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Wednesday - April 30, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Planting, Seasonal Tasks, Seeds and Seeding
Title: Too late to begin planting in May in Austin?
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Is it too late to begin planting in May? I live in Austin Texas and have finally completed my plans for a native Texas landscaping (plants and grass) of my front yard. I'd like to get the landscaping done this year but worry that it may be too hard on the plants to plant them in May. What do you recommend?


If it's not too late, it's getting pretty close. Please read this article on Gardening Timeline from our How-To Articles to get some feel for the best times to do planting. This is not to say you have to leave your landscape bare until Fall, that's not a good idea, either, because weeds know no season. However, you need to get going just as soon as possible.

Don't try to transplant anything bare-root unless it's absolutely necessary. Container-grown plants that have been kept watered and look healthy have a better chance. And don't go out and buy everything at once. At the nursery, the plants are often in shade areas, and are watered regularly, but if you have a whole lot of stuff at home at once, it is going to start wilting and suffering. Unless you have professional help digging and planting, you could lose your plant before you ever get your hole dug.

Especially woody plants, shrubs, trees, need to get in the ground and start getting water, as they are going to be prone to transplant shock. You should stick a hose in the fresh soil around the plant and let water dribble slowly into the hole until water appears on the surface. This should be repeated every couple of days until the plant seems well-established. Bedding plants and plugs of grass can also be planted, but, again, will need some extra water for a while. If you take any plant out of its pot and it seems to be root-bound, that is, the roots are going around and around in the shape of the pot, clip some of those roots. It may seem brutal, but the plant needs to be forced to put its roots out into the soil where it is going to grow. If those roots are left alone, the plant will strangle itself. Any planting is better done late in the afternoon, where it will begin to cool off and not be such a strain on the plant. In Austin, the heat is a far greater threat to our plants than any cold could ever be.

Seeds for wildflowers still should be held and planted in the Fall, in the natural cycle of planting the same time the plants are dropping their seeds. In case you have not already read it, see this article on A Guide to Native Plant Gardening. And, finally, consider the soil you are putting those fresh young roots into. See this article on Composting; this is something you can start in the summer and keep doing year round. It is good for all soils, improving texture and drainage and helping keep the roots cool (or warm, in the winter). If you haven't already purchased or ordered your native plants, here is a list of area Native Plant Suppliers that can help you.


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