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.)

"Stop. Put down your weapon and slowly turn around! Yeah - You with the pruners in your hand." I know what you're thinking - the freezes, sleet and snow turned some of our prized landscape plants into brown sticks, but cutting back now will only promote new tender growth which will be nipped should another cold snap come our way. O.K. - if you must - I highly recommend against it, but have at it, just don't cut down into 'green.' I'm willing to look at the damaged plants for a while, as opposed to seeing them totally destroyed just because I whipped out my weapon and couldn't control myself.

But not to worry, spring is on the way. On January 4th, a pair of American goldfinches, commonly called "wild canaries" were dining on a 'song bird' seed mixture at one of the feeders while a few feet away the resident cardinals were enjoying sunflower seeds at another feeder. The goldfinches are in close contact with Mother Nature, and I'm sure she has given them advance notice as to spring's arrival date. They know it's time to head to climes more advantageous to their well-being, and they regularly stop in our neighborhood on their way north.

There's plenty to do this month and February 15th is traditional for pruning roses. Remove any crossed or dead canes. Since roses appreciate plenty of air circulation (cuts down on diseases) remove all but 3 or 5 canes, and prune above an outward facing bud. Don't prune the climbers until after they have bloomed. While you have the pruners in your hand get rid of those faded blooms on pansies, cyclamens, daffodils and other early bloomers, this tricks them into producing more flowers.

This may be the year you want to put more color in your landscape, and I'll bet you can't think of a color to which there is no comparable flower. Try to coordinate the colors in your garden with the color of your house. Get a color wheel to help you discover which colors complement the color of your home's paint and bricks. And did you know that white flowers with no color are best planted in areas used in the evening? Sitting out on the deck enjoying a glass of wine or a cold brew, you'll be able to see and enjoy moonflowers, Easter lilies, alyssum, camellias, clematis, etc.

Lawns can be a real drag to maintain. Have you thought about putting some ground covers around the trees in your front yard? If some of the trees are close together and maneuvering the mower between them has become a hassle, ground covers merging the two areas not only cuts down mowing time but looks pretty attractive also. It's way too early to fertilize the St. Augustine as it stays dormant until the weather warms. Feeding now only helps the cool weather weeds proliferate. After you've mowed a time or two, and you know the St. Augustine is awake, then feed it. I'm sold on a 15-5-10 formula. Some companies tout their 'green up' formulation, but they are high in nitrogen, and not exactly a balanced diet in my opinion. Later on you'll need to supplement - why not do it right the first time?

This is a big gardening month for veggies. February 15th isn't only traditional rose pruning day, it's also traditional corn planting day at my house. Planted this early you can be enjoying corn-on-the-cob before the corn worms find those succulent ears. If you hurry it's still cool enough to put in transplants of broccoli, collards and kohlrabi. Think salad - lettuce, radish and spinach seeds can go in now. Also seeds of beets, English and snap peas, and turnips if you must!

If you still have some spare time on your hands you may want to pot the plumerias you pulled up in the fall and set them outside on a warm day, but in at night. If you have a water garden raise the water lilies up into the sun-warmed surface. Plant some of the late blooming bulbs like amaryllis, gladiolus, and you might want to put in some Louisiana phlox and maybe some purple oxalis. The latter does well in a slightly shaded, moist area. You still have time to divide some of those crowded daylilies. Notice I didn't say anything about putting down your sharp shooter or spading fork..................

Barbados Cherry close up