Hometown Gardener

Paul and Nila Dowlearn-Owners of Wichita Valley Nursery. Paul’s recent books, “The Lazy Man’s Garden” and “Touch the Earth” are available at the Nursery, 5314 S.W. Pkwy, Wichita Fall, Texas.

A “million dollar rain.” The first wave of cool season grasses, wildflowers, and other forbs has germinated. Tiny green sprouts covering the land. If you had wheat, rye, bluebonnets, what-have-you, in the ground it is coming up. On our property, the winter grasses are mainly the two invasive brome grasses that now dominate much of the Southwest. So be it… It is still grass and covers the ground providing food and cover for wildlife. I have some patches of Texas bluegrass I have always enjoyed too.

We marked 3.2” all said at the house and 3.4” at the nursery. Some parts of Texoma had twice those amounts. Especially parts of Jack, Young, Throckmorton, and Haskell counties where some local flooding did occur. So while the fires continue to burn out west, mosquitoes are killing cattle and other livestock in Louisiana, we bask in the blessing of some very good rainfall. Amen…

Some of you may ask, “Have I missed the boat?” Definitely not… This is just the first wave of cool season plant germination. The subsoil moisture from these rains will still exist. It’s “in the bank” as the farmers say. With each new rain event, more will come up until we are lush and green again. This is one of those situations where timing is not critical. The exception to this would be those who use pre-emergents.

I was around when these were invented for the general public. The public never understood and still doesn’t for the most part. The prefix “pre” means “before.” So if you had the products down before the rain you did some good. If not, then yes you missed the first wave. Doing pre-emergents now will only serve to fertilize the winter grasses and broad leaf weeds that are already growing. It will reduce the next wave of germination but to treat weeds that already exist you need a post emergent. “Post” meaning “after.”

The bulk of these products sold at most garden centers (not ours) carry dire warnings about application and use. “This product is intended for lawn grass only and should not be used around trees and shrubs,” is one we commonly read in the fine print. Who does not have trees and shrubs in their landscape? It is a shame we live in a society where one must read the fine print to learn the truth. Other warnings often include “discard or wash clothing separately,” along with “shower immediately.” Is this exposure worth it to prevent weeds? Not in my opinion.

Healthy lawn grass and proper mowing along with irrigation when needed and some natural fertilizer use will choke out all but the most aggressive weeds. Enhance the good thing rather than attempt to eradicate the bad thing is what I have always said. That is not what we are trained to do by mass marketing media. Instead it is wait until you have a problem then come on down to the store and we’ll sell you a product that says it will fix it. Don’t forget to read the fine print.

We sell corn gluten meal as a pre-emergent and 20% vinegar for a post emergent as safe alternatives. And they work, especially if you time it right. Pre-emergent should be applied before the first good fall rain. Post emergents should be applied on warm sunny days at temps above 70(f). We eat corn meal and lighter dilutions of vinegar so there is nothing to fear. We know what these products are. Very few people know what balan, surflan, picloram, glyphosate, and 2-4-D really is and nobody has that stuff for supper. Not intentionally anyway. ‘Nuff said.

Cool season veggies are available now and more will be ordered as needed. We sold some trees last week. If you need some shade the ground is as soft as it ever gets and planting now will give your investment the entire cool season before another hot summer causes problems or even death. It stays warm underground and that is where the all important roots live. The soils stay moist and workable through winter. So when it is easiest to expand roots? When is it easier to dig a hole? You got it…

Once again, fall planting is not what you learn listening to the mass media. April may be the best time if you live in Vermont but we live in the south. Our time is now. If you are among those who understand this then please do your neighbor and especially those newcomers a favor. Share this information because the TV, radio, and internet are not going to help. Next April I want you sitting on the porch with your favorite beverage enjoying what you planted in September.

Business is picking up at the nursery. I really was happy this past week. We are all in better spirits now having made it through another Texoma summer. This one has not been so bad and no doubt there will be a few more hot days but what is ahead now is all good. This past rain event caught us up and we are now above normal rainfall for September with two more weeks to go. Thinking on this I realized that since 2015 we that live in Texoma have enjoyed above average rainfall. The ponds and lakes are full. Our cattle are fat and healthy and the promise of a decent wheat crop with free grazing is in our immediate future.

There a still a great many folks who feel that now they are too late. Well yes you are too late for a fresh crop of tomatoes and summer squash. Those that pulled through summer are now flowering and we will harvest. What these folks need to know is they are in fact still early. Planting season has just begun. Just not for warm season veg like tomatoes. Thank God, everything is not a tomato. Come see us!!

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