Gardening This Weekend: January 21, 2021

Let’s get 2021 off to a great start. Do the right things, and do them at the right times. Here’s the current checklist starting with this weekend’s goals.

Fruit trees, grapes, blackberries, pecans and other bare-rooted nursery stock. Here is the TAMU list of best fruit varieties for Texas.
Onion slips, asparagus and snap-type English peas immediately in South Texas and in the next week or two in North Texas.
Nursery stock as it becomes available at your favorite local independent retail garden center. (That’s where you’ll get the best advice for your area.) Growers are warning of shortages this year due to the incredible demand during the pandemic.

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Do NOT “top” crape myrtles ever for any purported reason. There is never any justification. If you think your plant is growing too tall, it’s just going to grow right back, and in the meantime you’ve ruined its natural shape. If you think it makes it bloom better, you’re wrong. I work two days per week with crape myrtles through our Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney Foundation where we have planted upwards of 40,000 crape myrtles in our city. Topping delays first bloom by 6-8 weeks, and the flower heads that result are huge and floppy. Not a good plan!
Oaks to remove unwanted branches. They must be pruned during winter (prior to mid-February) to minimize likelihood of oak wilt invasion into cut surfaces. Do not leave stubs. Seal all cut surfaces with pruning paint, but only for oaks. (See related story in last week’s e-gardens.)
Evergreen shrubs to reshape. It’s best usually to remove one branch at a time to avoid the sheared look. By using lopping shears, you can probably reduce their height and width by 20 to 25 percent.
Peach and plum trees to encourage horizontal branching and strong scaffold branching system 22 to 26 inches from the ground. Apples to remove strongly vertical shoots (“watersprouts”). Pears only to remove damaged or rubbing branches. Grapes to remove 80 to 85 percent of canes and maintain vines on strong supports. Wait to prune blackberries until after harvest. Do not prune figs except to remove damaged branches.

Established asparagus plantings with all-nitrogen, fast-release fertilizer such as ammonium sulfate by side-banding along the rows of plants. Goal is to create burst of new shoot growth in February, early March.
Annual color beds with water-soluble, high-nitrogen plant food to help them produce a burst of new growth as sunny, warmer days begin.

Broadleafed weeds (dandelions, clover, henbit, etc.). Apply a broadleafed weedkiller spray (containing 2,4-D) during a warm, dry spell. Read and follow label directions for best results.
Scale insects may look like crusts or scabs on the surface of tree and shrub trunks and leaves. You can usually flick them off with your thumbnail. Apply horticultural oil while plants are dormant. Requirements: no rain, as well as temperatures above freezing (and below 80F) for 48 hours after treating. (Note that oils do not appear to be effective in controlling crape myrtle scale.)
Rose rosette virus. If your plants were stunted and failed to bloom properly last fall, also if their buds failed to open fully, those are signs of RRV. See photos and information archived on my website to help you identify it. Once you are sure of its presence, remove and destroy infected plants. They cannot be saved. Please do not take examples into nurseries where they could contaminate healthy nursery stock.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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