November 22nd, 2006
Month-By-Month Gardening in Texas

Month-By-Month Gardening in Texas.
Dale Groom and Dan Gill.
Cool Springs Press. 2000

As the Govenor’s office of Economic Development and Tourism proclaims, “Texas, It’s Like a Whole Other Country®”. To Texas gardeners (despite the rest of the nation’s image of us as cactus and cowboys) Texas is a bunch of different countries–or at least climate regions. There’s the hot and humid Gulf coast of Houston and Corpus Christi. The piney woods in the east. The blackland prairie and hill country of central Texas. The high plains of the north. And the lush Rio Grande valley in the south. Oh, yeah. And somewhere way out in west Texas beyond the Pecos River is the desert southwest and mountains. So writing a book that covers gardening in Texas is quite the challenge.

Maybe because I garden deep in the heart of Texas where all the extremes average out, I found Month-By-Month Gardening in Texas to be pretty durn accurate. (Apparently there’s a redesigned 2005 edition but I’m reviewing th. 2000 edition which I found in the library.)

The book is divided alphabetically by type of plants (annuals, bulbs, houseplants, lawns, perennials, roses, shrubs, trees, vegetables, and vines) and then again by month. The advantage to this arrangement is that you can zero in on a specific type of plant you’re growing (for example, roses) see what you have to do each month of the year. It also allows some general information about each type of plant to be summarized at the beginning of the chapter.

The disadvantage is that if you want to see everything you should be doing in December for your lawn, roses, annuals, perennials, bushes….well you get the idea, then you have to jump from chapter to chapter. Fortunately there’s an index if you can’t immediately determine what category your plant is in. (The chapter on vines includes a miscellany of ground covers and even ornamental grasses.)

The book is concise and to the point…as the authors explain, “Think of this book as a large, expanded checklist.” It is one of the most practical gardening books I’ve ever come across. If you are live in Texas and are new to gardening, or if you are a long-time gardener who had just moved to Texas, I highly recommend it. As for me, I’m due for a refresher course and this a very comforting book to consult. Another quote, “New gardeners do not have the experience to know the rhythm of the seasons, and more knowledgeable gardeners often wish for a clear explanation of what to do at a particular time.”

Exactly! I started my garden diary because I knew the garden cycles in Austin were different than most books I read. Month-By-Month Gardening in Texas provides validation of what I’ve observed. And so it’s won my trust in areas that in which I have no experience. Any book that recognizes that Austin has two temperate growing seasons (late-March to mid-May and late-September to mid-November) which are interrupted by “brutally hot days” of summer obviously understands what it’s like to garden in Texas. Especially when it cautions, “There are no sharp boundaries between these seasons, and gardeners should always be aware that unusually high or low temperatures may occur at any time, especially during season transitions.” One observation of August is “Since it may be too hot to enjoy working in the garden, except in early morning or late afternoon, get out those spring bulb catalogs.” Another is, “At this time of year, this section should be called ‘dreaming’ not ‘planning’.”

The pages are pleasantly laid out and easy to read. There is neither too much information packed on a page nor excessive decoration on space-wasting eye-candy. Each 2-page spread includes subsections on planning, planting, care, watering, fertilizing, and pest control.

There is a lot of repetition which is a feature, not a flaw. The repetition enables you to skip to a specific point and find the information for month and type of plant without backtracking to information from the previous month.

The writing is straight-forward and informative. I wish I had had it when I started gardening in Texas.

by M Sinclair Stevens

2 Responses to post “Month-By-Month Gardening in Texas”

  1. From bill:

    I haven’t seen this book. However, I have an old book. published by the Dallas Garden Club, that has a similar idea. There is a section called “The Monthly Calendar for Practical Gardening” which has lists for every month of what to plant, what to do in the garden, what should be blooming etc. These little books were first published in 1941 and went through several editions.

    So what should I be doing now in November? Let’s see. “most bulbs go in now.. “fertilize all beds with fresh manure after the first frost.”

    “The Central Texas Gardener” which was published in 1980 (but looks older to me) has one chapter called “Gardening Calendar”. It lacks the detail of the “Month-by-Month” book. There are only 6 items for November. 1. Plant bulbs. 2. Fertilize shade trees. 3. Harvest mature green tomatoes before frost and let ripen indoors. 4. Prepare beds for planting roses in December and January. 5. Prepare flower beds. 6. Clean up debris to control insects and diseases. Hey! I’m doing okay. I planted 100 daffodils last week and I’m digging holes for new roses this weekend. — mss

  2. From Annie in Austin:

    Hello M,

    My friend and fellow Diva, Diane Goode, was our relocator when we first came to Austin in 1999, and my Texas gardening mentor. Diane made sure that I knew about John Dromgoole’s radio show, and about Tom Spencer’s radio & TV shows. As soon as the Travis County Master Gardeners put our their spiral bound “Guide to Gardening in Austin & Vicinity” [sometime in 2000] she encouraged her friends to buy a copy. Perhaps you would have liked it, too.

    This spiral-bound book is packed with very local information, plus notes for each month with advice on when seeds, plants, bulbs, vegetables, herbs, fruit, shrubs, and tree. should planted, fertilized, divided, transplanted, pruned, seeded, watered, etc. along with what insects & diseases to look out for at that time of year.

    One rather sad page of the book lists local Austin nurseries – some of them no longer exist.

    The book is still around, but now is in the third edition’

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose