Gardening to-dos increasing near winter's end

Published on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 22:41 - Written by Keith Hansen, Keeping It Green

While January is almost gone, the cold weather probably is not. February brings an increased pace of gardening activities. Even though the average last freeze of the winter season is around mid-March, there are many things that can or should be done in the home landscape and garden. Here are some items for your garden calendar.

Rose pruning is a task that is done around mid-February. Valentine’s Day is used as a convenient reminder to cut back your rose bushes to increase their health and productivity.

Pruning roses often puzzles folks who are not used to cutting back their plants. But it need not be complicated, and that is one of the topics to be presented at this month’s East Texas Gardening Lecture Series, Feb. 22 at Chamblee’s Rose Nursery.

Owner Mark Chamblee will demonstrate how to prune the many different types of roses. Chamblee will also discuss the exciting developments in rose breeding that are producing many new rose varieties that make great landscape plants with excellent disease resistance and other good qualities. The morning program will end with a tour of his nursery.

For details on this and the other East Texas Gardening Lecture Series programs, visit the website, or call the Smith County Extension office at 903-590-2980.



n Feb. 6 is the annual East Texas Turfgrass Conference at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton. Designed for those managing commercial, school or home turfgrasses, this all-day program will cover topics including turfgrass management, weed ID and pesticide updates, efficient irrigation for healthy plants, calibrating sprayers and demonstrations on calibration and drift minimization. The program is approved for 4 TDA continuing education credits.

n Aquaponics is the topic of the first of six Small Acreage Horticulture Crops webinars Feb. 20 at the Smith County Extension office.

n The annual East Texas Commercial Fruit and Vegetable Conference is Feb. 25, and this year’s program is in Nacogdoches at the Expo Center. See our website for details, or call the Extension office.

n Even though it’s still cold outdoors, there are many types of plants that can or should be planted at this time of year. Early to mid-February is vegetable planting time for cool season crops including onions, Irish potatoes, radish, greens, lettuce, spinach, sugar snap peas, carrots, broccoli transplants, beets, Swiss chard and turnips. Early planting assures a good harvest prior to summer heat.

n February is also time to plant many types of shrubs and trees including roses, fruit trees, pecans, grapes, blueberries and blackberries. Hardy, container-grown trees, shrubs and groundcovers can also be planted this month.

n Prepare soil for new garden beds by working in plenty of compost or other organic matter. Never work the soil when it is wet or saturated when preparing area for gardens, flower or shrub beds, or digging individual holes for trees and shrubs. The structure and texture of the soil is easily destroyed if it is wet when cultivated, forming clumps, clods, and slick surfaces that impede air and water movement. Wait until the soil is moist, but not wet.

n Carefully inspect shrubs and trees at this time of year for the presence of scale or mealybugs. These small, motionless insects look like crusty bumps on the stems and twigs of peaches, plums and on the undersides of evergreen leaves of many plants including camellias, euonymus, gardenias and hollies. Some may have white, waxy coverings. Horticultural oil, thoroughly applied to cover the insects, is a good control option during the dormant season. Do not apply when air temperature is predicted to be below 45 degrees for 24 to 48 hours. Always read and follow label directions.



Some other gardening items for February include:

n Prune and fertilize peach trees.

n Cut back perennials and ornamental grasses before new growth begins.

n Fertilize pansies and other cool season flowers.

n Check compost pile and turn.

n Apply pre-emergent herbicide in mid to late February to lawns to control annual weed (but only if weeds were a problem last year; no need to apply herbicides to thick, healthy, weed-free lawns). Wait until April to fertilize St. Augustine and Bermuda grass lawns.

n Keep bird feeders stocked and bird baths filled for both winter residents and migrating species.

n Get bluebird and other nest boxes ready.

n Check junipers, other narrow-leaf evergreens and roses for bagworm pouches. Bagworm eggs over-winter in the pouch, and start the cycle again by hatching and emerging in the spring to begin feeding on the foliage. Pick off and discard the pouches in the trash to reduce future damage.


Keith Hansen is Smith County horticulturist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. His web page is His blog is