Master Gardeners: It’s January – time to start thinking about spring planting

Published 9:30 am Saturday, January 9, 2021

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By Sheri Bethard

Texas Certified Master Gardener, Orange County Master Gardeners

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 show up in March. If you haven’t already started your seeds for your spring garden, now is the time to get them going. Use clean pots. If using last year’s pots make sure they are sterilized in 1-part bleach to 10 parts water or you can use a disinfectant cleaner which kills 99% of bacteria. In addition, use a good seed starting mix. Using potting or garden soil weights down the seeds and the roots. You need something light letting 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 won’t wash out of place and always water from the bottom, as to not cause 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

On the nice days get out and work in the garden readying it for spring. Check for what needs to be done. Does it need to be cleaned of old plants from last season or weeds, need more soil? Or did you have winter producing vegetables not producing anymore? If so, cut them 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 winter type veggies now, select 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 flowers which can be planted now, they are pansy, viola, snapdragon, dianthus, ornamental kale and cabbage, daises, and sweet alyssum.

January is tree planting time. It is much less stressful on them planting while still dormant than in their growing stage. Remember when picking your tree and placing your tree, what the final result will be in 10, 20, 30 years. It will need room to spread. If it will have a height of 30 feet and 30 feet canopy, then make sure 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 so you don’t 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.

Check your gardening tools. In the fall, did you clean them before storing them? You should get them out and give them a good once over. Look at them, decide if they have seen better days and need replacing. If so, now is the time to replace rather than while you are in the middle of gardening and it breaks on you. If they are still in good condition, give them a good cleaning, oil if needed, clean off 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 at, post a question on our Facebook page or contact our Hot Line Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at 409 882-7010.