Tips for November
» Now through February is the perfect time to plant container-grown trees and shrubs. Dig a hole two times the diameter and one inch shallower than the root ball. Make sure the root ball and the hole are thoroughly wet before planting. Backfill with existing soil and water well.
» Plant pansies and violas now. Bluebonnets can still be planted from transplants.
» Daffodils and grape hyacinth may be planted once soil temperature drops below 55° F. Plant 2-3 times as deep as the bulb is tall.
Fertilizing and Pruning
» Feed winter annuals growing in the ground and in outdoor containers with a high-nitrogen, water- soluble plant food every two to three weeks. Also, feed and water cool-season vegetables that you are growing now.
» Remove the tops of herbaceous perennials after they have died. Add 2-3 inches of mulch to the beds to reduce winter weed growth.
» Trim patio plants and hanging baskets before moving indoors for the winter. Locate them near bright windows.
» Refrain from pruning freeze-damaged woody plants at this time. This pruning is best done in late winter.
»It’s time to winterize! Disconnect hoses from faucets and drain all hose-end sprinklers. Drain fuel from gasoline-powered engines and run the carburetor dry. Greenhouse owners should check the heating and ventilation systems to ensure proper operation.
» Check outdoor potted plants for insects (mealybugs, whiteflies, spider mites, aphids, roaches, ants) before moving inside for the winter. Apply a labeled insecticide if needed.
» When planning new landscapes, select trees, shrubs and perennials that are winter hardy in your area. According to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map, Ellis County is located in Zone 8 (average lowest annual temperature is 10° F to 20° F). Therefore, it is best to choose plants listed for Zone 8, or the one or two zones to the north (Zone 6 or 7).
Extreme Gardening Topics
» EXTREME SOIL – Ellis County’s soil is known as Blackland Prairie soil. It is also known as “cracking clays” because of the large deep cracks that form in dry weather. This high shrink-swell property can cause serious damage to foundations, highways and other structures. Making sure to keep foundations watered in hot dry conditions can help to offset this “shrink – swell” effect.
Tips for December
» Plant berry-producing trees and shrubs to add winter color to your landscape. Choices include possumhaw and yaupon holly, Carolina buckthorn, rusty blackhaw viburnum and American beautyberry.
» Plant pre-chilled tulip and hyacinth bulbs mid to late month.
Plant bulbs in masses for best effect.
» Daffodil bulbs may still be planted. Look for early and small-flowering varieties that tend to naturalize and return yearly.
» Considering a living Christmas tree? Choose an adapted plant. Junipers, Arizona cypress and pyramidal hollies are good options. While indoors, place the tree in the brightest natural light and keep soil moist. Do not leave indoors for more than two weeks.
Fertilizing and Planting
» Apply a root stimulator such as liquid seaweed or a high- phosphorus fertilizer to newly planted trees and shrubs.
» Do not top crape myrtles or remove the central leader of any shade tree. It destroys the crape myrtle’s natural shape, and delays blooming by five or six weeks. If your plant is too tall or too wide, remove or relocate it, and replace with something smaller that won’t require trimming.
» Remove mistletoe from trees as soon as it becomes visible. Use a pole pruner to remove the entire twig from infected branches before the mistletoe produces berries. There are no effective consumer products to control this parasitic plant.
» Protect tender vegetation from the cold with a lightweight frost cloth available at most nurseries and garden centers.
» Continue to water lawns, newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials if rainfall is insufficient.
» Prepare garden soil for spring planting by tilling in 6 inches of organic matter (compost) to a depth of 8 to 10 inches.
» Take time during the holidays to check out the new seed and nursery catalogues. Order early to ensure availability.
» Let’s not forget our feathered friends during the winter when their natural food supply is limited. Providing sunflower, safflower and thistle seed, suet and fruit will attract many species of birds to your backyard. And be sure to provide water.
Extreme Garden Topics
» CHRISTMAS TREE – Want to grow Christmas trees? You will need to invest approximately $2,300 per acres and wait 4 years to produce a marketable tree. In 2012, an estimated 38,645 Christmas trees were harvested in Texas. Hunt county in the DFW area produced around 2,220 trees. The most common types of trees planted are Virginia pine in East Texas and Afghan pine in South Central and West Texas.
Tips for JANUARY
» Plant trees, shrubs and woody ornamentals from nursery containers. Plant slightly above ground line to allow root flare to be exposed.
» Transplant small trees and shrubs while they are dormant. Water the plant well before digging it.
» Plant cold-tolerant herbs such as chives, cilantro, garlic and parsley; onion transplants late month.
» Seed for warm-weather annuals can be planted in flats in a temperature-controlled environment. Tomatoes and peppers can be started from seed mid-month. All require bright light and warm temperatures (60-70ºF). Use grow lights for best results.
» Tulip and hyacinth bulbs which have been chilled for 8 weeks should be planted immediately.
» Plant blackberries, fruit and nut trees. Contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Ellis County at 972-825-5175 or visit http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/fruit-nut for recommended varieties. Cultivar or variety selection is critical.
Fertilizing and Pruning
» 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, broadleaf 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.
» Mexican Feather Grass is sold throughout Texas as an ornamental landscape plant. It has delicate thread-like leaf blades that wave gracefully in the slightest breeze. Growing to a height of 18 inches to 2 feet tall and about 2 feet wide, this native to West Texas produces a lot of seed and can be slightly invasive. It is very drought tolerant and can grow in full sun or part shade. Some other common names are: Silky Thread Grass, Mexican Needle and Pony Tails.