Tips 2011

December 2011 Tips

By Sandi Stringer
Somervell County Master Gardener

As you begin to winterize your gardens, lawns, and trees, look around and see which plants have done well this past year.  Not only have we been through a record drought, we also had record-breaking cold temperatures with snow and ice in February.  That being said, you can probably safely say plants that survived the entire year are “keepers”.  Forecasters are also saying that La Nina, which was the cause of our drought, will continue on into 2012.  So plant wisely and don’t forget to mulch, both for winter and summer!


Daffodils can be planted now thru mid January and do not require pre chilling.  Some well-adapted ones for our area are: Ice Folllies, Carlton, & Fortune.  These are easy to grow, don’t require a lot of special attention or water and are spring bloomers.  Other bulbs such as tulips, hyacinths, & crocus need pre chilling and can be planted in late Dec. and January


As the leaves continue to fall, just mow them and leave the clippings on the lawn or you can rake them up and spread in flowerbeds or add to your compost pile.  Check on your landscape for water stress during dry spells, water when needed. Can apply a broadleaf weed killer but do so when daytime temps. are in the 70’s.



Pruning of trees is generally not advised this month, wait until late winter, just prior to the onset of new growth.  Replenish mulch


Major pruning of shrubs should be done in Feb. although selective trimming of limbs can be done now. Evergreen plants such as hollies, Indian hawthorns, junipers and ligustrums that have died this past summer are not going to come back, clean them out now so you can replant either immediately or in the spring


This is a list of some popular ones that you might have.

Continue deadheading (snipping old blooms) perennials until we have a hard freeze

  • Purple Coneflower, Black-Eyed Susan, Shasta, & Oxe-eye Daisies: prune spent flowers to the ground
  • Salvia Greggii give it a slight hair cut if blooming has slowed, save heavy pruning for Feb.
  • Mexican Bush Sage, Mexican Mint Marigold, Chrysanthemums, Russian Sage, Lantana, Zexmenia:  after heavy freeze, cut to the ground and mulch to protect thru the winter
  • Fall Aster: can cut to the ground after a freeze or wait until mid Feb.
  • Day Lilies   pull off brown foliage
  • Hardy Hibiscus: after freeze, cut stems to the ground and mulch
  • Blackfoot Daisy, Calylophus, Pink Skullcap, Dianthus, 4-nerve Daisy: no need to prune
  • Dwarf Mexican Petunia (Katie’s Ruellia): after a freeze, on a dry day, just stomp on them and break the stems off at the ground & remove brown foliage
  • Ornamental grasses: after a hard freeze, the grasses will turn tan, but just leave them alone until Feb.  They add texture & interest in the garden during the winter
  • Columbine: they should start putting on new growth as the weather turns cooler, are evergreen during the winter and bloom in the spring
  • Powis Castle Artemisia: wait until Feb. to cut it back
  • Ferns: Holly Ferns & Autumn Ferns are evergreen, don’t cut back.  Wood Ferns & Japanese Painted Ferns will turn brown after a freeze, cut them to the ground & mulch

Sources: Texas Gardener Magazine, Texas Gardener Almanac, Neil Sperry Articles

November 2011 Tips

By Bonnah Boyd
Somervell County Master Gardener


This area generally has freezing temperatures some time this month.  Cover sensitive plants in the landscape with cardboard boxes, burlap, blankets or containers.
To protect plants in containers, simply move them indoors or to the garage.  Another way to protect these plants is to wrap the containers with bubble wrap. (See October 2011 Tips in SCMGA newsletter)
Prune freeze-damaged plants in February or March.


If winter weeds are sprouting in the lawn, mow to provide the most effective and environmentally safe way to deep them in check.
Mulch flowerbeds and around landscape plantings to keep the weeds in check.  Hoe or pull larger weeds.


Fertilize and water cool-season annuals.  Water-soluble fertilizers may be more readily available to the plants than granular products at this time of the year.
Remove or compost debris from flowerbeds and gardens to help control insects and diseases.
Spring-flowering bulbs should be stored until planting.  Store in paper bags or vented plastic bags in the refrigerator or a cool place.


Water lawns, landscape plantings, vegetable gardens, and fruit plantings if the ground is dry and a freeze is predicted.
Water at least once in November in the absence of significant rainfall.


Plant container grown trees, shrubs and vines.
Mow, shred, mulch or compost fallen leaves.


Remove asparagus tops by cutting them off at the ground.  Mulch with compost or manure.

Sources: Doug Welch’s Texas Garden Almanac
Texas Gardener 2011 Planning Guide and Calendar

October 2011 Tips

Bubble Wrap in the Garden: Part 2

By Barbara Lancaster, Somervell County Master Gardener

You may remember that last year I reported on the results of my experiment using bubble wrap on my container plants over the winter.  I have dwarf crepe myrtles and roses planted in large containers that I usually carry through the winter in my garage. They always survived in my garage, but did not get the chilling hours they needed each winter.  The crepe myrtles would bloom in the garage each winter, but would be severely knocked back when I put them back outdoors in the spring.  Neither the crepe myrtles nor roses would lose their leaves during the winter but would immediately wither when I put them back outdoors.
The past two winters I wrapped the large containers with a couple of layers of bubble wrap and secured them with a strong packing tape, leaving the greenery exposed.   The containers were moved closer to the house where they would not be exposed to the north wind.  Both of the past two winters have been unusually cold…in fact it was 7˚ F twice on our porch last winter.  Whenever the temperature was to get below freezing I would cover the pots with sheets, and a few particularly cold nights I would add a light blanket as well.After the freeze danger had passed I removed the bubble wrap and moved the plants away from the house.  Again, this spring my plants looked the best they have looked in years, quickly regaining their leaves and blooming proficiently.

After using the bubble wrap two winters, I feel it is a successful way to protect container plants during the winter.

September 2011 Tips


By Bob Lancaster, Somervell County Master Gardener

seedsIf possible, leave seeds in the original container or place in an envelope or small paper bag. Be sure and label as to variety, source and date of purchase. Now place two tablespoons of powdered milk in tissue paper. Roll and fold as needed to contain the powder. Powdered milk will act as a desiccate and prevent moisture build-up in the jar.

Now place the tissue containing the powdered milk, along with the seed, in an airtight, dry glass jar and seal. Place in the refrigerator. Depending upon the type of vegetable and viability of the seed, this type of storage conditions will maintain good germination for years.

This tip comes from Dr. Sam Cotner’s book, “The Vegetable Book”, and is located in the Somervell County Master Gardeners’ library for your use. The library is located at the Somervell County AgriLife Extension office.

August 2011 Tips


By Joan Orr and Nancy Hillin, Somervell County Master Gardeners

This being a severe drought year, the term “die hard” certainly applies to those of us who refuse to give up some type of gardening.  Just trying to save our most valuable plants and trees has become a challenge.  Here are a few things we can do to give landscapes a chance of making it through this drought.  One of the best things we can do to help conserve water is to mulch plants and trees with a 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch.  The recommendation for trees for the first three years is to maintain a round mulched area 3 to 4 feet in diameter.  Do not mulch too deeply because roots can not get the oxygen and carbon dioxide movement in and out of the soil.  Six inches is the maximum recommendation.   It is best to water your plants between sundown and sunrise.   When possible install a drip irrigation system.   Fertilization is not recommended for anything in our landscapes during this drought.

If you have to be out in the hottest part of the day, hydrate yourself before, during and after working in the garden.  Heat exhaustion can take over quickly in this extreme heat.  Wear loose fitting clothing and a wide-brim hat for greater protection.  Of course, sun screen protection and sun glasses should be used when outside for extended periods.

Take advantage of local education events such as the Community Horticultural Education Series held at the Senior Citizens Center in Glen Rose on the second Monday of the month not including July and December.   Seasoned professionals will offer suggestions of the most drought tolerant and Earth-Kind plants for this area.

Think about making changes to your landscape that will be more conservative in water usage and maintenance.  Limit the amount of lawn grass in your yard and replace it with beds of native or xeriscape plants.  Learn how to save rain water through a rain water harvesting system for your landscape and for your home usage.   Master Gardener Rain Water Specialists are frequent speakers at the Community Horticultural Education meetings as previously mentioned.   You can learn how to harvest water at your home through this tried and proven system with very little effort.  This could save you money and your landscape in times of inclement weather.   This will let you be prepared for when the rain does come and allow you to water your landscape when needed.

Source:  Doug Welsh’s Texas Garden Almanac

July 2011 Tips

by Donna Hagar, Somervell County Master Gardener

Yes, it is hot and dry! Crispy, crunchy might be better words. But there are some things we, as homeowners, can do to help protect our landscapes and treasured plants during this extended drought period.

Begin with mulch, mulch, mulch. Hopefully you already have a good 4 inch layer of mulch on all of your landscape beds. If not, add more! This keeps not only the moisture in the ground, but helps keep the soil temperatures down as well.

Make sure you are mowing your turfgrass lawn at the proper heights. This time of year, mow at the highest setting for your type of grass. The additional height helps the grass act as a living mulch, holding in moisture and keeping soil temperature down.

Some of the best information can be found on the Aggie Horticulture website. Start here to watch a brief video and get some basic information. Or go directly to the Earth-Kind® website ( for specific tips for drought management. You may even want to bookmark this website as one of your first stops for any horticulture related questions.

Printable Version July 2011 Tips (PDF)

June 2011 Tips

Submitted by Bonnah Boyd, Somervell County Master Gardener

Many insects and bugs love the warmer weather.  Check for spider mites on vegetables.  Turn a leaf over to check for the tiny reddish-brown mites.  Mite control products are available, but the simplest is a blast of water upward from underneath the foliage or a spray of insecticidal soap or horticultural oil directed upward to cover the undersides of all leaves.  Repeated treatments are usually necessary to keep pest numbers low.

Stink bugs (brown and green) are difficult to control without sprays.  Try to spray early in the morning when temperatures are cool.

Grubs are a common sight in gardens and lawns.  There is one generation every three years.  Grubs overwinter in soil the first two years; the third winter is spent in the pupal stage.  Examine one square foot of your lawn or garden; if you see five to seven grubs, treatment is not needed.  The “June bugs” we see flying about mate and lay eggs near the soil surface.  The best time to control them is when most of these eggs have hatched and are near the soil surface.  Beneficial nematodes, applied to the soil in May or June, before temperatures reach 80 degrees, can be used to control the grubs.

Caterpillars may also be a nuisance on some plants.  Products containing Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) are the least toxic.  Apply while the caterpillars are young.

Grasshoppers can also be a problem.  Nosema locustae is a spore (protozoan) used to control grasshoppers.  Control is extremely slow and homeowners may not be satisfied with results.  Baits have proven more effective.

Source: TEXAS GARDENER, May/June 2011 Master Gardener Handbook

May 2011

NON-Companion Plantings
by Julie Conner, Somervell County Master Gardeners

I have a little book called The Curious Gardener’s Almanac by Niall Edworth, which I have been enjoying and thought you might like some tidbits from its pages.
We all know of plants that are happy bedfellows, but here is a list of 10 combinations of plants that don’t like each other:

Artichoke / Garlic

Beets / Scarlet runner beans

Broccoli / Strawberries & Tomatoes

Cabbages / Strawberries

Cabbages / Tomatoes

Cauliflowers / Tomatoes & Spinach

Cucumbers / Potatoes

Garlic / Peas & Beans

Lettuce / Fennel

Onions / All Beans

Peas / Potatoes

Potatoes / Pumpkins & Squash

Radish / Potatoes

Tomatoes / Fennel

The author gives no explanation as to why they don’t like each other.   But from his list of plants that are good bedfellows, he suggests that perhaps they are mutually beneficial to each other.  Therefore, the ones that do not like each other may not enjoy the same growing conditions and may attract insects, which are not beneficial to each other.
Some of the combination of plants do taste very good together.  The author has a very simple Pea and Mint Soup recipe:  Boil or steam shelled peas (about a lb.) in stock and a roughly chopped largish potato (the author is British) and onion.  When soft, run through a blender.  Return to pot and add cream and a handful of chopped mint.  Good with meat or fish dishes.

March 2011 Tips

Companion Planting Tips for Vegetable Gardens

by Nancy Hillin, Somervell County Master Gardeners

Here are a few pairings of vegetables, herbs and flowers that will improve the taste and production of your vegetables and at the same time keep some pesky insects at bay.
Basil has the reputation of enhancing the flavor and overall growth of tomatoes.Carrots are not compatible with dill and tomatoes.Cantaloupes should be planted away from cucumbers and gourds.Cilantro is harmful to fennel.Corn does well with beans, squash, or melons and makes great shade for shorter crops.Cucumbers do well with corn, cabbage, beans, radishes lettuce and tomatoes. Try planting marigolds and radishes to deter cucumber beetles.  Keep sage away from cukes.

Dill gives flavor to cole crops and is good for onions and lettuce.  Plant an abundance as dill is the one host plant (another being milkweed) to the larva of the Monarch butterfly.  Dill can reduce growth of carrots and tomatoes.  Dill is also useful for its ornamental value.
Eggplant can be planted with tarragon and thyme.  For optimum growth, place eggplants away from borders and edges of the garden as it does not like to be jostled about.
Garlic, when planted around a garden, is thought to keep rabbits out.
Lettuce is best grown near strawberries, beets, or cabbage.  It will tolerate a lot of shade.
Marigolds have a growing reputation as helpmates for potatoes and tomatoes.  They have long been known as excellent pest repellents.
Melons will do well when planted near nasturtiums and radishes.Nasturtiums are great for trapping aphids or to repel white flies, cabbage pests and squash bugs.
Onions like companions such as beets, cabbage, strawberries, or lettuce.  Sage should not be planted near onions.
Oregano is a fragrant member of the mint family that is a good general pest repellent.

Peas may be planted near tomatoes, eggplants, lettuce, spinach or peppers.  Also, peas do well when paired with tomatoes, eggplant, lettuce, spinach or peppers.
Pepper growth is promoted by planting them near marjoram, basil, oregano.  Peppers also do well with carrots and onions.
Fennel is thought to harm peppers.
Potatoes like to be near onions, radishes or lettuce.
Radishes will be tender when planted near peas or lettuce.  They are the perfect companion to set between lettuce, bean, cabbage and tomato seedlings.   As a companion to squash, radishes supposedly can prevent borers, particularly if they are allowed to go to seed.  They have been known to repel cucumber beetles.
Rosemary with its strong pleasant scent has a reputation for pest repellency.  Branches laid on the garden rows are thought to keep slugs and snails at bay.
Sage helps cabbage, carrots, strawberries and tomatoes.  Sage has been known to harm cucumbers.   Sage and onions have the reputation of not doing well together.
Spinach does best when planted near strawberries, cabbage, peas or onions.
Squash is a good companion for corn, beans and radishes.  Nasturtiums are a great companion flower to deter squash bugs.
Strawberries like to be planted near lettuce, spinach or beans.
Tomatoes will fail near fennel or potatoes.  They do well when planted near basil, parsley, cabbage, carrots or sage.
Thyme is though to improve the flavor of surrounding herbs and vegetables.  Use thyme along with a delicate flower such as alyssum or lobelia around your garden for a beautiful edge.  Thyme’s coloring and shape will also compliment spinach, broccoli or red cabbage.  Thyme is though to repel whiteflies, cabbage loopers and cabbageworms.

Source:  Good Neighbors:  Companion Planting for Gardeners by Anna Carr



January 2011 Tips

Submitted by Shirley Smith, Somervell County Master Gardeners

Now that winter has at long last settled in, you may be wishing there were some things you could do outside on these pretty days.  Well, let me help you out.  If you have leaves still lying around, go ahead and gather them up and put them into a sturdy garbage can.  Use your weed whacker to shred them.  If you have a shredder, use that.  Don’t have that many leaves?  Well, how about asking some of your neighbors to save for you what they have raked up.

Do you have houseplants that are dusty and in need of cleaning?  Move over and share the shower with them.  Just put them in the bathtub, turn on a light spray of warm water and allow the soil to become soaked.  You’ll rid your plants of grease and dust and wash away infestations of mites, mealybugs and whiteflies.  Do this in the early morning (to prevent fungal diseases), and keep the plants out of direct sunlight until they have dried.  You can always wipe them with a soft cloth, too.

We all know using rainwater on your plants is best.  So think about putting in a rainwater catchment system this winter.  We have begun to get a little rain lately and it is a shame not to save it.  By using rainwater, you can protect your houseplants from the harmful effects of hard tap water and fluoride salts (browning leaf tips, injured roots, bound nutrients).  There are many, many websites that can help you out if you decide to do this.

If you do use tap water, treat your plants to a monthly sip of vinegar tea.  Mix 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar in 1 gallon distilled or rain water.  Soak plants thoroughly.


Source:  Trowel & Error by Sharon Lovejoy

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