By Lucy Harrell T.C.N.P. A Specialist On Demanding Environments
Let’s all celebrate by spending more time outside doing what we gardeners love to do best- gardening! The weather is great now and promises of more days in the seventies have been made- so you know that the bug to shop for cool season annuals is going to bite. I want to offer you some pretty cool season combinations in this
newsletter and remind you about how to plant cool season color so that you don’t have to re-feed it in the spring.
I like to incorporate perennial and cool season herbs with my cool season plantings of annuals. Herbs love our winter weather and look perky and help bulk up smaller cool season plantings of color like pansies and violas.
Curly parsley makes a great planting behind low annual color like pansies, and violas . Plant the parsley on 12”-18” centers and leave enough room in front for the color.
The parsley will grow to fat round clumps of dark green foliage – you can snip it all winter for your cooking and in May the swallow tail butterflies will lay eggs on it-it is a larvae food for their babies. You can also eat pansy and viola flowers-they really make a salad pretty. I also brush the flowers with a mixture of egg white, water and sugar – and lay them on wax paper to dry and use them to decorate cakes. If you aren’t hungry for them- press them between pages of phone books and decorate paper crafts.
I like to use curry plants and kale and cabbages in my cool season border too. Any of these could be a back drop to low growing seasonal color in winter sun like pansies, violas and dianthus.
dianthus as a cool season
sunny border in front of herbs
curry kale peacock kale cabbage
dianthus (red, white , purple) violas, pansies
The taller winter color like snapdragons are really spectacular in large groups of mixed jewel colors.
Snap dragons come in all colors except blue
Plant Snap dragons on 12” centers
Most annual winter color needs winter sun to do well-but there are some that take shade well and still bloom. Dianthus will bloom in sun or shade and cyclamen do very well in a bright shady spot or a little AM sun.
Dianthus –(perennial or annual) will make a lovely winter border in bright shade.
Cyclamen really do well in containers but if carefully planted in well drained soil and watered correctly ( they don’t like water being poured on them-soaker hoses are best) they will make it through the winter in our Texas climate and are popular with gardeners. Most varieties are a medium green color.
I love to grow lettuce in containers or in my flower beds to fill in where warm season annuals were. Be prepared to cover if it falls below 30 several nights in a row. Leaf lettuce (often called loose-leaf lettuce) is perhaps the best adapted choice for our Texas climate. It forms loose rosettes of leaves that come in a range of colors from various shades of green to burgundy including speckled types. Leaves may be harvested individually or as with other lettuce types you can harvest entire plants at one time. Another option is to “mow” the plants back part way with scissors and then allow them to regrow for a later harvest.
Bibb types (also referred to as Butterhead lettuce) form a tight rosette of fleshy leaves but do not form a head. They do well in our Texas climate and are popular with gardeners. Most varieties are a medium green color. They are a sweet lettuce.
Butterhead lettuces make cute little heads that weigh about 4 ounces-cute in a salad plate with mandarin orange slices scattered on them and drizzled with poppy seed dressing. Yummmmmmm! Quick & easy
Cos types of lettuce (also referred to as Romaine types) are also heading lettuces. But rather than tight round heads they form tall, elongated heads. Romaine lettuce may be firm or rather loose compared to crisp head lettuce.
Bright Light Swiss Chard is beautiful in the flowerbed mixed with perennials and roses or in a cool season food garden and you can harvest
from the side to brighten up your salads and still have your pretty plant too.
There are so many fun cool season crops that we can grow in our mild climate and the weather is so great to garden in. I hope that this newsletter has inspired you to
get out and garden while the weather is wonderful. Remember to plant your cool season color and crops with equal parts of worm castings, rock phosphate and
alfalfa meal. This mixture will keep your cool season color and veggies going all through the fall and winter and in March the alfalfa meal will have just broken down for aspring feeding. Make yourself a bucket of the mix and add a handful to each planting hole. As with all plantings water them in with Maxicrop seaweed-using a solution of 2 tablespoons of Maxicrop to a gallon of water.
Love & Luck, Lucy Harrell