Garden View: How to get your garden ready for the fall season

The beginning of fall is the best time for planting trees, shrubs and flowers in the Rio Grande Valley. September and early October are also the times when we plant wildflower seeds to bring in the birds and butterflies in the spring.

South Texas has a unique and vital ecosystem supporting an abundant number of species of birds, butterflies and dragonflies. Each of us can enjoy this bountiful variety of wildlife with just a bit of fine tuning on the plants we use in our gardens.

>> Plant native trees that support wildlife.

Cedar Elm is a large, tough, drought tolerant shade tree that provides cover and nesting.

Medium large trees include, Anacua with flowers the bees love, fruit the birds enjoy, and lots of cover and nesting sites. Texas Ebony is another medium size tree providing cover, nesting sites and flowers to support pollinators.

Plant Anacua and Ebony away from sidewalks and driveways and plant all trees at least 30 feet from buildings to avoid foundation problems.

Small trees include Texas Persimmon with edible fruit and fragrant flowers and Wild Olive with flowers that support butterflies. With over 1,200 plant species native to our area, it is easy to find suitable trees, shrubs and flowers that are loved by wildlife, look good in the landscape, and are native to South Texas.

>> Add a birdbath. Keep it shallow, no more than one inch and about 15 inches in diameter. Birds use bird baths where the water is not deeper than their legs and the surface is rough to avoid slipping. Concrete works well.

>> Build multi-layered plantings. Use taller native shrubs in the center of a bed with gradually shorter plants around the bed. Along a fence, use taller plants next to the fence and shorter plants in front.

Mulch beds with wood mulch and leave space between plants so birds have room to walk. If you have the space, a 2- to 4-foot high stack of twigs in the garden also works well to provide hiding places for small birds needing to escape larger predators.

>> Utilize native vines on arbors. Perhaps the best native vines are our passion vines. They are 

host plants for butterflies, supporting both the immature and adult stages of butterfly. And, the caterpillars are required food for baby birds. Remember, no spraying pesticides in this yard; allow for the natural cycle of life.

>> Add groves or thickets if you have the space. For a clean look, you can add three to five native trees of the same species. In the picture, native Texas Huisache provides valuable nesting for white-winged doves, bees utilize its pollen, and the homeowners enjoy its fragrant flowers.

>> Use native hedges as screens. For thick screens that reach about 6 to 7 feet tall, plant Berlandier’s Fiddlewood. This native produces clusters of flowers that support small pollinators and beneficial insects, provides nesting and cover for birds, as well as, fruit they can enjoy.

>> Grow a meadow.

September is the time for planting wildflowers in South Texas. Even a small strip, 3 to 4 feet

wide by the length of a pathway, will provide food for birds. Be sure to include native grasses for seed loving birds. Check with local nature centers for seeds or visit local nurserymen.

Waugh’s in north McAllen has a native wildflower mix, conveniently packaged for flower beds.

And today, Toni Trevino of Rancho Lomitas Nursery in Starr County, will be at the Growing Growers Farmers Market, with numerous native plants that support wildlife, including the rare Texas Shrimp Plant, Berlandier’s Fiddlewood, as well as wildflowers and native shrubs. This market is open 9 a.m. to noon in Firemen’s Park, on the corner of First Street and Business 83 in McAllen.

No matter how large or small your garden, by including native plants we can support wildlife and bring them closer to our homes.

Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. You can contact her at