Tips for January
» Plant these annuals early in the month for spring color: petunias, larkspurs, foxgloves and stocks. Other annuals such as marigolds, celosia and wax begonias may be planted late in the month.
» Plant tomatoes, peppers and eggplants from 4-inch pots after March 15th. Plants should be hardened off (gradually exposed to outside conditions) before putting in the ground.
» Plant warm-season vegetables – beans, corn, squash, melons and cucumbers starting mid-month.
» Plant herbs in raised beds with soil amended with organic matter. Harden off plants before planting.
» Plant perennial flowers in amended well- drained soil. Know each plant’s prime blooming season, height, width and color to ensure season-long color. Mulch new plantings.
Fertilizing and Planting
» Prune trees, including live oaks and red oaks, to remove dead, broken and unwanted branches. Apply pruning paint to any cut/wound on your oak trees to prevent oak wilt.
» Water newly planted trees and shrubs as needed; and apply a liquid root stimulator monthly.
» Peach and plum trees should be pruned to stimulate lateral branches and keep their “bowl” shape. Thin out branches to open the center to allow more sunlight, resulting in fruit production over the entire tree.
» Apply blood meal or a slow-release fertilizer to pansies and other cool- season annuals.
» Maintain free-form crape myrtles by removing “sprouts” growing from the base, but never cut the tops out. It produces unsightly knots and delays blooming. Removing spent seed pods is OK.
» Remove by hand, broad leaf weeds such as clover, dandelions, henbit and chickweed in lawns and beds. If necessary, spray turf with a broadleaf herbicide when temperatures are above 70 degrees. Be careful when using herbicides to prevent the drift from harming desirable plants.
» Don’t Guess, Soil Test! The best way to determine your soil’s fertility needs is to have it tested. Contact the local AgriLife Extension office at 972-825-5175 for a Soil Sample Information Form, or go to http://soiltesting.tamu.edu.
» Is your landscape contributing to a healthy and sustainable environment? Take the Earth-Kind® Challenge by going to http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/earthkind/challenge/test and answering a series of questions about your landscape. Save your test results.
» Use native and adapted plants when making landscape improvements. These plants are drought and heat tolerant and typically require less water, fertilizer and fewer pesticides.
» For a list of the top 100 native and adapted plants for North Texas, go to https://wateruniversity.tamu. edu, click “Publications,” then “Native and Adapted Plants for North Texas.” For a more comprehensive list with descriptions, click “Plant Database.”
Tips for February
» Cool-season vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and potatoes should be planted mid-month, or about 4 weeks prior to the average last freeze date (March 15 in Ellis County). Beets, carrots, lettuce, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard and “greens” (collard, mustard and turnip) should be planted 2 to 4 weeks prior to the average last freeze.
» Plant asparagus crowns in 10-12 inches of soil. When buying crowns, look for 2-year old root systems with healthy roots.
» When buying plants, biggest is not always best, especially with bare-root plants. Small to medium sizes establish faster.
» Dig and divide warm-season perennials (cannas, coneflowers, perennial salvia, mums) before they break dormancy.
Fertilizing and Planting
» Prune bush roses around Valentine’s Day. Prune old, dead and weak canes back to the ground. Leave 4 to 8 vigorous canes, removing one-half of their growth above an outward-facing bud. Wait to prune climbing or leaning roses until after they bloom. Prune errant canes any time to maintain shape.
» Herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses may be cut back now. Prune autumn sage (Salvia gregii) by 50%. Mexican feather grass does not require pruning.
» Dig and divide large clumps of ornamental grasses, especially if the center of the plant has died.
» Cut or mow liriope before new growth emerges. Trim Asian jasmine back to 4 or 5 inches.
» Begin controlling insects and diseases on fruit and nut trees. Spraying is essential for a successful harvest. Contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Ellis County for a copy of the “Homeowners Fruit and Nut Spray Schedule”.
» Look for aphids and caterpillars on vegetables, and control with insecticidal soap and Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), respectively.
» Check for scale insects adhering to the trunk, branches and leaves of hollies, euonymus, shade trees, fruit and pecan trees. Apply horticultural oil to control these and other over-wintering insects.
» For the more difficult-to-control crape myrtle bark scale, apply a neonicotinoid insecticide, such as imidacloprid, as a soil drench to the root zone of infested trees.
» It’s rose-planting time! Consider Texas A&M Earth-Kind® varieties which are easy to maintain. For more information, go to http://aggiehorticulture.tamu.edu/earthkindroses.
» Maintain 2-4 inches of shredded hardwood or other wood mulch in beds and containers year- round to conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Taper off mulch near the base of plants.
» Landscape Rule of Thirds – When designing or renovating your landscape, utilize the “rule of thirds” by planting 1/3 drought-tolerant turfgrass, 1/3 native and adapted planting beds and 1/3 pervious hardscape. This will give you more visual appeal, usable space and a reduction in water requirements, fertilizers and pesticides.
» Aerate lawn area. Clay soil becomes compacted over time. To increase the soil’s ability to absorb water, aerate the lawn in late winter/early spring and apply a 1/4 inch of compost.