Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March Gardening Tips...

By Pat Kriener, Village interpreter and Master Gardener

Spring is just around the corner!  For a Texas gardener every year we are tempted to purchase plants that look so tantalizing in the garden center even though the next cold spell will kill them. Of course there is no way to stop us, so now what do we do with our ill-advised purchases? We have to make a “Just in Case it Freezes Plan,” and this basic plan really applies to all of your plants in the winter (especially your cold tender plants).  Water deeply, mulch at least 3 inches and if your plant is very cold susceptible, cover with frost cloth, a sheet or a pot with hay.

  • Annuals – Color is here! The garden centers are awash with the colors & scents of spring. In Texas our cool weather plants thrive in the spring but start looking to replace or freshen your beds with some hardier plants for the summer.  Think COLD SNAP with every purchase. I bought stock & marigold today.

  • Bulbs - It’s time to divide summer bulbs. Plant your summer blooming bulbs, African iris, agapanthus, alpinia, cannas, dahlia, gladiolus, lilies, oxalis, naked ladies, society garlic, spider lily to name a few. The daffodils are blooming..one of the first to heralds in spring.

  • Containers – For those of you with limited space or who just love to container garden the garden centers are full of annuals, perennials, herbs, vegetables and more. Create your own salad bowl or edible flower garden right next to the kitchen door.  

  • Herbs - start indoor seeds, divide large clumps, cut back winter damage, clean containers, top dress & mulch and plant hardy herbs. I bought rosemary today and I highly recommend this plant to anyone who is looking for a 5 ft. tall & 5 ft wide edible landscape shrub--smells great, blooms and is a great wildlife plant.

  • Greenhouse - I must confess any of my plants that over-winter in the greenhouse have spent more time out than in with our mild temperatures; but they are on a covered porch and I keep a few blankets and sheets ready to cover them for a sudden frost. Just think more room in the greenhouse for those ill-advised purchases!  Mainly it’s time to start summer vegetables and annual plants by seed, and perennials by cutting or division. Watch the temperatures and airflow.

  • Lawn - Weeds in your yard? Think of them as our pollinators' winter food. Can’t do that? Then  how about soil indicators? Many weeds thrive in certain kinds of soils, so their very existence can help you determine what kind of soil you have. Alkaline Soil – henbane, Acidic Soil – dandelion, Compacted Soil – wild mustard, High Fertility – purslane, Low Fertility – yarrow. Still can’t stand the weeds?  Mow your yard short, keep it short until the temperatures climb, and kill out many of the weeds we have now. Use an organic pre-emergent like corn gluten meal to destroy weed seeds. Remember that it destroys any seed so don’t use in your vegetable garden if you plant by seed or in your wildflower beds or fields. Check with your local garden center for what will work best for you & your yard.

  • Mulch to keep your beds weed free and retain moisture. Pull back your existing mulch, put 10 sheets of newspaper down then replace your mulch. If it is less than 3 inches thick add more.

  • Perennials - many are showing signs of life. Make sure they are watered and mulched to protect them in a cold snap. 

  • Problems -.For questions or problems check with your local Extension Agent, Master Gardener or Garden Center.  

  • Rainwater – My barrels filled up during that last rain we had, but we are still behind in rainfall and I am using the water faster than I want. I have every container or bucket I can find on the back porch to catch any additional rainfall we may get.  http://twri.tamu.edu/newsletters/TexasWaterSavers/tws-v3n2.pdf

  • Roses – Want a little color in your life?   This is a great time to visit the garden centers and check out the new stock of roses.

  • Trees - Plant trees, trees and more trees. Then watch the Lorax by Dr. Seuss (the old or new version).  Remember what happens UNLESS you speak for the trees!

  • Vegetable Garden –Plan your Spring Garden NOW before it’s too late! You can still start spring seeds inside to be planted in 6 to 8 weeks. Plant nowcollards, kohlrabi, lima beans, mustard, onion sets, shallots, radish, snap beans and Swiss chard. Plant late March: peppers, southern peas, summer squash, tomatoes, watermelons, and winter squash. I could not resist buying a few tomato plants even though I know it is too earlySo if you are like me, pot them into a 1 gal pot and put in the greenhouse. Don’t have a greenhouse?  Plant them and put your tomato cage over them. Wrap the cage in plastic and have hay ready to toss over them when that cold snap hits.  Don’t have tomato cages?  Simply cut the bottom out of a 1 or 5 gal black pot, bury it in the ground a couple of inches and plant your tomato plant inside.  Cover if needed.

  • Watering – Water in a 7-day cycle if we do not get any rain. In the winter sudden freezes can kill a plant if is dry, but be sure to water the soil not the leaves. It is primarily the roots that need the protection of moisture and mulch, but if the plant is tender, toss frost cloth or a sheet over the plant.

  • Wildflowers – It is time to spread seed!   Make sure the seed you are buying is for Texas. This year just for fun let’s make Wildflower Seed Balls 1. Mix compost and dirt out of your yard (mine is clay so it sticks together easily). 2. Grab a glob of soil mix in your hands and work it just like making mud pies but form a ball instead. Golf ball size works great but there is not right or wrong size 3. Roll your Seed Ball in your Texas Wildflower Seed Mix until covered. 4. Let dry 2 – 3 days 5. Toss or place balls where you want them to grow.

  • Wildlife in the Garden - Get your feeders and houses cleaned and put up now. I am so excited I already have bluebirds making nests in my houses. You can tell they are bluebird nests because they are made of dry grass with no trash or weeds and just few feathers for softness. If you are wondering why I want bluebirds, they are insect eaters and one of their favorites are grasshoppers.