week, begin looking for buds on your trees. Willows, pecans, and silver maples are good examples of early spring budding. Eastern and Texas redbuds are also early bloomers. These attractive trees bloom from the branches before leafing out and create a wonderful show with their tiny pink blossoms.

Many magnolias also begin blooming in very early spring. Star magnolias, saucer magnolias, Jane magnolias (tulip tree) and lily magnolias are some species that herald spring.

Flowering dogwoods are also an early indication of spring.

Vines

Some say that Carolina jessamine is the first harbinger of spring. With its golden yellow flowers climbing up leafless white oaks, sweet gum and our evergreen yaupon, it sends quite a message if you’re looking for it. Find it in wooded areas.

Another early spring bloomer is the pitcher clematis. Unlike its showy cousins, it sports a small purple flower- about the size of a 50-cent piece – resembling an upside-down pitcher. It grows in heavily wooded areas.  

Lightning bugs

If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where there are lightning bugs, know that these glowing insects are also an indication that true spring has arrived. Lightning bugs spend the winter as larvae munching on worms and other small invertebrates in soft moist soil. Highly sensitive to temperatures, they are a good indication that spring has arrived.  

Fish indicators

If you like to fish, largemouth bass bedding earlier than usual is also a good sign of an early spring. Largemouth bass go to shallow water to spawn when the daytime temperatures are consistently past the mid-60s and hits 70, and nighttime temperatures stay above the low 60s. Crappie also move to the shallows when bass begin bedding.  If you like saltwater fishing, black drum begin spawning after the last freeze, when temperatures stay consistently around 65 degrees.

 Flowers

When winecups, Indian paintbrush, and bluebonnets begin flowering earlier than usual, that’s also an indication that spring has arrived.  Although it’s too late to plant wildflowers now in Montgomery County – make a note in your calendar now to plant them next fall.

People

People can also inadvertently be good harbingers of spring as well. Seeing more people in the parks, more kids playing outdoors, more bicyclists, more hikers and more backyard barbecues? Keep your eyes open for these events in your neighborhood. Although we all like to follow calendars, many of us respond instinctively to the weather.

The Hooded Skunk makes its appearance on the Gulf Coast.


The other chilly evening, as I sat on my deck, contemplating the universe (and watching a satellite traverse the sky), a soft sound interrupted my reverie. I assumed it was the neighbor’s cat, who often visits me for a head scratch.

I looked down and froze. It wasn’t the cat at all, but a skunk…a weird-looking skunk. Having been raised on a farm in southwest Louisiana and having lived in the country, I have seen many skunks, but have never seen one like this. It stopped just a yard from my feet (which were propped up on a chair), I figured I was in trouble. I was too far from the backdoor, and the patio table blocked me from fleeing into the dark yard. My mind raced through the treatments for skunk spray, but at the moment, I couldn’t think of any.
Amazingly, the animal didn’t appear to see me. It stopped at the edge of the deck, still just a few feet away, looking around the edge of the deck into the darkness and seemed to be listening to some sound that it obviously heard, but I could not. Then it ambled away into the darkness, leaving me a little shaken. Worried that it might return and see me, I slowly arose and made my way back into the house.
Usually, the smell of a skunk precedes it, alerting other potential threats to stay away. But this time there was no scent.
Back in the house, the wife and I looked through out books and searched online for the animal. Instead of stripes, it had what looked like a pure white fright wig that extended from the nose to the tip of the tail, drooping down over its sides.

It was, we learned a hooded skunk – (Mephitis macroura) – translated to foul odorous, long tailed animal.

Mostly vegetarian, its preferred food is prickly pear,  but it will also eat insects, bird eggs and small vertebrates. Unlike our native skunks (Mephetis mephitis) which means foul-foul odorous animal – (notice that “foul” is used twice to describe the striped skunk with which we are more familiar), no record of rabies exists among the hooded skunk population, although their spray is just as horrid. They do however have parasites- nematodes, roundworms and fleas, which fairly well excludes them from human consumption.

We also discovered that my skunk was far out of its habitat range, which includes far southern New Mexico and Arizona, and near the Chisos Mountains in  west Texas. It’s range also continues on to most of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras Nicaragua and northwest Costa Rica.

They tend to den near rocky areas, crevices or human-made objects with a permanent water source and plenty of plants. The, like most of the skunk family, are nocturnal and solitary.

Possible reasons for the hooded skunk to have extended its range to east Texas is increased population density, more land taken up for farming, and climate change. As I have mentioned before, we are seeing more and more animals move northward from more tropical and hotter climes. 

As you can see from the photo, it’s a rather interesting animal. I would warn against petting it, however. Since it’s nocturnal,you may want to leave yourself a quick exit path if you are caught unawares staring at the stars on your patio.

Lawns need little care now


With Christmas right around the corner and the National Weather Service predicting a cooler- and wetter-than-average winter for the Gulf Coast region, the next few months might be the perfect time to sit before the fire with a good book and a warm drink.

During the cooler weather, you might have to take some of your more subtropical and tropical potted plants indoors, but you shouldn’t have to worry about your lawn.

Lawn Dormancy

Warm season grass goes dormant during the cooler months.That doesn’t mean it is dead. It does mean that the grass blades turn yellowish or even brown during the winter months. That’s because the grass plants are shifting their growth from above to below the ground. This is when St. Augustine and other warm season turf grasses build their root systems. Good root systems built during the cooler months mean stronger and more disease and pest-resistant plants in the spring.

Good soil practices

Taking care of your lawn is a process. We’ve all heard the phrase “don’t put a $10 plant into a $1 hole.” What that means is that for any plant – turf grass included – the soil must be fertile, full of beneficial microbes, and must provide a nutritious environment for plants to generate new roots and expand existing root systems. To create good soil conditions, homeowners must make sure that the soil beneath their lawn is healthy.

Since increased precipitation is expected, there should be little or no reason to water lawns during the winter and early spring (late February and early March along the Gulf Coast). In fact, last year, our systems indicated that lawns needed no irrigation during the entire winter period.

Lawn and garden information for Gulf Coast gardeners

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