The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office at 9020 Airport Road in Conroe is open for normal business hours. For gardening questions call (936)539-7824.
|The mission of the Montgomery County Master Gardener Association is to educate the community through fellowship and demonstration using research-based gardening information.|
All Gardening Classes are cancelled until further notice
Plant of the Month
By Elisabeth Castro, Master Gardener
The Naked Ladies are once again blooming in full splendor.
Like most bulbs, you plant them and forget where you planted them. Suddenly, at the end of summer and well into September, your eye catches this tall scape devoid of leaves with a large spidery looking flower, red, yellow, pink, or white at the top. These beautiful flowers go by many names, Spider Lilies, Hurricane Lilies, Surprise Lilies, Resurrection Lilies and Naked Ladies.
In “A Southern Garden”, Elizabeth Lawrence writes about the first red spider lilies, Lycoris radiata, coming to New Bern, North Carolina directly from Japan in the 1800’s by Captain William Roberts who was with Commodore Perry when he opened the port of Japan. The captain brought 3 bulbs which were according to his niece in such a dry condition that they did not show signs of life until the War between the States.
While the heirloom variety (L. radiata var. radiata) may still be found in some Southern gardens, what is more commonly sold by catalog companies specializing in bulbs are the smaller bulbs (L. radiata var. pumila). Both varieties do equally well in our area. The summer heat and humidity does not faze them and after a good rain in late summer pop up and bloom for two weeks. In Florida they are called Hurricane Lilies as the flowers usually appear after tropical storms. Leaves emerge after the blooms and remain throughout the early winter months.
Equally tough is Lycoris aurea, the yellow or golden spider lily. These come from the subtropical provinces of China, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The scape and flower are taller than the red spider lily. The flowers remind one of the native yellow deciduous azaleas. It is said that the name Surprise Lily comes from the surprised look on people’s faces when they see the lily blooming for the first time.
Lycoris albiflora, the white Spider Lily, flowers at the same time as the red form in my garden but has remained fairly small compared to the red and yellow.
Lycoris squamigera, the Pink Naked Lady, also called the Resurrection Lily because they first grow their leaves in spring and after the leaves have died in summer, the flowers appear, making it look like the plant resurrected. They perform well in the Upper South and dislike the heat from the Gulf Coast. I’ve tried for years to grow them without seeing a single bloom.
The bulbs should be planted rather shallow and preferably under deciduous trees and shrubs.
In years when we don’t have heavy rains in September, they remain dormant and only produce their straplike leaves.
October in the Garden
By Bob Dailey, Master Gardener
Average temperature range for October: 79F to 63F
Average rainfall for October: 3.58″
If you’re new to the area, you might want to know that October is “almost autumn” here in Montgomery County. Dangerous cold fronts this month are an extreme rarity. Rainfall is adequate for lawns.
Flower Planting Season
It’s time to put in Spring-blooming bulbs and corms: crinums, amaryllis, rain lily, Byzantine glads, iris, cannas, and gingers. You can also divide daylilies now. Plant seeds for bluebonnets, poppies, larkspurs.
Spread ¼ to ½ inch of good organic compost on your lawn. This action will add nutrients to your soil and inoculate it with beneficial organisms. Aerating your soil is also an option. If you choose to aerate, then do it before you spread compost. There are commercial firms that can aerate and compost for you, or you can do it yourself (or hire a lawn crew to do it). You can even purchase a simple lawn aerating fork to aerate. It’s a little labor-intensive, but I’ve done it myself, and it’s not as difficult as it sounds.
I would wait a month to plant cole crops_ cabbage, greens (collards and mustard greens), broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, and I would wait until November to plant root crops: Carrots, turnips, radishes, beets, and parsnips.
Now is a great time to plant perennial herbs. Check gardening publications for a list of perennial herbs you can grow now.
Add new mulch to the garden, to keep down weeds, and to protect crops for possible freezes in late December, January, and early February.
The weather is cooling off, so vegetables don’t need as much water. To check this, either use a moisture meter ( readily available online or at hardware stores and nurseries) or dig down a few inches and test for moisture with your more acceptable. If it’s moist, cut down on your current watering.
Fertilize cool-season crops now. I use a rich fish and kelp liquid, mixed with water according to directions, and fertilize cole seedlings when I put them into the ground at about a pint per plant. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the amount.
You can plant strawberries now too, but I would wait until November to put them in the ground.
Beware of cabbage loopers, which can infest all cole crops. There are two ways of dealing with these pests, which can destroy a plant in a few days. The first is handpicking. You can find the little green caterpillars in the undersides of the leaves. They are hard to find, but once you develop an eye for them, you can spot them fairly quickly. Drop them in soapy water or squash them. If the infestation is large, use Bacillus thuringiensis (BT). Spray the underside of the leaf. If you spot aphids, another problem with cole crops, a spray of soapy water will solve it.
Ornamental and vegetable gardens during the winter can cheer up most winter blahs. A lovely bouquet of winter flowers and some Brussels sprouts sautéed in a little olive oil and garlic then sprinkled with balsamic vinegar is a delight on a cold winter evening. Although generally, I’m not too fond of Brussels sprouts, I do like them cooked this way.
Critter of the Month
By Elisabeth Castro, Master Gardener
Imperial moths, Eacles imperialis, belong to the Giant Silkworm Moth family also called the Royal Moths. They are giants in the moth family with the adult Imperial moth having a wingspan of 5 ½”. They are largely yellow in color with brown splotches. The female moth has a more yellow coloring than the male. Adult Imperial moths do not eat and have a very short life span. Instead, they focus all their energy on mating before dying.
Imperial moths can be found from Southern New England to the Florida Keys and west to Eastern Nebraska and Central Texas. They are becoming extremely rare in urban areas mainly due to increased use of artificial lighting and wide-spread use of pesticides. Although nocturnal adult moths are very attracted to light making them easy prey for predators.
In late Spring the Imperial moths emerge from the soil, mate, and the female moth lays hundreds of eggs on a wide variety of trees, such as Oak, Pine, Maples, Sweetgum and Sassafras. They undergo complete metamorphosis with four life stages (instars), egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. Of the hundreds of eggs perhaps only 1% survive into adulthood since the larvae often feed exposed and are considered a tasty treat to birds.
First instar larvae are orange in color, about half an inch long, with black spines. Fully grown caterpillars, about 3-5 inches, can vary in coloring from light to dark brown, burgundy, and green. A study done by Goldstein (2003) reported that the coloring of the larvae was affected by the host plant they fed on. Those he reared on pine were mostly green.
Fully grown caterpillars crawl into the soil and pupate underground where they overwinter. The pupa has a forked structure at the end that helps the pupa reach the soil surface just before the moth emerges. Adult moths fly from April through October with one or two generations in the South. They only live for a few days where they are actively searching for mate.
When I saw an Imperial moth in my garden it startled me as I had never seen such a beautiful, gigantic moth before. It was during the day and hung very still on a back door. I have been searching for these giant moths ever since.