The cold weather and freezing temperatures at the end of the year damaged grasses, plants and trees across the state. The coldest December in Texas in 40 years left gardeners dealing with the ugly aftermath in their gardens and yards.
“We now have a lot of ugly vegetation,” states Dr. Larry Stein of Texas A&M, Uvalde. “As we have said in the past, learn to like ugly for a while. He advises gardeners to leave damaged greenery in place and avoid pruning, weeding and cleaning up yards and gardens until the average last freeze date (March 15 in Ellis County).
While waiting out the weather, Dr. Stein offers this gardening guide:
Water and fertilize cool-weather annuals
Continue to water and fertilize cool-weather annuals such as snapdragons, Bells of Ireland, stocks, larkspur, pansies, violas and sweet alyssum to encourage the best blooms. Use a slow-release fertilizer.
Resist pruning bush roses and grapes until mid-February. Herbaceous perennials and hardy ornamental grasses may also be cut back at this time.
Transplant mature trees and shrubs, and plant bare-root plants
Don’t fertilize newly set out trees or shrubs until after they have started to grow, and then only very lightly the first year. When buying plants, the biggest is not always the best, especially when dealing with bare-root plants. The medium to small sizes, 4-6 feet, are usually faster to become established and more effective in a landscape than larger sizes.
For extra help identifying what tree works best for your yard and tips on how to buy them, visit the Texas A&M Forest Service’s Texas Tree Planting Guide.
Check plants for winter pests
Check junipers and other narrow-leaf evergreens for bagworm pouches. The insect eggs overwinter in the pouch and start the cycle again by emerging in the spring to feed on the foliage. Hand removal and burning of the pouches reduce future damage.
Plan and prepare for spring flower and vegetable gardens
Make flower and vegetable garden plans now before the rush of spring planting. Time spent “armchair gardening” by the fireplace will pay off in improved plant selection. Besides, it’s fun to page through the garden catalogs, books, and websites while contemplating changes in your garden.
Sow seeds in flats or containers to get a jump on plant growth before hot weather arrives. Petunias, begonias and impatiens should be sown in January or February. Warm-temperature plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, marigolds and periwinkles, should be sown in late January or early February.
Prepare beds and garden areas for spring planting. Till in several inches of compost, composted pine bark or similar material.