It’s January and the time to start thinking about spring planting

Published 3:00 pm Saturday, January 4, 2020

By Sheri Bethard

Texas Certified Master Gardener, Orange County Master Gardeners


Well, Christmas and New Years are now behind us and we are starting to look towards spring planting time. As most of you know our last frost day is normally around the end of February, but it can sometimes show up in March. 

If you haven’t already started your seeds for your spring garden, now is the time to get them going. Remember to use clean pots. If you use last year’s pots make sure they have been sterilized in 1-part bleach to 10 parts water or you can use a disinfectant cleaner like Mr. Clean which kills 99% of bacteria. 

In addition, use a good seed starting mix as you do not want to use potting or garden soil as it weights down the seeds and the roots. You need something light that will let air and water pass thru easily. 

You can make your own by sifting sphagnum peat and adding it to vermiculite at a ratio of about 2 to 1. 

Be sure to wet your media before planting your seeds so the seeds will not wash out of place and always water from the bottom, so you won’t cause any of the fine roots to come loose. 

Once your seeds are planted, sprinkle with fine sand or grit to help keep the gnat flies away along with lightly sprinkling with cinnamon powder. 

Most seeds like a 70-degree germination temperature and light. Check our website listed below under “Resources” for Light Requirements

Now, on the nice days, it is time to get out and start working in the garden getting it ready for spring. Look it over and see what needs to be done. Does it need to be cleaned out of old plants left over from last season, weeds that might have grown in, need more soil? Or did you have some winter producing vegetables that are not producing anymore? If so, cut them off at ground level leaving the roots to rot in the soil for the next crop to benefit from. 

If you do decide to add soil, be sure to include feeding the microbes in your soil with a good organic fertilizer. The chemical fertilizers do not have the important microbes the soil needs to help move the nutrients to your plants. 

If you still would like to plant some winter type veggies now, these can be planted and still enjoyed. Swiss chard, lettuce, mustard, turnips, spinach, radish, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, potatoes. 

Be sure you plant something you and your family will enjoy eating. Then there are some flowers which can still be planted now, they are pansy, viola, snapdragon, dianthus, ornamental kale and cabbage, daises, sweet alyssum.

January is the time to plant trees. It is so much less stress on them planting them while they are dormant than when they are in the growing stage.

Just remember when picking your tree what the final result will be in 10, 20, 30 years when you place your tree. It will need room to spread. If it will have a height of 30 feet and 30 feet canopy, then make sure where you plant it is at least 30 feet from any building, power lines, pool, or any other type of structure. 

Also, check for underground utilities as you do not want to plant it on top of them. My previously published articles on “How to plant a tree” and “Selecting the Right Plant” can be found on our website under Resources, News articles or on our Facebook page “Orange County Texas Master Gardeners” under the Files section.

Another thing to check out this month is your gardening tools. When you put them up in the fall, did you clean them before you stored them? You might want to get them out and give them a good once over. 

Look at them, decide if they have seen better days and do they need to be replaced. If so, now is the time to get a replacement rather than while you are in the middle of doing something and it breaks down on you. 

If they are still in good condition, then give them a good cleaning, oil them if needed, clean off the rust. To help keep rust abated, fill a bucket with sand and add some old oil to the sand and mix. 

Store your shovels, trowels, etc. in the bucket. Occasionally dip your clippers in the sand to keep them free of grime. You will be surprised how nice and clean all your tools will stay by doing this and rust-free.

If you have any questions, you can reach us through our Contact page on our website listed above or post a question on our Facebook page or contact our Hot Line which is manned Tuesday and Thursday from 10 – 2 at 409-882-7010. Or you can attend any of our monthly meetings starting at 6 PM with a potluck supper, then 6:30 p.m. business meeting and 7 p.m. we have a speaker. Meetings are held at the Orange County Expo Center, 11475 FM 1442, Orangefield the 2nd Thursday of each month.