Neil Comments on the Weather



I’ve been writing and speaking about gardening in Texas for 45 years, and I’ve just about decided that most of us Texans have very short memories. If we get a few warm days in the winter, we assume that spring has arrived. We set about our normal spring gardening activities, and that can include doing things way too early. For examples:

• Some of the big national chain stores have (or soon will) caladium and elephant ear tubers out for sale. These are tropical plants. Buy them now if you wish, but wait until late April or May to plant them. Otherwise they’re most likely to rot and turn to mush.

• Even the finest independent retail nurseries sometimes push the season along. You need to know the average date of the last killing freeze for your area. You’re likely to see tomato and pepper transplants being sold two and even four weeks ahead of that date. I was in a North Texas greenhouse late one March day. The owner chuckled as I came in. He gave the man’s name (a well-known local TV weatherman) as he said, “…was just in to buy his fifth set of tomato transplants. Wouldn’t you think he’d have known they were all going to freeze?”

• If you fertilize turfgrass too early, the nutrients will just sit there. Or wash away if you get heavy spring rains. Our warm-season grasses don’t really gear up to grow until early or mid-April. Wait until then to fertilize.

Everything in gardening has its own optimum time. Those dates may vary a little, but it’s still going to be the wisest gardener who knows the best time for each task and still checks the 10-day forecast before starting to work.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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