Although Puxatawney Phil saw his shadow this morning and we will have six more weeks of winter, I think we can safely prepare for Spring. There are a number of things that gardeners do before Valentine’s Day. It’s not that there’s anything magical about February 14th; but it is just before spring growth typically begins and is an easy date to remember. Here's my guide for gardens tasks in deep south Texas:
- Rose growers prune around Valentines Day: If you grow modern hybrid roses, cut them back to 18-24”. Antique or “found” roses are simply pruned to fit the space; try not to remove more than 1/3 of any cane (or branch). Do not prune spring-blooming climbing roses until after they bloom. If course, remove any dead canes.
- I also prune my peach and fig trees this month - hopefully before they bloom and begin to set fruit. The peaches are blooming right now in Harlingen. Remove branches when they cross each other or when one is directly below another. Keeping your fruit tree open will lessen the chance of disease. Again, remove any dead wood.
- At the end of the month, you can begin cutting back your woody shrubs. Some (like lantana, mistflower, and Little John bottlebru) are budding and even blooming now, so I am very tempted to trim a little early this year.
- Don't put away your freeze protection material just yet. Mine are just a bunch of old sheets and light blankets. Most of my plants are hardy to the mid-20s and if not hardy, will just suffer damage that will grow back when its warmer. We have received some arctic blasts in February before. According to Plantmaps, our last frost date is said to be between February 11 and February 20. You can check your Texas frost map here.
- Continue to collect and shred leaves for ground cover and to compost.
- This is a great time to apply a layer of mulch to all your planting beds.
- But tree-trunk-painting is NOT on my list of things to do this month. Or any month!
- Trees and Shrubs: All trees, including fruit, with the exception of citrus. This is also a good time to plant non-tropical shrubs.
- Vegetables: broccoli, carrots, cucumber, melons (cataulope and honey dew), peppers (sweet), radish, squash, tomatoes, watermelons. Cucumbers and melons will cross pollinate so do not plant them near each other.
- Herbs: basil, catnip, dill, fennel, garlic, mint (in a pot to contain the roots), parsley, rosemary, rue, thyme. A frost will harm your basil so it is best in a pot which can be brought in during inclement weather.
- Flowers from Seed or Bulbs: alyssum, amaryllis bulbs, larkspur, poppy, stock.
- Flowers from Transplants: dianthus, ice plant, geraniums, impatience, kalanchoes, petunias, ruellia (Mexican petunia), and salvia
- Rose bushes
Vegetable Planting Date Sources: Texas Extension Service and the Old Farmers Almanac .
- Roses. Include a systemic insecticide if you grow grafted roses. Found or Antique roses are supposed to take care of themselves.
- Citrus: There are good organic and traditional citrus fertilizers. Apply in January or February for a better bloom or in May or June as a post-bloom for better fruit set.
- Acid fertilizer for your acid loving plants like gardenias.
- Add some inches of high-quality compost to your vegetable beds before you plant.