MASTER GARDENER — Spring Gardening or Gardening ‘Madness’

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, March 8, 2023

There is no doubt in this gardener’s mind spring has arrived in SETX!

Let me stop you before many of you nay-sayers begin your hoopla saying the 30-day weather outlook predicts we have cold weather arriving…blah, blah, blah!

This gardener is planting his vegetable garden (tomatoes and peppers included), as well as flowering plants. Composted manure has been top-dressed on each gardening area and weeds removed, uhm mm, well most of them.

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Succession planting, a method which staggers planting of vegetables and flowers, and is my answer to cooler weather since this gardener always plants before the Farmer’s Almanac stated last anticipated frost date for our area.

Personally, the end of February is my preferred time to plant spring vegetables and many flowers. Sometimes the weather works with me, while other times against me…with Mother Nature, it’s a risk I choose to take.

Let’s discuss a list of things to do, to jump start your spring garden so it doesn’t become gardening madness and let me just say garden projects or changes to the garden need to begin now, before plants begin actively growing and the temperature increases.

Spring Flowering Shrubs, Trees, Grasses & Bulbs

  • If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to prune evergreen and summer flowering trees before the end of the month. Note that spring flowering trees, shrubs, camelias, azaleas, redbuds, and dogwoods, need to be pruned once they have finished blooming. Timing is important and if you wait more than a month after flowering to prune, then it’s best to wait until the following year since blooms are setting for the next season.
  • Inspect fruit trees for unwanted guests (insects) and spray accordingly, per the insecticide manufacturers instructions.
  • Apply fertilizer to azaleas, and camelias at the completion of flowing using about three pounds of azalea-camellia fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed area.
  • Fertilize roses every 4 to 6 weeks, beginning in March through the middle of October.
  • Cut back foliage on ornamental grasses once new growth begins.
  • Divide fall-blooming perennials and ornamental grasses to allow them time to be well established by fall.
  • Plant dahlia tubers in fertile, well-drained soil.
  • Select & order caladium tubers, as well as coleus plants for late March and early April planting.
  • Do not plant caladium bulbs until the soil temperature reaches 70°F.

Lawn Maintenance

  • Mow the lawn with mower blades set to 2 ½-inches, do not scalp the lawn. This will help to remove thatch and winter-damaged leaves, allowing new grow to flourish.
  • Apply compost to the lawn during March. Note that compost can be purchased pelletized and easily spread onto the lawn.
  • Do not fertilize the lawn until mid-April.

Vegetables & Annuals

  • Plant annuals from mid to late March, for bursts of color as natives and perennials begin fading. Place plants about 4 inches apart for the best bloom coverage
  • Set tomato and pepper transplants into the garden, normally the middle of March. Note that tomato and pepper plants are easily started from seed outdoors. They grow quickly and will ‘catch up’ with transplanted plants soon! For many of us, this is the only way to obtain rare or heirloom varieties.
  • Remember, don’t be in a hurry to set out pepper plants, as they demand nighttime temperatures greater than 50 degrees F, and they will suffer, nor do recover well.
  • Make certain to ‘harden’ germinated seedlings and wait until mid-March or later before planting in the ground, allowing the soil to warm. Gardeners, this is a “do as I say rather than a do as I do” moment, since I garden in raised beds and the soil temperature warms more quickly!

Hanging Baskets

  • Start hanging baskets of petunias, ferns, geraniums, hoyas, and other plants of choice for an added dimension in structure and color. One of my personal favorites is begonias. Strategically removed cuttings from an attractive begonia plant can yield numerous other plants by rooting stem cuttings. Simply place the cuttings into a plastic cup with holes in the bottom, fill with moistened vermiculite, and keep moist. In 4 to 6 weeks, the cuttings will have rooted.

House Plants

  • Move houseplants outside toward the end of the month.
  • Remove dead leaves and fertilize with a liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength.
  • Repot plants as necessary.
  • Give each plant a gentle shower and wipe away dust from leaves.

Lastly, clean and fill bird & butterfly feeders, birdbaths, and fountains. Always remember, mulch is a gardener’s best friend and should be used prolifically as it reduces weeds, retains moisture and decomposes into a nitrogen-based fertilizer.

Everyone please note the Orange County Master Gardener Associations “Annual Spring Plant Sale” will be held March 18 from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Jewel Cormier Park, 8235 FM 1442 in Orangefield.

Our plant selection is AMAZING, with a huge assortment of plant varieties: citrus, fruit & nut trees, berries, perennials, annuals, vegetable, herbs, hanging baskets, succulents, houseplants, and more.

Our plant selection & numerous vendors will certainly enhance your gardening experience!

To have all your gardening questions answered or for more detailed information, email Texas Certified Master Gardener John Green of Orange County Master Gardeners at jongreene57@gmail.com or contact the Orange County Master Gardeners Helpline 409-882-7010 or visit /txmg.org/orange, Facebook: Orange County Texas Master Gardeners Association or email extension@co.orange.tx.us.