Zilker Neighborhood Gardens

Commentary by a National Wildlife Steward who helps Zilker neighbors establish native plant gardens

Tag Archives: fall gardening

The Fall Garden in Texas

There’s been a lot of action in my garden lately. I’ve seen hummingbirds visiting the firebush. A squirrel(s) has been eating the flowers of my tall rosinweed, must the dismay of my dog! The birds have been bathing in the bath (and drinking). I caught a squirrel there the other evening, too, getting a quick drink. The bees and bumblebees are hard at work dawn through dusk. They seem to love my native poinsettia (despite it not seeming to have flowers), the salvia, the globe mallow, and others. Butterflies have also been flitting around. I caught a few of a Gray Hairstreak in the pictures below.

Lest you think the fall garden is moving towards “winter” and the plants dying back. Yes that will happen some. But the wildflowers have already started to grow. See a picture of a bluebonnet below. These wildflowers will start to grown now, but barely make it a few inches above the ground. They will spend the winter growing DOWN into the soil, their roots going quite deep. Then in the spring, they’ll start growing UP. So lest you think a mulched area has nothing there, take a closer look;  you might see some wildflowers.

Picture of Grandma's Rose, with a Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Grandma’s Rose, with a Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Picture of Grandma's Rose, with a Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Grandma’s Rose, with a Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Texas Bluebonnet, budding

Texas Bluebonnet, budding

Texas Hibiscus, blooming

Texas Hibiscus, flower blooms for one day



View of one side of the garden

View of one side of the garden

Salvia in bloom, abuzz with bees

Salvia in bloom, abuzz with bees

Salvia, with Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Salvia, with Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Tending the Fall Habitat Garden (free workshop on 10/11)

OCTOBER 11 – Tending the Fall Habitat Garden

(9:30-11am) The class will cover fall maintenance, seed collection, and suggested plantings. After discussion, participants will be able to practice what they have learned in the garden and help with seed collecting.
Instructor: Judy Walther, Environmental Survey Consulting

Hope to see you there.

You must:

For a description of the full series (October-May) please click on the following link. http://www.nwf.org/South-Central-Region/temp_event_AUS_HabitatTalks.aspx

Grow Green Homeowner’s Landscape Training (Free)


Want to attend a free garden tour, learn about native plants from experts, and get to swap plants? Here’s the event for you, and it’s free. It’s the 2012 Grow Green Homeowner’s Landscape Training. Grow Green is a City of Austin group that helps homeowners make good choices for landscaping.

Here are all the details – be sure to pre-register.

Thursday, October 18, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Join the City of Austin Grow Green team for our FREE homeowner’s landscape training. In celebration of Texas Native Plant Week this event will also include a native plant swap and tours of the One Texas Center (OTC) demonstration gardens led by landscape architects.The event is free, but attendees must pre-register here

——————————————————————– —————————————————————————- ——


6:00 p.m. – 6:15 p.m – Drop off plants for plant swap

6:15 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. – Gardens of One Texas Center Tour – meet in front of OTC (Tours will be led by John Gleason and Darcy Nuffer – both are landscape architects who designed gardens at OTC)

7:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Growing Green: Earth-wise Maintenance Strategies – Denise Delaney, Watershed Protection Department, Grow Green

Learn the most important things to do to make your landscape earth-wise, low maintenance, healthy and water-conserving. Plus pick up free landscape design, installation and maintenance resource materials designed to help you be successful with your gardening endeavors.

7:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. – Gardening for Wildlife Habitat – Erin Cord, Parks & Recreation Department, Wildlife Austin

As our city grows wildlife habitats are being altered. Wildlife Austin can help you create a vibrant landscape habitat haven where butterflies, songbirds and other wildlife can find what they need to keep calling Austin home. Learn how you can turn your backyard into a National Wildlife Federation habitat and join the nearly 2000 Austin homes, schools and public areas that are already certified.

8:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. – WaterWise Landscape Rebate Program – Christopher Charles, Austin Water, Water Conservation

WaterWise Landscape refers to landscaping and gardening in ways that reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental water from irrigation. Major water savings can be made by converting your healthy turf grass to native plant beds and permeable hardscape. Residential properties may receive $25 for every 100 sq. ft. converted. Get details on program eligibility, the process and requirements.

8:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. – Plant Swap

Plant Swap Details:

*All Texas native plants and also adapted plants that are listed in the Grow Green Native & Adapted Plant Guide will be accepted

*Seedlings only, no seeds

*Plants should be labeled (both common and Latin name is preferable but plants will be accepted with just one name)

*Plants should be dropped off between 6:00 p.m.- 6:15 p.m. at a table in front of the OTC. Look for Grow Green staff and tables with lots of plants.

*Homeowners who drop off a plant(s) will be given a numbered raffle ticket. If you are attending the plant swap but did not bring a plant to share then you will get a numbered ticket after all of the plants have been dropped off.

*After the garden tours and talks by landscape experts, homeowners will re-group in front of OTC at 8:30 p.m. for the plant swap. Plants will be selected based on individuals raffle ticket number. Once everyone has one plant then the rest of the plants will be freely distributed between the group.

———————————————————————— —————-


One Texas Center (OTC) – 505 Barton Springs Road, see map.


Free parking is available in the OTC Parking garage on the East side of the building.


Denise Delaney, 974-2581, denise.delaney@austintexas.gov


Plant some wildflowers … there’s still time

Last year, we removed 4 (yes 4!) enormous agaves from what is known as the “hell strip” – the 4 ft area between a sidewalk and a street. It is referred to as such due to what it takes on – people walking on it, often blasting sun, reflective heat from the street and the concrete. The former owner decided to xeriscape it with 5 agaves which quickly outgrew the space and likely made a lot of people mad who parked there or walked by getting poked by agave thorns. We sadly dug up the agaves and all their babies and gave them to green waste and at some point will be in your Dillo Dirt. Then we were left with a hell strip of dirt. Wildflowers in bloom

So, I decided to plant some annual Texas wildflowers from a packet my husband bought for me on a trip to Big Bend (see recommendations on seeds below). I scattered the seeds last year, in the Fall of 2010. Above is a picture of what we got in Spring of 2011. At a certain point (July-ish), the flowers stopped blooming and they got straw-like. I ended up cutting them down and there was an empty area where they were.

Emerging Texas wildflowersTo the left, you see the emerging wildflowers – this picture taken just a few days ago in November. I did not do anything to this area. What happened was it rained and the next thing I knew, I had little leaves popping up through the soil. I did plant three new grasses – Gulf Muhly – in order for there to be more vegetation in the wildflowers “dead” period, which happens from about July – October.

It is really simple to plant wildflowers and you can plant the seeds through November, so you have a few more weeks left to get on the task. You can buy Texas native wildflower seeds at places like Barton Springs nursery or the Natural Gardener. Another great seed source is Native American Seed. These seed packets are usually a mix of different annual or perennial wildflowers. If they are annual, they do die each year, but they reseed themselves, so they come back again year after year, depending on conditions. My package contained 12 annuals and perennials including: bluebonnet, bluebell, penstemon, paintbrush, iris, coneflower, coreoposis, black-eyed susan, poppy, primrose, baby blue eyes, and marigold. Native American Seed has a mix of their own which includes black-eyed susan, clasping coneflower, indian blanket, lemon mint, mexican hat, prairie coneflower, plains coreopsis, and Texas blueblonnet.

Once you have your packet of seeds, this is what you do.

  1. Disturb the soil a bit by raking it up with a strong metal rake or even a shovel. You don’t need to disturb it too deeply. The wildflowers will do best in “disturbed” dirt. I think that is why they liked my “hell strip” since we had definitely disturbed the area by pulling out all those agaves.
  2. Make sure there is no mulch and just dirt in the area. A few rocks are fine. No need to amend the soil with fancy fertilizers – these wildflowers have lived in TX for a long time and do not need amendments. If you have mulch, you should rake it away from the area until the seedlings have sprouted and are above the mulch level. Then you could move your mulch back over it.
  3. Take your seeds and throw them in the dirt. You should note how much the package will cover in square feet or yards. This gives you a sense of how much of the package to use. The seeds go a long way! My package was for 350 sq. feet but I was only doing an area of about 16 sq. feet! If your seeds are very tiny and you feel you might lose the seeds on the way down, you can take a shovel full of dirt into a bucket or can. Mix the seeds into the dirt, and then distribute the seeded dirt onto the area. This also helps if you are doing this process on a windy day.
  4. Then rake the area again with little force just to move the seeds around the area. Do not bury the seeds! The seeds need to be touching dirt on 3 sides and 1 side air. So that gives you a sense that the seeds should be just below or at the surface level.
  5. You may choose to put a few more seeds down and rake them in again gently, just to make sure you’ve covered your area with seeds.
  6. Then walk over the area (have your little kids help out). Just walk around to tamp down the earth and dirt.
  7. You are done!

You can let nature do its job through rain. Or if you want to urge your flowers along, you can water the seeded area once/day for 7 days until you see little dyadic leaves come up through the soil. During winter, you may only see a 1-2″ plant and that’s OK. The plant is growing DOWN into the soil deep during winter and developing energy for the big push UP when spring comes. In spring, you’ll get a great show.

More wildflowersWildflowers have a mind of their own. While you may plant an array of seeds, they may not all grow. Wildflowers will sprout if the conditions are right for them – and such conditions are different for different plants and a mystery to some degree. So you’ll get a show – but you may not exactly know what you’ll get!


%d bloggers like this: