Late winterizing chores in the landscape
February 01, 2015
By Donna Roberts/Victoria County Master Gardener
Edited by Charla Borchers Leon/Victoria County Master Gardener
PHOTO BY DONNA ROBERTS/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
Care for cool-weather blooming plants by removing spent blooms, watering in a routine pattern, fertilizing and also replacing winter-damaged or unhealthy plants. These tips are recommended whether in a landscaped bed or in a container like with these snapdragons, cyclamen and sweet alyssum."
PHOTOS BY CHARLA BORCHERS LEON/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
This mulched bed contains seasonal additions of Swiss chard as bright-colored foliage, outer bed plants, blooming snapdragons, ornamental Aztec grass and cut-back perennials that include warm weather blooming gaura and jatropha plants. The cedar mulch protects the roots and helps prevent weeds.
Adding mulch to your beds is a year-round task and is especially helpful in winter months to keep moisture in and weeds out as well as protect from excessive freezing temperatures.
Hopefully, by the time this article is in print, we will be free of the freezing temperatures--and hopefully, everyone remembered to add mulch to garden beds before the thermometer dropped.
Plant, fertilize annuals
The great thing about February is that it is always a time of starting anew in your landscape. Cool-season annual flowers can be planted in case you didn't get around to it in the late fall.
You also need to fertilize those annuals that you did plant earlier and keep up the fertilizing once monthly. While you are performing theh above duties, it is also the time to replace any winter-damaged or unhealthy plants.
Other late winter-time duties
Additional duties this time of year include adding organic matter to existing soils, mulching (a never ending duty), watering, pruning, and vegetable/herb/fruit care. I'll explain a little on each of these duties.
Add organic matter to the soil
Every time you plant vegetable gardens and flower beds, you should be adding organic matter to the soil. Pine bark or compost that is tilled in the soil helps aeration in clay soils and increases the soil's ability to hold water.
Organic matter added to the soil is like having a freshly created garden bed. It, along with sufficient mulch, will protect from evaporation and/or any freezes that may pop up this time of year.
Water in routine frequency
We continue to be in a drought in our area. Winter drought can be particularly devastating to the landscape, especially when it is combined with strong north winds and freezing weather.
It is very important to water twice per month right now if there has not been any significant rainfall. Lawns, as well as any landscape plants and vegetable/fruit plants, should all be beneficiaries of routine watering. It is also a good time to check your irrigation systems.
Prune for renewal of growth
My favorite chore is in store this month--pruning. There is something renewing about cutting off all the dead wood from plants and seeing a new beginning. It reminds me it is a fresh start for them and for me.
I always prune my roses and other plants the day after Valentine's Day. However, if you prefer Valentine's Day and can enlist help from a loved one, all the better. Keep in mind Valentine's Day is only a guideline--the pruning can be done after this date, but don't wait too long.
It is also the time to prune your fruit and nut trees. Trim off any dead and winter-damaged foliage from your perennial plants. You may even cut back by a half any hibiscus, rose bush, sage, firebush, or plumbago.
Additionally, it is a good time to perform major pruning and shaping of your trees, crepe myrtles and any other large shrubs. Keep in mind sometimes February is the coldest month, so be aware of freeze warnings and protect your plantings as needed.
Fertilize trees, shrubs, vines--not lawns
Trees, shrubs, and vines should be fertilized this month. Fertilizing now helps the roots absorb nutrients which in turn prepares them for spring growth.
If you plan to transplant any of the above, now is the time to do so. However, do not fertilize your lawn just yet--you need to wait until you've mowed your lawn at least twice.
Fertilizing the lawn should begin late March through early April. Lawns should also be watered thoroughly once per month right now in the absence of rain.
Care for cool weather veggies
Transplant any of your cool weather vegetables such as broccoli, leaf lettuces, onions, cabbage, and cauliflower. You may also sow your seeds of carrots, beets, additional leaf lettuces and greens. Also, don't forget to fertilize the vegetable plants lightly with a water-soluble fertilizer.
Transplant cold-tolerant herbs
Cold tolerant herbs such as chives, cilantro, garlic, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme can also be transplanted. No fertilizing needed here.
Remember water for garden friends
Last but not least--please provide water for our birds and squirrels. They, like plants, need this basic essential to survive.
It's an exciting time in the garden this month--new plants, new you.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension--Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or email@example.com or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com
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