Gardening in El Lago

Trowels & Tribulations in a Suburban Garden - February Issue

By: Donna J. Ward, Certified Texas Master Gardener (Note: This is a reprint of Donna’s article that appears in the La Ventana del Lago.

As I sit here with fingers poised on the keyboard, I’m looking out of the window facing my back yard. It’s a still, January day and autumn’s leaves are fluttering slowly to the ground – a sure sign of spring. “What, how can falling autumn leaves be a sign of spring?” you say. Very simple, new emerging growth is pushing off the leaves that didn’t fall in the autumn of 2020. Don’t put the rake away just yet.

As you well know, spring is time to get back to work improving your landscape. An attractive spring garden depends on the work you did in February.

Your camellias should be pruned right after they have finished blooming. Air circulation within should always be provided to discourage scale. Cut away any branches growing inward. We did have a few nippy days/nights this past winter, so if you see any branches that show the effects of a visit from Jack Frost, prune back to live wood.

There are two important things to remember for Valentine’s Day on February 14th – buy him/her chocolates and prune the roses. Roses also like air circulation, so keep the canes to just a few (three to five is my preference). Wait to prune the climbers until after they have bloomed. It’s also a good day to plant a new rose – perhaps that one with the wonderful scent – start digging when you’ve finished pruning.

Put in transplants of asters, delphiniums, alyssum, larkspur, stock and snapdragons. They will fade once summer kicks in but in the meantime you will be the envy of the neighborhood. If you’re looking for an old-fashioned perennial bed like grandma’s, plant seeds of nasturtium, portulaca, ageratum, torenia, zinnias and sunflower. If you deadhead the pansies, dianthus, calendulas and other early bloomers you may get a bit more color in that flower bed. We could still have some pretty chilly days, as our coldest days usually occur in February so be sure and keep your landscape plants well-watered to prevent winter-kill.

Those daffodils and other naturalizing bulbs have faded and the dying foliage isn’t too attractive. I know you’re inclined to take the pruners to them, but don’t. They are using the dying foliage to replenish the bulb for next year’s growth. Braid and roll up the fading greenery and anchor it to the ground – another use for those rocks you have stashed in the garage. Or, just ignore them. Start to set out gladiolus bulbs at two week intervals up to May or early June so you can enjoy an extended bloom season.

You’re seeing a bit of greenery appearing in the lawn, and your first inclination is to help it along with a bit of fertilizer. Control yourself – you would only be fertilizing cool weather weeds and they don’t need any help from you. They will go away when warm weather arrives, so wait until you see new growth of St. Augustine. This lawn grass doesn’t even think about growing until the temps rise, so any fertilizer you put down now is going to be a total waste of time and money.

You’ve found the overalls and straw hat you stashed in the back of the hall closet and knocked the dirt off of the shovel in the garage – time to put on your Old McDonald duds and get to work. We always had good luck planting corn on Valentine’s Day. This allows you to harvest those tender ears before the corn worms get to them. Always plant corn in squares, not rows. Rows don’t pollinate very well, squares do. Transplants of broccoli can go in now and our local nurseries should have plenty of lettuce, mustard, English and snap peas, spinach, radish, kohlrabi, collards, beets – this is your very last chance to plant Irish potatoes mid-month. They are all waiting for you to take them home. Don’t know about you, but think I’ve got spring fever.

Did you know that Trowels & Tribulations is published on the city site on the first of the month? Under Our Community you will find Trowels & Tribulations listed.

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