Hello garden friends! 2021 has quickly ended, and the new year is here. There are many gardening tasks we can accomplish outdoors in good weather or indoors on wet and dreary days, in preparation for spring planting. Spring is fast approaching; Now is the perfect time to have your soil tested for nutrients and pH levels through a soil testing lab. Results are usually returned within a few weeks. The results of the soil test will highlight the gaps and list the modifications to correct the problems, then you can incorporate the necessary modifications at the same time you prepare the soil for planting spring vegetables and flowers. Soil test forms are available online at soiltesting.tamu.edu and at the Orange County Extension office or by calling 409-882-7010 to request a form. Below are tips that will help make vegetable and flower gardens a success in spring:
- Continue to fertilize and water cool weather annuals like snapdragons, pansies, violas, and alysses to promote efficient flowering. Distribute five pounds of cottonseed or alfalfa meal per 100 square feet of bed area or use commercial slow-release fertilizer according to label directions.
- Now is a great time to transplant mature or established trees and shrubs while they are dormant. Do not fertilize newly transplanted trees or shrubs until after they have started to grow, and only very lightly in the first year.
- Make flower and vegetable garden plans now before the spring planting rush. Time spent reviewing seed and gardening catalogs while you are comfortably seated indoors on a rainy day will be rewarded with a better selection of plants. Also, it is fun to flip through catalogs and garden books while contemplating the changes in your garden. In case you didn’t already know, we are in Zone 9A.
- Get a jump on plant growth before the warm weather arrives. Sow the seeds in apartments or containers. Petunias, Begonias and Impatiens should be sown in January or February. Warm-temperature plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, and periwinkles, should be started now.
- If you have a garden journal, review last year’s notes and start a new one for this year by recording your seed / plant orders. If not, now is a great time to start a garden journal as it will provide you with a record of what was planted, location, planting date, and successes or failures.
- Check your stored bulbs and vegetables and discard any that show signs of rotting. Mist them lightly if they seem dry.
- Prepare the flower beds and garden for spring planting. Till in several inches of compost, composted pine bark or similar material.
- Select and order gladiolus bulbs for February / March planting. Plant at two week intervals to extend the flowering period.
- Check junipers and other narrow-leaved conifers for pockets of bagworms. The insect eggs overwinter in the pouch and begin the cycle again, emerging in the spring to begin feeding on the foliage. Hand removal and burning of pouches reduces future damage.
- Poinsettias and other “holiday season” plants can be extended with proper care. If the plant looks ragged, maybe it is time to cut it down to 8 “from the base. Keep the soil moist but provide good drainage so that excess moisture can drain out of the pot. Keep the plant away from heating ducts and heating units.Cool nighttime temperatures are preferred, 60 to 65 degrees F.
- When buying plants, the bigger is not always the best, especially when it comes to bare rooted plants. Medium to small sizes (4 to 6 feet) are generally faster to establish and more effective in the landscape than large sizes.
- Do not prune shrub roses before February (from Valentine’s Day) until early March. Use sharp shears that will make clean cuts and remove dead, dying and weak canes. Leave four to eight healthy stems and remove about half of the top growth and height of the plant.
- Now is the perfect time to select and plant roses grown in containers to fill bare spots in your rose garden.
- When pruning shrubs, prune off any dead or damaged branches first; then thin out by removing about a third of the stems or stems at ground level, removing only the oldest stems; and then shape the rest of the plant, keeping the natural shape of the plant in mind. Water foliage plants as well as container plants only when necessary.
- Climbing roses are an exception and should be trained but not pruned before the spring flowering period. It is always appropriate to remove dead or weak canes. Weave long canes through openings in trellises or arbors and tie them with jute twine or plastic plant ties. Attaching the canes now prevents wind damage and contributes to a more refined look of the garden when the roses are blooming.
- Now is the perfect time to select and plant grapes, fruit trees and berries. Prune the peaches and grapes now. Now cut back herbaceous perennials and hardy ornamental grasses. Wait for warm weather to arrive to assess the extent of frost damage on citrus and semi-tropical plants. When new growth begins, the damaged material can be removed.
John Green is one of Orange County’s master gardeners. For more information or to get your gardening questions answered, please visit https://txmg.org/orange, call 409-882-7010 or email [email protected]