Written by John Green
Texas Master Gardener, Orange County Master Gardeners
Hi gardeners! 2021 is fast approaching its end and the new year is coming soon. We can do many gardening tasks outdoors while the weather is good, or we can do shifts indoors on wet and gloomy days in preparation for spring planting. Spring is fast approaching, now is a great time to analyze the nutrient and pH of the soil through a soil testing laboratory. The results will usually be returned within a few weeks. The results of the soil analysis will highlight the shortcomings and list the modifications to improve the problem areas, and then incorporate the necessary modifications, while preparing the soil for spring vegetable and flower planting. The soil survey forms are available online at soiltesting.tamu.edu and at the Orange County Extension office, or at 409.882.7010 to request a form. Here are some tips to help you succeed in your spring vegetable and flower gardens:
- Continue to fertilize and water annual plants that occur in cool weather, such as dragons, pansies, vipers, and alms, to help them bloom properly. Distribute 5 pounds of cottonseed or alfalfa meal per 100 square feet of bed area, or use a commercially available slow-release fertilizer as instructed on the label.
- Now is a great time to transplant mature or built-in trees and shrubs while they are dormant. Fertilize newly transplanted trees or shrubs only after they have started to grow and only very lightly in the first year.
- Make flower and vegetable garden plans now, before the spring plantings rush. The time spent reviewing seed and horticultural catalogs pays off in a better crop choice when sitting comfortably indoors on a rainy day. In addition, it is fun to flip through garden catalogs and books while thinking about garden changes. If you don’t already know, we’re in Zone 9A.
- Before the warm weather arrives, jump into the growth of the plants and sow the seeds in a flat or container. Petunias, begonias and impatiens should be sown in January or February. Plants with warm temperatures like tomatoes, peppers, marigolds and marigolds should be started now.
- If you have a garden log, review last year’s records and start a new one this year by recording seed / plant orders. If not, this is a great time to start a garden log as it gives a record of the planting, the location, the date of planting, and the successes and failures.
- Inspect stored bulbs and vegetables and discard those that show signs of rot. If they appear dry, lightly steam them.
- Prepare the beds and garden for spring planting. Several centimeters of compost, composted pine bark or similar material should be incorporated.
- Choose and order gladiolus fruit for planting in February-March. Plant at two-week intervals to extend the flowering period.
- Check junipers and other narrow-leaved evergreens for worm bags. Insect eggs overwinter in the pouch and begin the cycle again by hatching in the spring and starting to feed on the foliage. Removing and burning the bags by hand will reduce future damage.
- Poinsettia and other “Holiday Season” plants can be extended with proper care. If the plant looks shabby, it’s time to cut it back 8 inches from the base. Keep the soil moist, but ensure good drainage so that excess moisture can drain out of the pot. Keep the unit away from heating ducts and heaters. Cool night temperatures are preferred, 60-65 F.
- When buying plants, the biggest is not always the best, especially when it comes to plants with bare roots. Medium and small sizes (4-6 feet) tend to take root more quickly and are more effective in the landscape than large sizes.
- Do not prune the bush until February (early Valentine’s Day) or early March. Use sharp scissors to make clean cuts and remove dead, dying and weak commas. Leave 4-8 healthy canes and remove about half of the top growth and height of the plant.
- Now is a great time to select and plant roses grown in a container to fill the bare spots in your rose garden.
- When pruning shrubs, first cut out dead or damaged branches; then thin it out by removing about a third of the canes or stems at ground level and remove only the oldest canes; then shape the rest of the plant keeping in mind the natural shape of the plant. Irrigate foliage plants as well as container plants only when necessary.
- The exception to this is climbing roses, they should be educated, but should only be pruned after the spring flowering period. It is always advisable to remove dead or weak commas. Thread the long canes through the openings in the grilles or pergolas and connect them with jute twine or plastic plant bundles. Fixing the canes prevents damage from the wind and contributes to a more sophisticated look to the garden when roses are in bloom.
- This is the ideal time to select and plant grapes, fruit trees and berries. Prune the peaches and grapes now. Now cut down herbaceous perennials and hardy ornamental grasses. Wait for the warm weather to arrive to assess the extent of frost damage to citrus and semi-tropical plants. When new growth begins, the damaged material can be removed.
Feel free to contact us for more information or gardening questions:
Orange County TX master gardeners
Facebook: Orange County Texas Master Gardeners Association.
Orange County Master Gardner Helpline: (409) 882-7010