Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happy New Year!

Can you believe it?  The start of another year...a new decade for that matter.  It doesn't seem that long ago we were frantically anticipating Y2K and all its predicted horrors.  But alas, it arrived without incident. 

My best wishes for a New Year filled with good health, happiness and green growing things!

What to do in January

Although much of the country is gripped in bone chilling cold, here in South Texas, it is time to think about spring gardening.  There is much to do now to prepare for spring planting.

Flowering Plants
It's time to get flowering bulbs in the ground (tulips, hyacinth, crocus, daffodil, narcissus).  The bulbs should have been purchased in the fall and been chilling in the fridge or garage until now.  Cool-season annuals can be planted such as cyclamen, dianthus, calendula, pansies, petunias and snapdragons.  It's very important to add organic matter to the soil before planting.  You can use composted manure, pine bark, cedar bark, hay, or even fallen leaves from your yard.  The main thing is to add the organic matter to the soil before planting.

Now is the time to add organic matter to vegetable beds that you've put to sleep for the winter.  The best thing to add is bulky materials such as composted manure, leaves, hay and wood chips.  Adding the organic matter to the soil now gives it time to break down before planting in the spring.  January is also time to mulch your flower and vegetable garden beds.  If you have winter vegetables growing, it's time to mulch them well.  Although South Texas doesn't get as frigid as much of the country, we do experience freezing temperatures and mulching helps protect plants from frost damage. 

Even in winter, it is critical to water actively growing vegetables and annual flowers, especially if frost or freezing temperatures are expected.  Like tonight here in the hills.  A cold front from the frigid North is predicted here tonight, tomorrow and into the weekend, with temperatures expected to drop to 18F (probably lower here in the hill country).  They are not supposed to get above freezing before Sunday.  That's a *major* hard freeze for us.  It is vitally important to water your vegetables and tender plants well.  Plants can resist freezing temperatures much better if they are well hydrated.  Under dry soil conditions and water stress, plants are more likely to suffer freeze damage.  So water thoroughly. 

It's also important to cover your tender babies when the temperatures are predicted to drop below freezing.  Frost blankets work very well to help keep plants insulated. 

Vegetables and Herbs
Wait for a sunny day and then transplant cool season crops such as asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbages, leaf lettuces, onions and Swiss chard.  You can also sow seed of beets, carrots, greens, leaf lettuces, radishes, and sugar snap peas.  Again, remember to add organic matter to the soil every time you plant. 

It's also time to transplant cold tolerate herbs like chives, cilantro, garlic, oregano, parsely, rosemary, sage & thyme.  But have frost blankets ready.  It's best to cover herbs and tender (although cool hardy) seedlings when a freeze is predicted.

Citrus trees are vulnerable to the cold and must be protected from freezing weather.  It's best if citrus trees are in the greenhouse or garage during the winter; but if not and a hard freeze is predicted, you can cover the trees with frost blankets, old blankets from the house or even cardboard boxes.  You can use a utility light for supplemental heating.  The main thing is to protect citrus trees from freezing temperatures. 

And as always, don't forget our feathered (and furry) friends during the winter.  Make sure the birdbaths are full of fresh water for the birds and squirrels and also keep those bird feeders full.  The birds need fuel to stay healthy and strong and protect themselves from the cold. 

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