Gardening This Weekend: December 9, 2021

Here are your most critical activities to fit into the schedule as we push our way into the holiday season.

Transplant trees and shrubs that need to be relocated as soon as they are completely dormant following the first hard freeze in your area (in case you’re still awaiting it). For our readers along the Gulf Coast, wait until early January. Plants are sufficiently dormant by then.
Cold-hardy annuals. Pansies and pinks rate at the top, as do ornamental cabbage and kale. Snapdragons come next, then for the southern half of the state, stocks, cyclamen, wallflowers, sweet alyssum and Iceland poppies.
All spring-flowering bulbs starting mid-December. Soils should be cool enough to plant tulips and Dutch hyacinths.

Never top crape myrtles. I’ll explain why in a later issue, but I just wanted to get the warning out there in front of you. Please share the message with commercial landscaping companies.
Shrubs to do light shaping. It’s still best to save major reshaping for another three or four weeks. Some retraining is likely to be needed as plants recover from February’s cold.
Mistletoe from tree branches as soon as you see it. Leaving it in place for more than one year will allow it to grow much larger very quickly.

Ryegrass and fescue turf with all-nitrogen, slow-release food sometime in next week or so (preferably during a warm spell). Water immediately after application. These grasses grow in cooler weather. Next feeding will come in late February.
Houseplants once per month with diluted liquid plant food. You’re merely trying to sustain them, not to encourage vigorous new growth during the dark days of winter.
Apply water-soluble, high-phosphate root-stimulator plant food to help newly transplanted trees and shrubs get established.

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Be especially mindful of shade trees that developed dead branches following February’s record cold. They are probably severely weakened and even starting to decay. Have dead wood taken out before it falls and causes damage or injury.
Houseplants for scale insects and mealy bugs. These are difficult to eliminate. It’s usually easiest to address them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Even then you’ll have to stay after them.
Buy frost cloth, measure and pre-cut it and keep it handy in case of extreme cold. If you use one of the white materials you can leave tender plants covered for several weeks without fear of harm to them in the process. Air, water and even sunlight can penetrate the lightweight material.
Turn compost monthly to keep microbes working actively. Cover it with plastic to soak up the sun’s warmth, again to speed up the decay.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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