by Donna Hagar, Somervell County Master Gardener
Plant vegetables seeds: Beets, chard, collards, leaf lettuce, mustard, peas, radish EARLY MARCH: Beans, endive; LATE MARCH: Cantaloupe, corn, cucumber, eggplant, black-eyed peas, pumpkin, New Zealand spinach, summer squash, watermelon
Plant vegetable plants. Broccoli, chard, collards, endive, leaf lettuce, mustard, LATE MARCH: Pepper, tomato
Plant herbs and seeds: All hot-weather herbs, such as basil, chives March is the last reasonably mild month to plant such things as trees and big shrubs. Any later and these plants will encounter too much stress in the summer heat.
Plant bulbs: Caladium, calla, canna, daylily, and elephant ear are the main spring and summer ornamentals that can be planted the second half of this month.
Aerate the lawn: It is best to aerate after mid-March, when there is less chance of a freeze damaging the opened-up lawn. Add compost before or after aerating for greater benefits.
Clean up debris from winter: Remove the hiding places for bugs and diseases by raking up leaves and gathering fallen limbs and fruits.
excerpts taken from http://www.omasgartenpflanzen.com/Monthly_Hints.html
GARDENING TIPS FOR FEBRUARY
By Nancy Hillin, Somervell County Master Gardener
There are many adjectives to describe the anxiety gardeners experience while awaiting the arrival of favorable weather conditions that allow them to pursue their gardening passions. Some gardeners experience “itchy green thumb”, while others are subjected to “cabin fever”. But, of course, there are those die-hard gardeners that find a way to beat any conditions to satisfy their gardening desires. February is the month to finish pruning, so here are some reminders about pruning and other preparations for spring.
Mid-February is the best time to prune roses or after the last hard freeze and before new growth appears. This also holds true for pruning fruit trees, if you did not have the opportunity to finish pruning in January. If you plan on planting new roses or fruit trees, get them in the ground this month. For more information on planting fruit trees, read Josh Blanek’s, Somervell County Extension Agent/AG/NR, Texas Cooperative Extension, article in the January Somervell County Master Gardeners newsletter (http://newsletter.somervellmastergardeners.org). Remember to train climbing roses to a fence or trellis and secure with jute twine to prevent wind damage. Climbing roses do not need pruning, but should have any of last year’s tangled growth trimmed. This is a good time to transplant existing mature or established shrubs while they are still dormant. Delay using any fertilizer until they start growing. Use the contents of your compost pile to spread around established plants and the soil surface beneath and around the drip lines of shrubs and trees. As the compost further decomposes, nutrients will be released to the plants. Keep a watchful eye on junipers and other evergreens for bagworm pouches. Hand removal and burning the pouches seems to be the best remedy for bag worms.
The accepted method for cutting back perennials is to prune to the ground line before any new spring growth appears. There has been a new thought that because many beneficial insects lay their eggs on the top growth of perennials it would behoove us to be selective in those plants we cut to the ground. When choosing new annuals and perennials for a spring garden, think about trying a butterfly seed mix. Plant the seeds close together to lure the butterflies and other beneficial insects to the nectar source. Flowering herbs are great attractors for all pollinating insects. Another bonus to using herbs is that most of them are deer resistant. This gardener has found the flowers of basil to be a great draw for honeybees and dill for butterflies. If you have ever let radishes or carrots go to flower, you know that they are a strong attraction to many beneficial insects.
If you have not already done so, now is the time to prepare beds and garden areas for a spring garden. If you have truly been bitten by the “gardening bug” this is the latest you may start seeds of warm season flowers and vegetables indoors in flats or containers in time for spring planting. Make sure the yearly maintenance is done on your lawnmowers and trimmers. Keep birdbaths and puddlers clean and full. Clean bird feeders and keep them supplied with your yard bird’s favorite seeds and treats. Be of good cheer, spring will be here before you know it!
Sources: Texas Agri-Life Extension Service Garden Checklist.com; Garden Stops.com; Texas Gardener Magazine
by Sandi Stringer SCMGA
Soil and Mulch: Now is the perfect time to build the health back into your soil since you probably had flowers growing in your beds almost year round. In the process, you’ve likely depleted much of the organic matter in your soil and that is the lifeblood of your garden. How much organic matter do you need? It depends on your soil type and how intensively you garden. Compost and other organic matter can vary depending on composition etc but as a rule of thumb most of us should add 2-4 inches of compost or well-rotted manure annually. A simple formula for determining how much you need is: 5-10 five gallon buckets spread over 100 square feet of garden space equals about 1 inch of organic matter. Composted or aged manure, fallen leaves, pine straw, and wood chips from tree trimmings can be incorporated into the soil now in preparation for spring planting. You can also purchase amendments such as cotton burr & mushroom compost. Test your soil for pH and nutrients through a soil analysis (contact your county extension office) Hardwood mulches are considered better, but you can also use pine bark and cypress.
Garden Design: Read the garden magazines for creative ideas for new beds. Think about creating butterfly and herb gardens
Flowers: It’s not too late to plant bulbs such as crocus, daffodil, narcissus, Dutch iris, hyacinth, and tulip. Purchasing them in the fall and then chilling them until planting, is recommended. Plant bluebonnet transplants into flowerbeds
Water: Water at least once in January in the absence of significant rain
Plant Care: Don’t prune freeze damaged plant material yet, it actually offers some insulation for healthy plant tissue but do remove plant debris such as dead leaves, flowers, and twigs from beds. It is best to prune in Feb. or March.
Vegetables: You can transplant cool-season vegetables and cold tolerant herbs at the end of the month. The following are examples of cool season vegies: asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, onions, and leaf lettuces.
Visit our website at www.somervellmastergardeners.org where you can get your gardening questions answered or visit our library at the Somervell County Extension Office
Sources: Texas Gardener Magazine and Doug Welsh’s Texas Garden Almanac
SCMGA Tips for 2009
December Gardening Tips
By Bonnah Boyd Somervell County Master Gardener
Vegetables & Herbs
• Continue to plant greens for salads and greens for cooking. Leave a thick rowcover handy to cover plants during freezing nights. • Continue to feed cool-season vegetables every few weeks with light doses of fertilizer • Maintain moderate soil moisture
Perennials & Annuals
• Continue to feed cool-season annuals monthly with a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio product to keep them vigorous and blooming their best. • Maintain adequate soil moisture • Maintain a mulch cover over the soil to prevent cool season weeds from getting a start • Order seeds of annual and perennial flowers for starting early next year and transplanting outdoors in the spring
Trees, Shrubs, & Vines
• Pruning this month is generally discouraged. It is generally best to prune in late winter just prior to the onset of new growth. • To do any pruning on spring-only blooming plants, wait until after their bloom period. • Consider incorporating roses in your garden. Old garden roses and many new modern hybrid varieties are much less labor intensive. Container grown roses can be planted now.
• As leaves fall to the lawn, keep them raked up to prevent them from shading the grass. Put them in a compost pile to decompose • Mow winter weeds to keep them in check. Mow cool-season turfgrass lawns regularly. • If your mower needs a tune-up or repairing, take it now to the local small-engine repair shop.
Source: Texas Gardener Magazine
November Gardening Tips
By Dove Johnson Webmaster of TMGA and SCMGA
Ten Commandments of Fall Gardening Success
Including Vocabulary Tips for Recent Transplants to Texas !
This article by Skip Richter, CEA-Horticulture,
appeared in “The Montgomery County Garden Gazette,”
Volume 2, Number 4, August-September 1996
all vegetable gardening is in many ways better than its spring counterpart. Many vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, seem to do best in the fall. The quality of beans, peas, root crops and many other veggies is superior when grown in the cooler days of fall. Almost anything grown in spring will do well in the fall, with the possible exception of sweet corn. I paused to reflect back over past seasons at what appear to be the most important factors in getting a fall garden off to a good start . . . and the result is the following pontification. Like the original ten, folks who think these are optional are headed for disappointment.
1. Thou shalt not read gardening books and magazines published north of a line running from Dallas to Charleston, or West of San Antonio. Another way to put it is to never read a gardening book or magazine article by someone whose vocabulary doesn’t include the words “y’all” ( i.e., “the whole group of you’uns”) and “fixin” (i.e., “about to do”). Or, if you do, let it be recreational and not to learn “how
to.” To take advice from another region is about as dependable as watching the Weather Channel’s forecast from San Francisco, Seattle, or Newark to determine if you need to take an umbrella with you today or how to dress for working in your garden.
2. Select Ye a Site With Full Exposure to the Sun. Unless you are planning on growing mushrooms, 6 to 8 hours of full sunlight is important. If you have a spot a bit too shady, try putting your leafy greens and cole crops (like broccoli) there. They will put up with less light, but even they won’t like it.
3. Prepareth the soil well before thou planteth thy crop. Soil (properly pronounced like the name of King David’s predecessor — Saul) is critical to plant growth. The importance of soil preparation cannot be overstressed. At least half of your success has been determined before the first seed or transplant ever hits the ground. To plop your new seeds and transplants down into the barren, parched August
wasteland, among the cremated remains of your spring garden, is tantamount to a death sentence. Proper soil pH and optimum nutrition are best set before planting. Incorporate well-decomposed organic matter and fertilizer according to soil test results. In the absence of a soil test, apply 1 pound of 15-5-10 and 2 pounds of K-Mag per 100 square feet.
4. Provideth thy garden with optimum drainage. Although we’ve been assured the “40 days and 40 nights” ordeal will not be repeated, we often experience slightly less here in Texas. Most veggies detest “wet feet.” Unless your soil is very well drained, raised beds are a lifesaver. Remember, “It’s easier to water a desert than to drain a swamp.” When long rainy spells come in the fall, you will be glad you took the time to prepare raised beds before planting.
5. Thou Shalt Thoroughly Water thy Plot before Planting. Farmers know that the single most important watering a crop receives is the one before it’s planted. Seeds germinate and grow best in soil that has already received a good deep soaking.
6. Choose ye adapted vegetable species and varieties. Unless you love the challenge of growing Brussels sprouts, head lettuce, and rhubarb, avoid these and other poorly-adapted veggies. Most types of vegetables have at least a few varieties that do well here. Many even offer built-in disease and insect resistance. Here in the South, we have a short season between summer heat and the first freeze, in
most years. Therefore, it is best to select early-maturing varieties (ones with short daysto- harvest intervals) to avoid having an almost-ripe bean crop freeze.
7. Thou shalt not plant a plant too early, nor shalt thou plant it too late, but on its appointed day shalt thou plant it. Follow recommended planting dates closely. There is nothing more frustrating than
pampering an early-September planting of corn or tomatoes through the season, only to have it “stall out” in the cool days of fall and never reach maturity before the first frost. Likewise, lettuce and spinach planted in early September will never see the light of day. We have a “window” of time in the fall when many of our warm-season veggies can effectively ripen. Planting too late is setting yourself up for disappointing results.
8. Subject not thy tender transplants and seedlings to the infernal heat of summer. Your new transplants have been living the “life of Riley,” with daily watering, petting, talking to, etc. Suddenly exposing these succulent unsuspecting plants to the full brunt of the scorching sun and sandblasting wind is enough to get you reported to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Plants, and is sure to result in less-than-hoped-for results. Plant seeds slightly deeper in the fall (but not over 3 or 4 times their width) and cover with a light mulch of pine needles or a lightweight row-cover blanket, to give them a slightly cooler environment in which to germinate. Covering seeds with compost rather than soil will help reduce crusting and improve germination. Protect new transplants from the sun with a homemade “lean-to” shade structure, positioned on the southwest side.
9. Stresseth not the Growing Crops under thy Care. Keep your plants growing healthy and vigorous. They’ll be better able to fend off problems and will produce much more. Some crops, like broccoli, never seem to “forgive and forget” if you once let them get stressed. Good nutrition, mulching (which keeps surfaces cool in the August and September heat and holds moisture), regular deep
soaking, and scouting for insect and disease problems are all very important.
10. Neglect not thy Attendance at all Extension Service Gardening Programs. O.K. I’m stepping out of bounds here, but there are some excellent programs throughout the year to sharpen your skills and expand your gardening savvy and comprendo. We also have free informative handouts on almost any gardening subject. Take advantage of these opportunities.
By Nancy Hillin, Somervell County Master Gardener Intern
October is a great month to plant annual flowers such as Dianthus, Snapdragons, and Petunias. If we have a mild winter, your fall planted annuals will produce blooms way ahead of those planted in the spring. It is a gamble but one worth the wager, for you will have blooming plants in the spring before anyone else. Choose from these other cool season annuals for an early show of color in the spring:
Alyssum Calendula Johnny-jump-up Kale/Cabbage Larkspur Stock Sweet pea
Now is the time to plant Buddleia, Butterfly Weed, the shrub form Lantana, Purple Cone Flower,
Salvias and Verbena. Butterflies love these attractive, showy perennials. For late fall color, the old stand-by Chrysanthemum is always a good choice and Nastursuims will produce vivid colors, too. Other suggestions for fall blooming perennials include Firespike, Mexican Bush Sage, and Mexican Mint Marigold. Wildflowers should be on your list of things to plant in the month of October.
Ornamental grasses should be planted in October. Some of the more popular ones in our area include Purple Fountain Grass, Dallas Blue Switch Grass, Gulf Muhly, Lemon Grass and our state grass, Side Oats Grama.
If you planted a fall vegetable garden in August or September, you should be seeing the results of your efforts. It is not too late to still get in a few crops of the Brassica family in the ground, such as Collards, Kale and Turnips. Most cool season vegetable gardens produce better tasting crops and the usual pests are not as prevalent as in a spring garden. If you planted sweet potatoes, they should be ready to dig. Be prepared to pick the remainder of any warm season crops that are still producing before the first frost or be ready to protect them. Sets of garlic and shallots should be planted this month. Also, onion seeds may be planted now.
Start collecting fallen leaves to put in composting bins and to mulch between rows in your vegetable garden. Also, use mulch in your flower beds and around woody ornamentals. Mulching greatly reduces moisture evaporation and keeps weed growth down.
Be sure to harvest any warm season herbs such as basil. And remember that an October planting of some of the herb family is very do-able. Include Cilantro, Dill, Fennel, Parsley, Arugula, Boarage and Winter Savory in your fall garden.
October 1-15 signals time to fertilize your lawn. Another way to know the right time to fertilize is when night time temperatures reach 50 degrees or less and your lawn has not needed to be mowed in two weeks. This fall application is just as crucial as the one in spring.
This is the month to “prepare” shrubs and trees if you need to move them. Late winter is the best time to plant or move shrubs or trees. But for now, cut a 16-20 inch diameter circle with a sharpshooter shovel in the soil around the shrub or tree. Let the depth be 12 inches. This promotes new roots during the fall and winter, giving a better chance of successfully moving a shrub or tree. If you plan on adding new woody ornamentals to your landscape, this is the time to do it.
Roses are putting on a great show this month. Remember to deadhead your Roses and they will continue the show until the first heavy freeze.
Last but never least, continue to fill your feeders, puddlers and birdbaths for our friends on the wing.
Source: Doug Welsh’s Texas Garden Almanac
Texas Gardener Magazine
September Garden Tips
By Barbara Lancaster, Treasurer, Somervell County Master Gardeners
Fall is a perfect time for gardening in Texas. An increased frequency of cooler temperatures and decreased day length combine to make fall an ideal time for gardening, especially vegetable gardening.
Doug Welsh, in his book “Texas Garden Almanac” states that fall is time to act quickly, as you still have time to plant “quick-harvest” warm-season vegetable crops. These crops include green beans and radishes. Cool season vegetables should be planted now: broccoli, cauliflower, leaf lettuce and spinach oftentimes will have much better crops during the fall than in the spring. You will notice that vegetables that mature in cooler temperatures are usually of higher quality. Other cool season vegetables can be used in flowerbeds as ornamentals. These include cabbage, kale, leaf lettuce and spinach.
Herbs also enjoy fall cooler temperatures. Basil, chives, cilantro, dill, mints, and oregano transplants can be planted now for quick high quality crops. Some herbs can also be used as ornamentals in flowerbeds. Mexican oregano produces pink flowers; rosemary in the upright form will produce blue blossoms in the fall; Mexican mint marigold is a fall bloomer which produces small, daisy-like yellow flowers.
Fall is also the time to plant your wildflower seeds. Texas has an abundance of wildflower species that adorn our natural landscape, roadways and even in cultivated landscapes. Planting wildflower seed in September ensures you can enjoy wildflowers in your yard the following spring.
Source: Doug Welsh’s “Texas Garden Almanac”.
Dove Johnson, Somervell Master Gardener
Yes it is so very hot and we know in Texas it is August. Our gardening chores go on but try to work in the morning and take frequent brakes. Drink a lot of water and pace yourself. Here in Central Texas we can grow something every month of the year. So let’s get busy with our fall gardens.
Fertilize fruiting vegetables after first fruit set for higher productivity
Turn compost pile. Recycle plant material and Shred leaves to use as mulch. Add healthy plant material, and kitchen waste to the compost pile.
Watch for cutworms on new tomato transplants; protect with aluminum foil around base 1″ above and below ground.
Pulling a handful of weeds everyday is better than spending a sweltering afternoon picking weeds that are out of control and if you are out every day in your garden you will see a problem earlier so that it does not get out of hand.
For best survival rate plant during or after a rain in the fall, winter, or spring
Never pack down the soil when planting anything, and do not walk on the beds. Always use stepping stones or paths and keep off the soil. This is absolutely vital! Work compost into your soil and cover with mulch.
Work with nature, not against it. Improve soil health to improve plant health. Use beneficial insects. Encourage biodiversity by planting a variety of plants that provide shelter and food for the natural enemies of pests. When you view your garden, you should see it is alive with birds, toads, lizards, and beneficial insects such as green lacewings and ladybugs. Do you know what ladybug larva look like? Never just spray to kill an insect unless you know what it is; it may be a beneficial. Educate yourself so you will know. When you put in a garden, you are creating a micro habitat. You will know you have done well when it is teaming with life. All these creatures need water; provide a source for those who need water placed on the ground and those who need a birdbath.
Keep a garden journal to write down your successes and failures. Record such things as varieties that did especially well in production, products that you felt improved your garden, and things that you want to buy. Take photos of your successes and put them in your journal.
Take advantage of local gardening events and Master Gardener sales and lectures, to hear seminars, buy hard-to-find plants, and get new ideas that you can use. Also take advantage of local gardeners who are usually very happy not only to share
July Garden Tips
By Donna Hagar, Somervell County Master Gardener
After enduring several days of 100° heat, the idea of suggesting you get out in your gardens seems to fall a little flat! But as we all know, a gardener’s work is never done. So don those wide brimmed gardening hats, fix a tall glass of cool, refreshing lemonade and let’s get to it.
Vegetables Many of our spring season vegetables are spent and need to come out. Be sure to compost the plant material as you pull up those not strong enough to hold on until fall. Mix in organic material into the beds, keep moisture available and cover with a good layer of mulch. This will prevent weeds from taking over and get your beds in tiptop shape for your fall gardens. The heat with the moisture will enable the organic material to compost into soil-building humus.
Many plants may be able to survive through the dry, heat, with supplemental water, plenty of mulch and tender loving care and make it through until fall. Many tomatoes will stop setting fruit with the higher temperatures but return to full production come fall. If your tomatoes are leggy, consider tip layering to make new plants. Here’s how from Skip Richter:
“You want to take a section of vine, remove the leaves from it, and then dig a little hole in the ground and bury that tip section of vine. It doesn’t have to be very deep, just a few inches deep is enough.
Place the vine in the trench and cover it with soil. Then water that spot. Tomatoes love to root along the vine and, within a couple of weeks, you’ll start to have roots already growing into the ground. And this new daughter plant or baby plant is ready to go.
At that point you just cut it loose from the mother plant, and then remove the mother plant along with all the mites and diseased leaves and everything, and this is your new star, rooted and ready to go for fall.”
Believe it or not, our attentions do need to start turning toward our fall gardens. By the end of July into early August, we should be planting beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, potatoes, and winter squash. When planting these veggies in the intense heat of the summer, be sure to provide some sort of shade cloth cover for the tender seedlings as they emerge and to protect them primarily from the intense west sun. Keep shade protection in place until the plants are well mature, and of course, keep them moist and mulched well.
Perennials and Annuals Moisture and mulch are again the best bet for keeping your beds in top color. Dead head spent blooms of flowering annuals. A good shearing of tough perennials such as Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii), zexmenia and copper canyon daisies will enable them to put out a flush of new growth for a good fall showing. Remove heat stressed dead and dying leaves and stems to keep plants looking their best.
Trees, Shrubs and Vines Even the most established plants will benefit from a good thorough soaking every couple of weeks in the absence of rain. Newly (less than a year) planted trees, shrubs and vines, will need a little more attention as their root systems are not fully developed. Be sure to monitor the moisture level and provide supplemental water as needed. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy and of course, maintain the ever important layer of mulch to keep the soil temperature down as well as weeds at bay.
Lawns and Groundcovers Provide lawns and groundcovers with a good soaking on a weekly basis. Control fire ants in the lawn with mound treatments as opposed to baits, as the ants are foraging less. Be on the lookout for grubworms in the lawns – dead patches of grass that pulls up easily from the roots. Serious infestations (5 or more grubs per square foot of lawn) can be controlled with granular insecticides.
And lastly, don’t forget our flying friends, birds and butterflies. Provide water in the birdbaths and puddlers and keep them cleaned regularly.
Resources: Texas Gardener Magazine Doug Welsh’s Texas Gardener Almanac http://gardeningwithskip.tamu.edu
June Garden Tips
By Sandi Stringer Somervell County Master Gardener
O.K. folks, summer is just around the corner and it’s time to prepare your plants for the sizzling hot and dry weather that lasts into August and often September.
Fortunately there are native and adapted plants that thrive in our heat and the following are some examples:
Annuals: Caladium, Coleus, Marigold, Periwinkle, Moss Rose, Purslane, Scaevola, Zinnia
Perennials: Firebush, Gold star esperanza, Hardy hibiscus, Lantana, Petunia, Phlox. Plumbago, Salvias, Sages, and Verbena
Keep on deadheading and fertilizing your flowerbeds to maintain good health. Use organic or timed-release products. Keep the weed population under control because they rob water from the soil. Mulch Mulch Mulch! It is one of the gardener’s mainstays because it is the highest-impact, lowest-tech water conserving practice. A good 3 inches of mulch will help reduce moisture evaporation as well as reduce weed population. Hardwood mulches will actually add nutrients back into your soil.
Water Water only when plants need it, they will show signs of wilting or moisture stress. Group your plants based on their water needs, i.e. don’t put water loving plants next to cactus. Think in terms of 3 plant zones. The regular watering zone requires water once a week or more in the absence of rainfall. The occasional watering zone requires once a month watering in absence of rain, and the Natural Rainfall zone requires only natural rainfall. Consider using drip irrigation on plants because there will be less evaporation and try to water between sundown and sunrise, when the wind and temperatures are lower
Now! Sit back, enjoy a glass of tea or lemonade and make occasional checks on your flowerbeds. With the right plants and care, your beds should do well throughout the summer
Source: Doug Welsh’s Texas Garden Almanac
Gardening Tips For May
May Garden Tips
By Becky Altobelli
Somervell County Master Gardener
Those April showers in Somervell County did indeed bring our May wildflowers into bloom, green up our lawns and increase our vegetable and fruit production. Here are a few garden and landscape tips to help you enjoy the Bounty of May and on into the summer months:
Do harvest most of your vegetables a little prior to full size. Cucumber, beans, eggplant and squash will not taste tough or bitter if picked while small.(Tomatoes and peppers will be sweeter if left on vine to ripen fully.)
Do hand pick garden pests or squirt leaves with blast of water to keep any unwanted bugs under control.
Do plant herbs, keep adequately watered and harvest frequently to stimulate new and fresh tasting growth. (Use basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, fennel and dill, to name a few, in salads, pastas and grilled dishes)
Do plant okra, southern peas, winter squash, watermelons, Malabar greens and sweet potatoes in May as they will be able to survive and thrive in the summer garden.
Do replace late winter and spring annuals with summer annuals or perennials. Examples are varieties of salvias, penstemons, verbenas, lantanas and santolinas.
Do wait to trim back spring bulb foliage until it has yellowed or turned brown.
Do prune back spring-flowering shrubs and nonrepeating roses once their bloom cycle is completed.
Do remove spent flowers on repeating roses and perennials to stimulate new blooms throughout the summer.
Do add organic mulch or material around the base of perennials, shrubs and fruiting vines in May to retain moisture in soil, discourage weed growth and increase organic matter to soil.
Do Not Mow or remove spring wildflowers fields or landscape until the seed pods have dried and opened or seed-heads are dried and seeds released easily. Next spring’s wildflower crop is dependent on this season’s release of mature seeds. Mow too soon and you will diminish our beautiful Texas springtime blooms of bluebonnets, paintbrushes, Indian blankets, Mexican hats, coreopsis and many more, as these flowers reproduce and increase in number primarily from seed.
Visit our library at the County Extension Office or www.somervellmastergardeners.org for more information
GARDENING TIP FOR APRIL
By Bob Lancaster
Somervell County Master Gardener
Don’t be afraid to change a landscape bed so you can add new plants and a fresh look. We all have planted beds with too many plants of one kind or the wrong kind of plant or planted plants that grew too large for a bed. A landscape change can improve the appearance of one’s home but also could minimize the care and labor required to maintain that bed, especially if you focus on using native and adaptive plants. First develop the plan and research the plants to be selected and start with a small bed at first. You might just be surprised how this change affects your overall landscape and generally one of the second thoughts you might have would be, “Why did I wait so long to do this?”
Get ready, Get set, Go
Plant vegetable Beets, chard, collards, leaf lettuce, mustard, peas, radish,
EARLY MARCH: Beans, endive
LATE MARCH: Cantaloupe, corn, cucumber, eggplant, black-eyed peas, pumpkin, New Zealand spinach, summer squash, watermelon Plant vegetable plants. Broccoli, chard, collards, endive, leaf lettuce, mustard,
LATE MARCH: Pepper, tomato Plant herbs. Seeds: All hot-weather herbs, such as basil, chives Plant perennial plants. Cigar plant, cleome, plumbago, sedum, spiderwort March is the last reasonably mild month to plant such things as trees and big shrubs. Any later and these plants will encounter too much stress in the summer heat. Plant bulbs. Caladium, calla, canna, daylily, and elephant ear are the main spring and summer ornamentals that can be planted the second half of this month. Planting these warm-season bulbs while the soil is too cool can cause them to rot. Aerate the lawn. It is best to aerate after mid-March, when there is less chance of a freeze damaging the opened-up lawn. Add compost before or after aerating for greater benefits.Topdress lawns with compost. This can be done any time of year, except for mid-summer. However, if the lawn is topdressed in spring, the compost can help save water in the summer. Some sources say this one action in your yard can cut your water use on the lawn by half! Throw no more than ½-inch of good manure compost on top of the lawn, rake in, and water. Clean up debris from winter. Remove the hiding places for bugs and diseases by raking up leaves and gathering fallen limbs and fruits. Put them in your compost pile, and turn regularly to keep pile hot. Till in winter cover crops. Allow two weeks for the cover crop to decompose in the soil before planting there again. Find out what your beneficial insects look like. Ladybug larvae and pupae may look like pests when you see them, but they can be your ally against aphids and many other pests! Acquire a good insect identification book, such as the Texas Bug Book by Malcolm Beck and Howard Garrett, or The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control, published by Rodale Press. Spray new foliage on crape myrtles with “Cloud Cover.” This is a polymer that is a preventative for powdery mildew. If the leaves show powdery mildew before you get to them with Cloud Cover, spray with milk first. Yes, cow’s milk is the latest, greatest control for powdery mildew. Use skim milk, or whole milk diluted with water, one part whole milk to nine parts water. Spray milk every 5 7 days until you get control, then spray Cloud Cover. Spray Cloud Cover again whenever there is a new flush of growth Check and repair your watering systems now before the heat hits! Take a hike! Enjoy one of our many beautiful trails around town. See how the Greatest Landscaper — Mother Nature — designs, plants, and mulches our biggest garden on earth! Thanks to Howard Garrett’s Texas Organic Gardening Book, the Travis County Master Gardener Association’s Garden Guide for Austin and Vicinity, and the staff of the Natural Gardener for some of this month’s tips). http://www.naturalgardeneraustin.com/information/monthly/march.html
Fertilize: Begin monthly feedings of hibiscus after pruning. Start a rose feeding schedule; spray and feed camellias. Begin fertilizing azaleas after they bloom. Fertilize established fruit and nut trees with 1 lb. 15-5-10 per inch of trunk diameter. Berry bushes should receive 1/3 cup per square yard of planting area. Diseases/Pests to look for: Watch for aphids on new growth, spider mites on older leaves and cut worms on young transplants. Spray peach and plum trees for curculio weevils when 3/4 of the petals have fallen (repeat three times at two week intervals).
Prune: Prune hibiscus, also spring flowering shrubs and trees, after they bloom. Prune and train vines. Shape spring-blooming shrubs with light pruning after bloom. Allow bulb foliage to yellow and die before removing. Vegetables: Early—Mid Month: phparagus crowns, Collards, Turnip. Mid—Late Month: Corn, Cucumber, Eggplant, Peppers, Pumpkin, Squash, Watermelon.
All Month: Beans, Lettuce, Mustard, Radish, Tomato Plants. Be prepared to protect plants from frosts and freezes. Give transplants a weekly boost the first month with a liquid plant food or “manure tea”.
Courtesy of the Garden Guide for Austin & Vicinity, published by the Travis County Master Gardener Association, copyright 2000-2002. Skips Tips
By Donna Hagar, Somervell County Master Gardener
In deciding from the multitude of topics I could cover for January tips, I thought maybe I should cover something I need to do myself – desperately! Garden Tool Maintenance
Keeping our garden tools clean and in good repair will not only extend the life of those tools but will make our chores easier as well. And it doesn’t take long. So let’s go out to the shed or garage and get busy!
First and foremost, clean those tools! This should ideally be done after every use, though I am certainly guilty of procrastinating! In a perfect world, any tool that comes into contact with soil should be rinsed off with water after every use. This not only extends the life of the tools, but helps prevent spreading of diseases, weed seeds, insect eggs and fungi. In heavy clay soils, some scrubbing may be necessary. Once clean, dry the tool completely.
Tools that don’t necessarily contact the soil, like axes and pruners, should be wiped with a cotton cloth to remove any sap from their blades. Dampen the cloth with paint thinner to remove any sticky, dried on sap. Again, dry with a clean rag. Cleaned and dried tools should be stored out of the elements to prevent rusting. However, if you’ve been less than diligent, like me, and the tools become rusty, use a penetrating oil and steel wool to remove rust.
Next we need to sharpen those tools. Shovels, hoes, axes and trowels are easily sharpened with a hand file. An 8 inch long mill file with a bastard cut will do the trick nicely. First secure your tool with a vise or other method to keep it from slipping away from you. Hold the mill file at the same angle of the previous sharpened blade and push the tool across the edge. Do NOT push back and forth; just push away from you in one direction until the entire edge of your tool is sharp.
For pruning shears and knives you will need some sort of honing stone. There are diamond, ceramic and high-carbon steel honing devices or whetstones on the market. Whichever you choose, directions for use should be included. Many gardeners color the blade edge with a black felt tip marker and sharpen evenly until all traces of the marker are gone. For pruners and shears, tighten all screws, nuts and bolts and put WD-40 on the joints or hinges.
How often you need to sharpen your tools depends on your soil and amount of use. Rocky or sandy soils are more abrasive and therefore may require more frequent sharpening.
Practice does make perfect for sharpening skills. However, even badly sharpened tools are easier to use than dirty, dull ones.
Last but not least, check your tool handles. Wooden handles can be sanded to prevent splinters and rubbed with boiled linseed oil as a wood preservative. If they are loose, consider replacing the handle.
With very little time and effort, your gardening tools will last for years to come. And fortunately for me, even tools that have been neglected can be brought back to life with just a little effort!
And if you are one of those persnickety people who stay on top of your gardening tool maintenance, there are still many other things you can do this month.
• Shop! – Seed catalogs that is! Nothing can be more inspiring to a gardener that the promise of what is to come. Willhite Seeds and Burpee are two common, reputable sources.
• January and February are the best time to plant bare root roses and fruit and nut trees
• Mulch, mulch and mulch. Landscape beds, vegetable and flower gardens and young or newly planted trees.
• Cut back perennials that have been killed by freezing weather. Be sure to mulch well to protect the roots.
• Don’t forget to water at least once this month in the absence of significant rain to prevent added stress.
• January is the time to plant onion plants. Bunches of 1015y, which do best here, should be available at nurseries, garden centers or feed stores soon, if not already.
• Late January, early February, transplant cool season crops – asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, collards, lettuces and chard and cold tolerant herbs, chives, cilantro, dill, fennel, garlic, parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme. Sow seeds of beets, carrots, English peas, lettuces and radishes.