Timely Tips: December 2014
Plant: All bulbs, including daffodils and grape hyacinths at any time. Tulips and Dutch hyacinths require “pre-chilling” to give them an artificial winter. Without at least 45 days at 45 degrees, they will not flower normally. They should not be planted until the soil cools after mid-December. Plant cool-season annuals including pansies, violas, snapdragons, pinks, flowering cabbage and kale. In protected places, add in stocks, sweet alyssum, Iceland poppies and others. Established trees and shrubs that need to be relocated can be transplanted after they’ve been exposed to one hard freeze. (Many parts of the northern two-thirds of Texas are already there.) Hold soil balls intact around their roots to lessen shock of transplanting.
Prune: Remove browned stubble from perennial and annual flower gardens now that they have frozen, also from the vegetable garden. Use a long-handled tree pruner to remove mistletoe from trees. There is no effective consumer spray. Its white berries are its means of spreading, so eliminate the plants and their berries before birds carry them to other branches. Prune tree roots that threaten to extend beneath your foundation, driveway, patio or walk. Make the cut near the concrete surface and install a root barrier vinyl fabric to stop further growth. Shade trees can be pruned any time now, but remember never to “top” any tree for any purpose. That most especially includes crape myrtles. There is no satisfactory reason ever to top a crape myrtle, since it lessens their blooming and ruins their natural form. Fruit trees and grape vines can be pruned once they’re completely dormant, but January is a better time.
Fertilize: Winter color annuals with diluted, water-soluble fertilizer (high-nitrogen analysis) each time they’re watered. Houseplants with the same water-soluble fertilizer, but only once monthly while conditions are so dark during the winter. Compost pile with high-nitrogen lawn food to hasten decomposition of recently fallen leaves. Turn in 1 cupful per cubic yard of compost every six months.
On the Lookout: Broadleafed weeds, including dandelions, henbit, clover and others can be eliminated with a broadleafed weedkiller spray in the next few weeks, but 70 degree daytime temperatures without rain for 48 hours will be necessary. Treat houseplants for spider mites, whiteflies, mealy bugs and other scales. Gain 6 to 8 degrees of protection in the garden by using frost cloth over tender plants in extreme cold.