It may still be winter according to the Groundhog in Pennsylvania, but there’s only about 6 to 8 weeks until the estimated last spring frost here in Texas. But don’t fret; it’s not too late to get some preparation and winter work done in your yard and gardens. In fact, many of these tasks will help your spring gardens get off to a better start. Without further ado, here’s some tips for what you can do in your garden as this winter winds down to a close.
Gardens generally go dormant over the winter; and for most people, that’s all the better. We don’t have to be outdoors in subfreezing temperatures tending wet soil and frost-crisped plants. But there are still some maintenance tasks every homeowner should tend to as often as possible during the colder months.
It may seem counterintuitive, but some plants do still need water in the winter. While cold temperatures keep the soil from drying out, new planted perennials, as well as trees and shrubs, tend to need more water than some areas provide. To help new plants establish well, try not to let the top two inches of soil dry out; keep the root ball moist and gradually allow the plant to dry out between watering sessions. Also, to help your bulbs develop strong roots, water thoroughly and often.
Obviously, you won’t need to mow your lawn often in winter, if at all. However, if you need to, simply set your blades to a higher level; this helps the taller grass shade out any lurking weed seeds. Less watering will also help keep your weed population subdued.
Generally, fertilizing in the winter is not recommended. It just doesn’t do any good when the plants can’t take advantage of the nutrients. But to get a jump on your needs for spring fertilization, test your soil to determine what amendments you actually need. You can also compost in place; put those piles of leaves to work for you by layering them into your garden beds and burying them in soil. This provides a welcome amendment with minimal labor after the initial transport and digging.
Leave any native plants with their seed heads intact until spring; this ensures the birds and wildlife have a natural food source over the winter months. Around mid- to late-February, trim back any dead foliage to make way for new spring growth. If you grow roses, prune them back to about 8” above ground right about Valentine’s day (easy to remember, right?), and try to keep only 5 major canes. Clean your pruners and other tools with rubbing alcohol between rose bushes to avoid spreading diseases like rose rosette disease. Add any leaves and brown plant trimmings to your compost bin or pile; just make sure to leave any diseased plant material out. Throw any contaminated plant materials into the trash instead of back into the soil.
Mulching with a 2 to 3 inch covering will insulate the roots and soil from both cold and hot weather. By reducing temperature fluctuations, less moisture is lost to evaporation and soil microbes are protected from the sun and extremes in weather. It’s never too late to mulch!
Planting in winter!
Yes, you can plant in winter! There are many edibles, flowers, and ornamentals that can be planted or just started in the late winter months.
Ornamentals with a twist
Swiss chard is a great option for an ornamental landscape plant that can also supplement your winter table. Mustard greens and dill provide lovely backgrounds to colorful chard and other cold-weather leafy vegetables.
While it is still early for these flowers to go outside in the elements, sweet alyssum, marigolds, and many native Texas flowers do well if started indoors right about now. Columbine, winecups, and purple coneflower (echinacea) are all beautiful Texas natives that will appreciate the early start.
With some perseverance, many edibles can be grown year-round. Edible vegetables for winter cultivation include potatoes, turnips, radishes, beets, carrots, sugar-snap peas, leeks, scallions, and onions. Winter greens like kale, Swiss chard, lettuce, collards, and spinach are also great cold-weather choices; parsley, cilantro, and dill do well in winter, also. Cool season vegetables can be started anytime from mid-February through the beginning of March. Because most of these are one-and-done types of plants, sow successive plantings every 2 weeks to ensure a continued harvest.
All through February, you can start peppers, eggplants, salad greens, and brassicas like cauliflower and broccoli indoors under lights. Tomatoes should perhaps have been started from seed in mid-January, but you can still start some early- and mid-season varieties in your home, or purchase transplants from a nursery soon.
For help planning a new landscape adventure or lawn addition, Andy’s Sprinkler and Drainage is your go-to expert company. Give us a call today for help setting up a no-fuss irrigation system today.