The approach of spring generally brings excitement to gardeners. It is different after an extreme frost.
If the spring works are overwhelming, make a deal with a friend to spend a day in the garden helping each other. A second set of eyes and hands brings new visions and skills to the task. Our master gardeners always learn from one another and good camaraderie makes the load a little easier.
Now let’s get to work. Since I will hardly ever touch the surface of these nibs, more details can be found at vcmga.org/gardeners_dirt/2021_feb_26. Click on the links at the bottom of the website under “Gardening Tips”.
Start by evaluating your tools. High quality, sharpened tools not only make the job easier, but cleaner cuts minimize damage to your plants.
Although we prune our shrubs in the spring for frost damage, this is not the ideal time for general pruning of flowering shrubs. Spring-flowering shrubs, trees, and vines will bloom as last season’s growth and should be pruned shortly after flowering in spring. Summer-flowering shrubs generally bloom as the current year grows and should be pruned in late winter if necessary.
If perennial flowers and shrubs suffer frost damage, allow new growth to begin in March and then cut off any dead wood over the fresh growth. If fresh growth is slow to emerge, scratch the surface of the branches to find green wood. Delicately exposed vegetation must be protected from future freezing.
Larry Stein of Texas A&M AgriLife suggests waiting two weeks after our last severe freeze to better assess the damage before we start pruning.
If the frozen vegetation is slushy, clean up the slushy vegetation immediately. Protect the remaining tender stem near the ground if it freezes again. This step can save the roots.
Covered plants benefit from being exposed as soon as possible after freezing, but covered again when necessary.
Wisteria, an early spring bloom, is best pruned after the spring bloom cycle is complete.
Weeds can be a real challenge, especially for us who live in rural areas. Weeds harbor insects and disease, reduce flower and vegetable production, and affect the beauty of the landscape. Young plants, even trees that compete with weeds for water and nutrients, often wither, if they survive at all.
Weed prevention involves properly preparing the soil in the garden, inspecting incoming topsoil or turf grass for signs of weeds, mowing and mulching regularly.
As soon as we have weeds, pull and chop the solutions by hand. Herbicides should be the last resort and require a critical ability to identify the weeds and know which product to use for which weeds. Read the labels carefully to make sure the product won’t damage your vegetables, lawn, flowers, or shrubs.
March is a good time to plant most shrubs and vines, although there are exceptions. It will leave time for growth before the summer heat, but do consider frost protection.
When the gardens are bare after a severe frost and we feel a great loss after losing some of our favorite plants, it is tempting to buy new plants quickly. Take the time to plan before purchasing. Assess your view of the landscape and how these new plants fit in. Temperature tolerance may be high on our list, but it also takes into account size, competition for sunlight among each other, and location. Is the system compatible with your zero-turn mower in its proposed location?
Look at the plant’s care needs, your time, skills, and energy. Without a plan, your spring dreams can turn into nightmare.
According to Doug Welsh’s Texas Garden Almanac, Texas soil contains only 1% organic matter. With every planting (except trees) compost is put into the soil.
Making your own compost from lawn waste, leaves, and fruit and vegetable waste is easy and practical for spring planting. My compost heap (no, it’s not even a trash can) requires minimal attention. Periodically I rotate it and keep it moist.
Spring is a good time to mulch our gardens. Spread 2 to 3 inches of organic straw or bark on the soil surface without touching the plants. The benefits of mulching include reducing weeds, maintaining water and moisture, moderating soil temperature, and reducing soil-borne diseases.
Disease and pests
Continuously monitor plants for diseases and pests. After identifying the problem, determine what actions should be taken based on the severity of the problem and the potential harm. Use the least toxic methods after researching and reading labels. According to Welsh, “the best strategy for pest control is your presence in the garden.”
Invite friends to garden together to ease the burden. We’ll hold on and get excited again as spring progresses.
The Gardeners’ Dirt was written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational organization of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Victoria County. Send your questions to the attorney at PO Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or email@example.com or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.