Master Gardener: Gardening tips for January
Published 12:31 am Friday, December 31, 2021
By John Green
Texas Master Gardener, Orange County Master Gardeners
Hello fellow gardeners! 2021 is rapidly coming to an end and the new year is almost here. There are many gardening tasks which we can complete outside while we have good weather or shift tasks indoors on damp and dreary days, in preparation for springtime planting. Spring is rapidly approaching, now is a great time to get your soil analyzed for nutrients and pH levels through a soil testing laboratory. Results are usually returned within a couple of weeks. The soil analysis results will highlight deficiencies and list amendments to correct problem areas, then you are able to incorporate any needed amendments at the same time you are preparing the ground for spring vegetable and flower planting. Soil testing forms are available online at soiltesting.tamu.edu and at Orange County Extension office or by calling 409.882.7010 to request a form. Below are tips which will help ensure successful springtime vegetable and flower gardens:
- Continue to fertilize and water cool-weather annuals such as snapdragons, pansies, violas, and alyssum to encourage proficient blooms. Distribute 5 pounds of cotton seed or alfalfa meal per 100 square feet of bed area or use commercial slow-release fertilizer products according to label instructions.
- Now is an excellent time to transplant mature or established trees and shrubs while they are dormant. Don’t fertilize newly transplanted trees or shrubs until after they have started to grow, and then only very lightly the first year.
- Make flower and vegetable garden plans now before the rush of spring planting. Time spent reviewing seed and gardening catalogues while seated comfortably indoors on a rainy day will pay off in improved plant selection. Besides, it is fun to page through the garden catalogs and books while contemplating changes in your garden. Just in case you don’t already know, we are in zone 9A.
- Get a jump on plant growth before hot weather arrives, sow seeds in flats or containers. Petunias, begonias, and impatiens should be sown in January or February. Warm temperature plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, and periwinkles, should be started now.
- If you have a garden journal, review last year’s notes, and start a new one for this year by recording your seed/plant orders. If not, this is a great time to begin a garden journal as it will provide you a record of what was planted, location, date planted, and successes or failures.
- Check your stored bulbs and vegetables discarding any which are showing signs of rot. Mist them lightly if they seem to be dry.
- Prepare beds and garden area for spring planting. Till in several inches of compost, composted pine bark or similar material.
- Select and order gladiolus corms for February/March planting. Plant at two-week intervals to prolong flowering period.
- Check junipers and other narrow-leaf evergreens for bagworm pouches. The insect eggs over winter in the pouch and start the cycle again by emerging in the spring to begin feeding on the foliage. Hand removal and burning of the pouches reduce future damage.
- Poinsettias and other ‘Holiday Season’ plants can be prolonged with proper care. If the plant is looking tattered it may be time to cut it back to 8” from base. Keep the soil moist but provide good drainage so that excess moisture can flow from the pot. Keep the plant away from heating ducts and heating units. Cool nighttime temperatures are preferred, 60 to 65 degrees F.
- When buying plants, the biggest is not always the best, especially when dealing with bare-root plants. The medium to small sizes (4 to 6 feet) are usually faster to become established and more effective in the landscape than the large sizes.
- Do not prune bush roses until February (beginning Valentine’s Day) through early March. Use sharp shears which will make clean cuts and remove dead, dying, and weak canes. Leave 4 to 8 healthy canes and remove approximately one-half of the top growth and height of the plant.
- Now is an excellent time to select and plant container-grown roses to fill in those bare spots in your rose garden.
- When pruning shrubs, first prune out any dead or damaged branches; then thin out by removing about one-third of the canes or stems at ground level, removing the oldest canes only; and then, shape the rest of the plant, keeping in mind the natural shape of the plant. Water foliage plants as well as containerized plants only when needed.
- Climbing roses are an exception and should be trained but not pruned until after the spring flowering period. It is always appropriate to remove dead or weak canes. Weave long canes through openings in trellises or arbors and tie them with jute twine or plastic plant ties. Securing canes now prevents damage from winds and contributes toward a more refined look to the garden when roses are blooming.
- Now is the ideal time to select and plant grapes, fruit trees and berries. Prune peaches and grapes now. Cut back herbaceous perennials and hardy ornamental grasses now. Wait until warm weather arrives to assess the extent of freeze damage on citrus and semi-tropical plants. When new growth begins damaged material can be removed.
For more information or to have your gardening questions answered please contact us:
Orange County TX Master Gardeners
Facebook: Orange County Texas Master Gardeners Association.
Orange County Master Gardner Helpline: (409) 882-7010