The cold weather and freezing temperatures at the end of the year damaged grasses, plants and trees across the state. The coldest December in Texas in 40 years left gardeners dealing with the ugly aftermath in their gardens and yards.
“We now have a lot of ugly vegetation,” said Larry Stein, Ph.D., horticulture specialist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and associate department head and professor within the Department of Horticultural Sciences at the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Uvalde. “As we have said in the past, learn to like ugly for a while, as there is more winter to come and this vegetation will provide a bit of protection. And, also, we don’t know exactly what has been injured.”
Stein advised gardeners to leave any damaged greenery in place and avoid pruning, weeding and cleaning up yards and gardens until they are confident the cold weather has passed your area for the year.
While waiting out the weather to see what plants recover, he offered the following gardening guide for January.
Water and fertilize cool-weather annuals
Continue to water and fertilize cool-weather annuals such as snapdragons, Bells of Ireland, stocks, larkspur, pansies, violas and sweet alyssum to encourage the best blooms.
“Even some cool-weather plants took a hit with the recent cold, but they will recover if you take care of them,” he said.
Transplant mature or established trees and shrubs
While they are dormant, January is an excellent time to transplant mature or established trees and shrubs.
Check plants for winter pests
Check junipers and other narrow-leaf evergreens for bagworm pouches. The insect eggs overwinter in the pouch and start the cycle again by emerging in the spring to feed on the foliage. Hand removal and burning of the pouches reduce future damage.
Plan and prepare for spring flower and vegetable gardens
Make flower and vegetable garden plans now before the rush of spring planting. Time spent “armchair gardening” by the fireplace will pay off in improved plant selection. Besides, it is fun to page through the garden catalogs and books while contemplating changes in your garden.
Sow seeds in flats or containers to get a jump on plant growth before hot weather arrives. Petunias, begonias and impatiens should be sown in January or February. Warm-temperature plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, marigolds and periwinkles, should be sown in late January or early February.
Prepare beds and garden areas for spring planting. Till in several inches of compost, composted pine bark or similar material.
Extend the life of holiday poinsettias
The life of poinsettias and other holiday season plants can be prolonged with proper care. Keep the soil moist but provide drainage so excess moisture can flow from the pot. Keep the plant out of the range of heating ducts and away from heating units. Keep it in a cool room at night, preferably at 60 to 65 degrees.
Apply slow-release fertilizer to cool season annuals
Apply slow-release fertilizer to pansies and other cool-season annuals. Distribute 5 pounds of cotton seed or alfalfa meal per 100 square feet of bed area or use commercial slow-release fertilizer products according to label instructions.
Don’t fertilize newly set out trees or shrubs until after they have started to grow, and then only very lightly the first year. When buying plants, the biggest is not always the best, especially when dealing with bare-root plants. The medium to small sizes, 4-6 feet, are usually faster to become established and more effective in a landscape than larger sizes.
Remember to like the ugly, for now
Resist pruning bush roses and grapes until mid-February or early March in northern parts of the state. Herbaceous perennials and hardy ornamental grasses may also be cut back at this time.
It may be easier to assess the extent of freeze damage on citrus and semi-tropical plants when warm weather arrives. When new growth begins, remove damaged material.
For more gardening advice, explore Aggie Horticulture’s diverse and robust educational resources and programs.