Gardening – Year round Calendar

This calendar was originally published for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Please note that the world of organics is ever-changing with new products on the market. I suggest you find your local organic nursery and get to know the personnel, ask questions and know what Gardening Zone you are in to purchase your best plant selections

English: A picture of compost soil

English: A picture of compost soil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

JANUARY

  • Add kitchen scraps and unwanted leftovers to the center of compost pile to avoid odors that bring in unwanted animals.
  • Share leftover stuffing, dried bread and cranberries with the birds.
  • Water 1 inch every 10 days in all lawn areas if no rainfall has been received.
  • Enjoy a day of sunshine outside and improve your lawn. Spread a bag of sugar across 1,000 square feet to increase the activity of beneficial insects in the soil.
  • Check the garden area to see if mulch needs replenishing.
  • Scratch in saved citrus peelings to surface soil in garden areas where plants have shown root nematode damage.
  • Recycle your holiday poinsettias. Leave poinsettia in a full, indirect sun location. Water when soil is dry to the touch.
  • Perform a soil test: Using a sharp shovel, slice a 12‑inch square 6 inches deep. Count the earthworms. If you see at least six healthy earthworms, you’ve got great soil. If not, improve your soil with organic amendments. Earthworms aerate the soil. Plants and lawn grasses need aeration to be healthy.
  • If the earthworm test is not up to par, contact and send soil samples to the Texas Soil Lab, (956) 383‑0739), www.txplant-soillab.com . Ask for organic recommendations.
  • Turn compost pile. If it is too dry, water it down. Too wet? Add dry materials, such as dead leaves or spent perennials.
  • Apply humates to lawn for better weed control.
  • Place bay leaves on pantry shelves to repel insects in and around dry products, such as cereal and rice.
  • Purchase flower, vegetable and annual seed that require an eight‑week growing period before planting outside. Many can be planted outside in March, so seed must be started now.
  • Plant anemones, ranunculus, hyacinth and daffodil bulbs. Soak bulbs overnight in a gallon of water with 2 tablespoons of seaweed liquid. Place a handful of earthworm castings in the bottom of each hole.  Plant wet bulbs in wet soil.
  • Save human and animal hair to place at the base of plants to deter slugs and snails.  Chop into fine material before spreading. Slugs are attracted to the oil in the hair but it will cut their bodies and they die.
  • Powdery mildew on greenhouse plants or outside evergreens? Add 1 tablespoon of baking soda plus 1 tablespoon of non‑phosphate soap (such as Palmolive) to a gallon of water and spray on foliage in the morning or early evening. Repeat spray in seven days until resolved. Works on roses also.
  • January is a good time to clean out old nests from birdhouses on your property and give the birdbath a serious scrubbing. Clean birdbaths at least once a month, preferably once a week. For birdfeeders, birdhouses and birdbaths, scrub using a hard bristled brush. Add a cup of vinegar to hot, soapy water and soak feeder and baths and scrub houses. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Scale on evergreens? Remove badly damaged leaves. Apply a spray mixture of ultrafine oil and dish soap or Neo‑Life soap. To make your own spray, mix 1 tablespoon of canola oil and 1 tablespoon of dish soap or Neo‑Life to a gallon of water. Shake constantly before and during use. Lightly mist plants with water before spraying the mixture. Repeat the treatment in 10 to 14 days.
  • Before the garden is going full force, mix solutions for use during the spring gardening rush. Garlic/pepper tea, compost tea and fish emulsion and/or liquid seaweed spray are essentials for organic gardeners.
  • To clean eaves of house and shed, spray Cobweb Eliminator and vacuum or sweep. The product will not kill spiders but will make it difficult to reattach a web in the area. Spiders are beneficial to the garden so you should not kill them, but encourage them to move away from the house or shed. Reapply Cobweb Eliminator in two months to maintain a clean area.
  • Sharpen tools for warm‑weather use.
  • Prune evergreen trees and shrubs this month, if necessary.
  • Purchase supplies for spring gardening season: liquid seaweed, fish emulsion, 100 percent organic fertilizer, lava sand and greensand.
  • Plant a potato basket. Set out a bushel basket with the bottom cut out. Place seed potatoes 1 or 2 inches deep in late February or March. When sprouts are several inches tall, add a generous amount of well‑rotted compost on top of the foliage. Leave a little of the tops showing. Water as needed but don’t fertilize. Continue adding compost as plant grows until the basket is full. Pull up basket to harvest potatoes when the plant yellows. After harvesting mature potatoes, gently brush off dirt, and store in cool dry place. Do not wash with water until you are ready to use the potatoes.
  • Companion‑plant asparagus with parsley and basil; onions with carrots or broccoli; and peas with carrots or potatoes.  Cover with row cover if a hard freeze is expected.
  • Prune branches of crape myrtles if they are in the paths of humans or pets. Do not trim any branch larger than a pencil. Good varieties for Texas: Catawba, Zuni, Basham’s Party Pink, Glendora White and Majestic Orchid.
  • When daffodil foliage emerges, sprinkle 1/2 cup of Epsom salt and a cup of earthworm castings around each group of 20 to 30 bulbs.
  • Place your saved, chopped up citrus rinds in flowerbed areas that showed root nematode damage when pulled up during winter cleanup.

FEBRUARY

  • To freshen indoor carpets, collect and dry rose petals or lavender blooms. Spread across carpet and vacuum after 15 minutes.
  • Prune peach and plum trees to encourage growth. Cut limbs at a 45‑degree angle. Prune one of every three branches. Spray foliage with seaweed spray once a week until last spring frost (usually March 15).
  • Prune all other fruit trees, if necessary, just before bud break. Prune only if branches are in the way of humans and animals.
  • Make the first application of spray to fruit and nut trees when buds are pink. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses plus 1 to 2 tablespoons of seaweed plus 1 tablespoon of natural apple cider vinegar per gallon of water. Optional ingredients: fish emulsion, garlic tea, baking soda, liquid biostimulants such as Agrispon or Medina, Neem and citrus oil or D‑limonene. In addition, feed with a granular organic fertilizer at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet, such as Garden‑Ville, GreenSense, Bradfield, Sustane. Apply lava sand at 80 pounds per 1,000 square feet and apply sugar straight from the kitchen at 2 to 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Save time and mix the dry ingredients in a wheelbarrow and make one application.
  • Companion plant‑broccoli and brussel sprouts with carrots or bush beans; cabbage with onions; cauliflower with potatoes, rosemary or oregano; peas with carrots, potatoes, radish or beans; and, asparagus with nasturtiums. Cover with row cover if a late freeze hits.
  • Select and plant annual color: petunias, pinks, snapdragons, alyssum, calendulas, and gladiolas. Fertilize at least once during growing season with earthworm castings or Rabbit Hill Farms Pansy Food.
  • Prune grapes at least 80 percent.
  • Prune bush roses, unless they are a variety that blooms only in the spring. Purchase and plant antique roses. Antiques survive despite Texas weather and lack of attention. During mild winters, many will remain evergreen.
  • Wisteria didn’t bloom last year? Prune the roots to jump‑start it for spring.
  • Transplant shrubs or bushes that are too large for their current location. Dig a new hole before digging a large amount of root ball. Soak the root ball in fish emulsion or seaweed water before placing in its new home. Keep well watered for several days, then taper watering to once a week until established.
  • Cut off winter‑damaged foliage from Asian jasmine, monkey grass and other groundcovers to renew growth.
  • Cut back deciduous shrubs such as butterfly bush and American beautyberry to 12 to 18 inches tall. Spread a layer of compost over their roots.
  • Divide perennials, if needed. Place a handful of earthworm castings in the bottom of each hole when replanting.
  • Give aphids a blast of water or release ladybugs. Lightly water infested plants at dusk. Release ladybugs directly onto affected leaves. Small containers or net bags contain from 1,500 bugs in a pint to 70,000 in a gallon for large‑scale agriculture. Release green lacewings for control of aphids, spider mites, thrips, caterpillars and other bugs. The adult is about a half‑inch long and feeds on honeydew and nectar. The larvae are the killers of bad bugs. Begin releases at the first sight of problems. Release 2,000 to 4,000 eggs weekly for two to four weeks to establish a permanent population. Contact insectaries if bugs are not available in locally: ARBICO (800) 827‑2847, Biofac (512) 547‑3259) [cq], M & R Durango (800) 526‑4075) [cq], or Kunafin Insectary (800) 832‑1113) [cq].
  • First fertilization of lawn. Apply 100 percent organic, granular fertilizer (Bioform Dry, Sustane, Texas Tee, Bradfield) three times a year at a rate 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Take advantage of Mother Nature and fertilize just before or after rainfall. Apply liquid fertilizer (Medina, Agrispon, Bioform, Neptune’s Harvest) five times a year during the growing season. Follow directions on product purchased.
  • First fertilization of all other plants: Granular or liquid fertilizer five times a year. Blackstrap molasses and vinegar are additional liquids that will improve the soil. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons per gallon of water. Spray when the dew is on the foliage in the morning or during late evening. During dry periods, you may have to water an area lightly before spraying.
  • Position copper barrier strips around strawberry patch and any other plants that attract slugs.
  • Make willow, oak‑bark or pecan‑shell tea to soak seed or new plants before placing them in the garden. Heat 1 gallon of water, add 1 ounce of bark or twigs or pecan shells. Turn off burner. Steep until cool. Strain and add enough water to make 3 gallons of tea. Store unused mixture in plastic container. Shake well before using.
  • Give your azaleas a boost: sulphur and Ruffin iron (granular or powder) or Rabbit Hill Farms Azalea Food or Bunny Trails. Repeat in July.
  • Prepare and apply solution to the trunks of stressed trees. Mix equal parts of manure compost, diatomaceous earth (DE) and soft rock phosphate. Add a couple tablespoons of cornmeal and enough water to make a paste. Paint on tree trunk or apply with gloved hands.
  • Prune spring‑flowering bushes after bloom is complete. This includes quince, spiraea, azaleas, camellias, jessamine, wisteria and climbing roses.
  • Trim althea (Rose of Sharon) and tips of desert willow to shape as needed.
  • Sprinkle sweet pea seeds in the garden every week for several weeks to get a succession of sweet‑smelling blooms.
  • Ladies of the Garden, a Metroplex company specializing in unique designs and organic maintenance, has successfully used a light dusting of Bonide Bordeaux substitute for blackspot and mildew on roses. Prior to March 31st and when a rose bush has approximately 20 to 30 leaves, give roses a light dusting of the 7 percent copper sulfate product. While wearing goggles and mask, dust the product on the foliage in the a.m. Shake or dust off later in the day.

MARCH

  • Amend the soil in your lawn once or twice a year with 20 to 30 pounds per 1,000 square feet of lava sand. Lava sand holds moisture and releases it when the soil becomes dry.
  • Aerate all areas of lawn and beds using core aerators, turning forks, or other agriculture equipment that punches holes in soil. Do not rip, till or plow the soil. Doing so destroys feeder roots. Spread corn gluten meal for areas where you have not recently spread any flower or grass seed. Corn gluten meal is an organic pre‑emergent that prevents germination of weed seed. Although there is a granular form, organic gardeners report better results from the dust‑like corn gluten. Apply 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet two weeks before fertilizing. Note: Aerate once or twice of year until soil is easy to dig. Once soil is not compacted, you can stop aerating and just add soil amendments such as lava sand, greensand and/or compost.
  • Apply liquid (fish emulsion and seaweed) and granular fertilizers (Rabbit Hill Farms products) to all roses.
  • Mulch all bed areas with shredded hardwood bark before temperatures rise. Clear Fork Materials sells bagged or bulk materials. It is located at 800 Old Annetta Road in Aledo (817) 441‑7777) [cq]. Silver Creek Materials is located at 2251 Silver Creek Road in west Fort Worth (817) 246‑2426). Except for turkey manure, you must buy bulk from Silver Creek, but both companies deliver.
  • Companion‑plant bush melons with corn and southern peas with carrots, cucumbers, radish or potatoes.
  • For fruit trees, at bud break begin weekly releases of 10,000 to 20,000 eggs of trichogramma wasps per acre or residential lot for three consecutive weeks. Release 4,000 eggs of green lacewings weekly for one month, and release 1,500 to 2,000 adult ladybugs per 1,000 square feet at the first sign of shiny honeydew on foliage. This honeydew is caused by aphids.
  • Divide cannas when new foliage appears. Place a handful of earthworm castings in the bottom of each new hole.
  • Fertilize heavy feeders, such as early daylilies and dianthus, every two or three weeks during the blooming period.
  • For fall blooms, plant any of the following plants now: obedient plant, Mexican bush sage, fall aster, mums cosmos, marigolds, moonbeam coreopsis, wood sorrell, rock rose, coneflower, black‑eyed Susan, antique petunias, salvia greggii, pineapple sage, moon vine, blue passion vine, trumpet vine, cypress vine and hyacinth bean vine.
  • Fertilize container plants every two weeks with one of the following: bat guano, earthworm castings, Garden‑Ville Soil Food, GreenSense, Maestro Gro, Bioform Dry, Sustane, Bradfield. Lightly rake into potting soil. Potting soil choice: Rabbit Hill Farms Big Pot Mix.
  • Apply Surround WP every few weeks and after heavy rains to kill off grasshoppers and crickets. Shake thoroughly before and throughout the spray process. Grasshoppers require bare soil or undisturbed, weedy areas to lay their eggs, so cover bare spots in the garden with mulch and keep lawns mowed.
  • Beneficial nematodes applied in the early spring feast on grasshopper nymphs.
  • Pour drench solution to all fire‑ant beds. Mix 2 tablespoons pyrethrum and 2 tablespoons diatomaceous earth (DE) to a gallon of water, or 4 tablespoons of Organic Plus DE with pyrethrum to a gallon of water. Larger mounds may require more than one drench.
  • Apply new layer of pecan‑shell mulch or human or dog hair around ferns, hostas and other plants that are enjoyed by slugs and snails.
  • Plant herbs and annuals. In case of a heavy frost, keep plastic milk jugs with cut off ends handy to place over tender or new plants.
  • Cut back frozen or dead areas on rosemary and lavender. Sprinkle soft rock phosphate (colloidal) to the base of rosemary and lavender to increase blooms. Rate: two cups per 100 square feet or a handful per plant.
  • Still having problems with aphids or want to establish a population, do a second release of ladybugs and green lacewings.
  • Seed or sod or plug lawn late in the month: buffalo and Bermuda for sunny areas, St. Augustine and fescue for partial shade.
  • Dig out dallisgrass and Johnson grass from lawn area and reseed grass or plant plugs.
  • Plant bedding plants of petunias and impatiens. Pinch tips 1 or 2 times for more fullness. Plant tropical plants such as pentas, bougainvillea, hibiscus and mandevilla. Plant wet roots into wet soil.
  • If you are recycling your Christmas poinsettia, the plant will be losing its bracts (the reddish, pink or white foliage) in late March. Prune the plant to approximately 8 inches in height. Summer sun will stimulate growth. When the temperature consistently remains above 60 degrees, move it outdoors. Place it in a protected area such as a patio or porch, away from damaging winds.
  • Problems with spring weeds? Mow every three days for three weeks. Then mow regularly once a week.
  • Apply beneficial nematodes, which attack chinch bugs and termites. They are encapsulated in pellets. Soaked in water before applying. The area to be treated should be moistened, and kept moist. Buy nematodes from a local organic center.
  • Plant perennials and fall bulbs. Soak bulbs for a few hours or overnight in a seaweed solution. Water hole and allow to drain. Place handful of lava sand and earthworm castings in the bottom of each hole.
  • Transplant houseplants to larger pots, if necessary. Plant wet roots into wet soil. Improve a bag of potting soil by adding any or all of the following: compost, lava sand, earthworm castings and a handful of amount of sugar or dry molasses.
  • Plant sunflower seeds along fence for birdseed this fall and winter.
  • Need some color inside? Cut branches of forsythia, bring inside and place in water to force bloom.

APRIL

  • Hang net bags with raisins in garden to attract ladybugs. A ladybug will consume 5,400 aphids in a lifetime!
  • Companion plant warm‑season veggies: squash with nasturtiums; beans with carrots; and melons with corn.
  • Plant tomatoes (a few suggestions for North Texas: Carnival, Celebrity, Roma and Sweet 100s) and peppers (Hidalgo, Sweet Cherry, Gypsy, Summer Sweet 860, Jupiter, Mexibell). Sidedress with Rabbit Hill Farms Tomato & Pepper Food. Remove lower leaves and plant at least half of the original plant below the soil. Plant wet roots into wet soil. Companion plant with dill, nasturtiums, basil, oregano or thyme. Want no‑fuss plants? Locate them along the outside of a compost pile and let the compost pile supply the fertilizer!
  • Second application of spray to fruit and nut trees after flowers have fallen. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses plus 1 to 2 tablespoons of seaweed plus 1 tablespoon of natural apple cider vinegar per gallon of water. Optional ingredients: fish emulsion, baking soda, and liquid biostimulants such as Agrispon or Medina, neem and citrus oil or D‑limonene.
  •  Cut tansy to hang near back and front door entries to deter flies and wasps. Cut tansy and Mexican oregano and sprinkle on top of fire ant mounds.
  • For caterpillar damage, apply a light dusting in the late afternoon of one of the following: flour straight from the kitchen or DiPel or Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) to turk’s cap, hostas and cannas and other susceptible plants. NOTE: Bt kills all caterpillars, including butterfly babies.
  • Pinch tips of phlox and mums for bushier plants.
  • Cutoff hosiery legs and place around broccoli heads to prevent caterpillar damage. The hose will stretch as the broccoli heads expand.
  • Do second application of Surround WP to the garden area to stop crickets and grasshoppers from reproducing.
  • Finish planting perennials, shrubs and trees so they establish before summer heat intensifies.
  • Divide fall‑blooming bulbs and perennials.
  • Spread animal compost to the roots of clematis and shade clematis roots with a broken pot or heavy mulch to prevent them from drying out during summer months.
  • Tiny dragon or alligator‑shaped bugs on plants? Leave them alone! They are ladybug larvae, which will feast on garden pests, such as aphids.
  • Survey the garden for unwanted seedlings. Pull and compost or after a rain shower, gently transplant to an area that needs planting.
  • Release trichogramma wasps (no, they don’t sting) near susceptible plants. Their larvae eat pecan casebearers, cabbage worms, tomato hornworms, corn earworms and other orchard pests. Release weekly for four to six weeks to establish a population.
  • Toss out seeds of sun‑loving flowers, such as cosmos and marigolds, zinnias, and lantana.
  • Plant gladiola and caladium bulbs. Soak overnight in a light solution of fish emulsion or seaweed before planting.
  • Problems with thrips on roses? Apply Rose Defense by Greenlight. Spray at first sight of new leaf growth and repeat twice at weekly intervals. Add a tablespoon of Palmolive or Neo‑life soap to each gallon and shake bottle during spraying process.
  • Spray fruit trees with garlic pepper tea every 2 weeks until blooms appear. Spray during cool hours. Chop 2 bulbs of garlic and 2 peppers in a blender with 3 cups of water. Strain and make a concentrate with the liquids. Compost the solids. Dilute for foliar spray by adding 2 to 3 tablespoons of the concentrate to a gallon of water. To use as a drench for the soil around a tree, add 1 cup of concentrate to 4 gallons of water. Commercial sprays are available.
  • Dye Easter eggs safely using the juices of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Cranberry juice or beet juice for pink; violet blossoms for violet; red roses for pink; grape juice for lavender; instant coffee for brown. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar to the water to set the color. The longer you leave the egg in the mixture, the more intense the color.
  • Plant strawberry starts in well‑prepared soil. To prevent rot and fungal problems, place chicken wire over starts and pull foliage through the wire and off the ground. Keeping foliage away from soil will produce healthier plants.

MAY

  • To rejuvenate forsythia, prune 1 of every 3 branches after it blooms.
  • Plant begonias, lobelia, periwinkles and other warm‑season annuals. Purchase plants that have buds that are not yet open. If you buy plants already in bloom, cut off spent blooms so new buds will form.
  • Replant your stored lemongrass bulb if you dug up last fall or purchase new lemongrass bulb for planting.
  • Stake young plants that tend to flop over when mature. Examples: Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, peonies, dahlias, and perennials with top‑heavy blooms.
  • Prune climbing rose bushes after first flush, if needed to contain size.
  • Fertilize container plants once a week to 2 to 3 times per month, depending on the size of the container. Water the container’s soil before applying fertilizer. Allow the water to soak into the soil, then fertilize. Organic fertilizers, such as Rabbit Hill Farms Something Special, are produced specifically for container plants. If you choose to feed your container plants with a liquid, use 2 to 3 tablespoons of Bioform, Medina or Agrispon per gallon of water.
  • Feed daffodils and iris, using an organic fertilizer such as earthworm castings, Bioform Dry or other organic products supplied by your local organic nursery.
  • Continue pinching tips of mums and phlox for bushier plants.
  • Mix and spray 1 tablespoon of baking soda in a gallon of water for blackspot on roses. Deadhead spent blooms.
  • Remove 2 or 3 peaches out of every 4 to produce larger fruit and keep limbs from breaking from too weight. Thin fruit when it is about the size of marbles.
  • Peas are ready to harvest 3 weeks after the first blooms appear. Use little scissors or pinch off by hand. Harvest often, they’ll produce more.
  • Weeds or grass overtaking a flowerbed? Place 2 to 3 inches of compost over the weedy area, add a layer of cardboard, then water.  After watering, add 2 to 3 inches of mulch. The materials will compost over time and improve the bed.
  • Recycle tea grounds around roses, azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias. Recycle coffee grounds around lilies. Unless you use unbleached filters, toss the filters to the trash. Otherwise, bury or compost the filter too.
  • Fill empty spaces in flowerbeds with a blooming containers or plant a colorful annual.
  • Repot, if necessary, and take sun‑loving houseplants outside until frost. Gradually acclimate inside plants by placing them in the shade for a few weeks.
  • Plant a pot of nasturtiums and move the pot around the garden where aphids have set up shop. Nasturtiums are a trap plant for aphids as well as other small pests. Once the aphids are on the nasturtiums, move it to a concrete area and hose off the aphids and reset “the trap.”
  • To increase blooms on crape myrtles, sprinkle a light handful of Epsom salts around the roots.
  • Clean hummingbird feeder every three to four days with warm water and put in fresh sugar mixture.
  • Put out molasses traps to kill grasshoppers. Mix and place in a flat lid or container, one part molasses to 8 to 10 parts water. Clean and replenish as necessary.
  • Cut off garlic flowers for bigger bulbs. Harvest when leaves start to turn yellow/brown. Store in cool area that receives good air circulation.

JUNE

  • Do you have a sickly plant? General rules to start with: Abnormal dwarf plant? Then it’s deficient in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. If older leaves are turning yellow and eventually brown, then add nitrogen. If foliage is dull, dark green or has purple veining in foliage or stem, it is a phosphorus deficiency. If the lower foliage shows yellowing at leaf margin, there’s a potassium deficiency. Catch any of these problems early enough, and they can be remedied.
  • Color up your hydrangeas. Want blue? Add elemental sulphur or organic fertilizer high in acidic content. Want pink blooms? Planting in the alkaline soil of North Texas should provide naturally. If not, add a cup full of lime around the root area and water in.
  • Use the bottom half of plastic milk containers turned upside down and plastic tubs turned upside down beneath melons. Keeping the melons from touching soil will prevent fungal problems and rot.
  • Set out beer cups for snails, slugs and pillbugs or spread human and pet hair around base of plants. Crushed red pepper sprinkled around garden once a week for a month and then once every month to eliminate pillbugs and keep them from returning to your yard.
  • Analyze the vegetable garden, and plant annuals that will fill in bare spots created by harvesting. Even if the garden is full now, plan ahead for fall harvests by spreading annual seeds now to fill in later.
  • After June 15, apply the year’s third application of spray to fruit and nut trees. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses plus 1 to 2 tablespoons of seaweed plus 1 tablespoon of natural apple cider vinegar per gallon of water. Optional ingredients: fish emulsion, garlic tea, baking soda, liquid biostimulants, neem and citrus oil or D‑limonene. In addition, feed with a granular organic fertilizer at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet, such as Garden‑Ville, GreenSense, Bradfield, or Sustane, and apply greensand at 40 to 80 pounds per 1,000 square feet.
  • If you are having problems with mosquitoes in the garden, there are steps you can take that will help. Eliminate stagnant water. In ponds, use Bacillus thuringiensis ‘Israelensis’ called Mosquito Dunks or put mosquito‑eating fish, such as gambusia, in your ponds. Use diluted solution of essential lavender oil or eucalyptus oil on your skin to deter mosquitoes with scent.
  • Treat blight on tomatoes with 4 teaspoons of baking soda plus a teaspoon of veggie oil per gallon of water. Spray on plants routinely for 2 weeks.
  • Reapply mulch in areas where it has thinned. Don’t forget containers.
  • Fertilize container plants every two weeks with one of the following: bat guano, earthworm castings, Garden‑Ville Soil Food, GreenSense, Maestro-Gro, Bioform Dry, Sustane, or Bradfield. Lightly rake into potting soil. Potting soil choice: Rabbit Hill Farms Big Pot Mix.
  • Cut off chive flowers before they go to seed. The blooms can be used for cooking or in flower arrangements.
  • Trim or prune flowering shrubs that have finished blooming, such as wisteria.
  • Time for the second fertilization of roses. Spread one cup of one or more of the following: compost, lava sand, soft rock phosphate (colloidal), earthworm castings or Rabbit Hill Farms Something Special. Throughout the year, dig a shallow hole and throw in banana peels to add phosphorus, no more than three to a bush in a year.
  • Second fertilization of lawn. For lawn, apply granular fertilization (Bioform Dry, Sustane, or Texas Tee) three times a year at a rate 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Take advantage of Mother Nature and fertilize just before or after a rainstorm. Apply liquid fertilizer (Medina, Agrispon or Bioform) five times a year during the growing season during cool a.m. or p.m. hours. Mix with 1 gallon of water to cover 1,000 square feet.
  • Pinch tips of mums for fullness. Pinch back annuals so they remain compact and full.
  • Deadhead spent rose blooms to encourage more blooms.JULY
  • Make an herbal vinegar for cleaning oven. Choose and cut thyme or lavender or rosemary. Fill a Mason jar 3/4 with plain white vinegar. Add one handful of herb. Set in sunny window for a few days. Pour directly over burned‑on areas on stove and in oven. Soak for an hour before wiping off.
  • Grasshoppers eating plants? Apply a light dusting of flour straight from the kitchen on susceptible plants. It will become paste when chewed by insects.
    Eastern Lubber Grasshopper
    Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Apply a light dusting of diatomaceous earth (DE) to lawn areas, if necessary, to destroy fleas, ticks, chiggers, and mites. Begin on the outside perimeter of the garden and work toward the center. Use only 1 to 2 cups of DE per 1,000 square feet. Wear a mask and goggles and apply on a non‑windy day.
  • Plant fall pepper and tomatoes plants. Keep well watered during periods of drought.
  • Feed the birds, and they’ll repay you by eating pests in the garden. Some of the most beneficial birds are chickadees, wrens, sparrows and nuthatches.
  • Make an herbal vinegar for cleaning oven. Choose and cut thyme or lavender or rosemary. Fill a Mason jar 3/4 with plain white vinegar. Add one handful of herb. Set in sunny window for a few days. Pour directly over burned‑on areas on stove and in oven. Soak for an hour before wiping off.
  • Grasshoppers eating plants? Apply a light dusting of flour straight from the kitchen on susceptible plants. It will become paste when chewed by insects.
  • Apply a light dusting of diatomaceous earth (DE) to lawn areas, if necessary, to destroy fleas, ticks, chiggers, and mites. Begin on the outside perimeter of the garden and work toward the center. Use only 1 to 2 cups of DE per 1,000 square feet. Wear a mask and goggles and apply on a non‑windy day.
  • Plant fall pepper and tomatoes plants. Keep well watered during periods of drought.
  • Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)
    Carolina Chickadee (Photo credit: Larry Meade)

    Feed the birds, and they’ll repay you by eating pests in the garden. Some of the most beneficial birds are chickadees, wrens, sparrows and nuthatches.

  • No fruit on tomatoes? Sidedress 1/2 cup to 1 cup of greensand (approximate analysis of 0‑1‑5) at base of plant. Feed plant with a fish and seaweed mix every 6 weeks.
  • If you have synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, left over paints, or other toxic or hazardous products, there are drop‑off sites for these materials. In Tarrant County, call 817-392-3279 for more information. In Dallas, call 214-553-1765.
  • If your lawn or plants need iron, apply Ruffin or greensand or Sul‑Po‑Mag at a rate of 20 to 40 pounds per 1,000 square feet. One handful distributed lightly around the base of a specific plant will help with chlorosis. Plants in need of iron, show signs of chlorosis on the foliage at the base of the plant. In the lawn, yellowing and dullness may occur. Earthworm castings may also be applied by spreader to green up a lawn.
  • Pinch tips of mums one last time. When buds appear, give the mums a bit more fertilizer.
  • Replace bay leaves on pantry shelves to deter insects in and around dry products, such as cereal and rice.
  • Cut off spent blooms on roses, annuals, perennials and daylilies to encourage fall blooms
  • Harvest and dry herbs such as thyme, rosemary and lavender for potpourri and for cooking. Thyme in plastic bags now will provide tea material this winter during cold seasons. Thyme kills germs.
  • Give extra attention to azaleas: Aerate and granular feed plus fertilize with Ruffin and sulphur or Rabbit Hill Farms Azalea Food or Bunny Trails.
  • Water lawn deeply during early morning hours if it hasn’t rained in more than 7 to 10 days. Water no more than one inch per week and be aware of any water restrictions in your neighborhood.
  • Watch lawn for chinch bug damage. Damage will appear as yellowing on stems and leaves of grass. Adult chinch bugs are one‑fifth inch long, black insects with white wings. Young chinch bugs are red with a white band across the back. They are the size of a pinhead. To test a sick turf area for an infestation, cut out both ends of a 1 pound coffee can and press it firmly in the turf. Fill the can with water. If more than 20 chinch bugs float to the surface, it is an infestation. If you are uncertain that the floating bugs are chinch bugs, crush one. They have an offensive odor when crushed. Diatomaceous earth (DE), pyrethrum or pyrethrin or a combination of both will kill chinch bugs. Apply while wearing a mask on a non‑windy day so the products reach only the intended area. Lightly dust the products in the infested area. If the entire yard is infested, then apply lightly beginning from the outer perimeter of the yard and walking toward the center of the yard. The dusty products will float and cover a wide area. Use a total of 1 1/2 to 2 cups per 1,000 square feet of the products in equal proportions.
  • If you are nursing your Christmas poinsettia, outdoor summer sun will stimulate growth. Place it in a protected area such as a patio or porch away from damaging winds. Fertilize every week during the summer with a high‑phosphorous fertilizer such as a bat guano product.
  • Scatter marigold, zinnia, cosmos and tithonia seeds outside for fall color. Soak seed overnight in liquid seaweed mixture before scattering.  This will speed the germination time. Lightly cover with soil and keep moist until seeds have germinated.
  • Comfrey Leaf
    Comfrey Leaf (Photo credit: Smoobs)

    Harvest comfrey to make an ointment for scrapes, insect bites and stings. Lightly rinse and chop the leaves and roots of the plant. In a large glass container, heat canola oil. Pour over comfrey material. Simmer on low until the leaves are crisp. Cool and strain out solids. For every four ounces of oil, add 1/4 teaspoon each of Vitamin A and Vitamin E. Add a tablespoon of any essential oil for scent. Store in glass container. Refrigeration will prolong use.

  • Oil on the garage or driveway floor? Soak it up with kitty liter or perlite. Sweep up and trash. Then sprinkle on baking soda, scrub with water and rinse.
  • Plant a second round of tomatoes, melons, beans, corn, cucumbers, squash and peppers for fall garden. Companion plant with herbs to deter pests.
  • Fertilize caladiums and continue to water them routinely, especially if natural rainfall is sparse. This will ensure they will remain lush and active until fall.
  • It’s time to sow seeds inside of snapdragons, pansies, calendulas, dianthus and other cool season flowers for outside fall planting.
  • Order spring‑flowering bulbs now so they’ll arrive in October or November for planting or browse local nurseries for bulb arrivals. Although more expensive, buying individual bulbs instead of packaged bulbs allows the shopper to select the largest bulb without mildew or rot.
  • Continue release of beneficial insectsto establish a population in your garden.
    Lady bug (Coccinella septempunctata) on a leaf
    Lady bug (Coccinella septempunctata) on a leaf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Inspect lawn for damage of the larvae or grub of the June beetle (Phyllophaga species). The winged, one‑inch adults are brown, black or green. They emerge by July and feed on the foliage of hardwood trees and deciduous shrubs. The adults can be handpicked when their wings are still wet with dew. Put them in a jar of water with 2 tablespoons of detergent to kill them. The young white grubs are one‑half inch to one and one half inches long, with a dark head. They usually curl into a “C” shape when dug up. Grub worm damage appears as patches of brown grass. The grass easily peels back when pulled. To test for an infestation of grubs, peel or dig one square foot of lawn with a spade. If there are more than ten grubs in the square, treat with beneficial nematodes.

AUGUST

Summer garden
Summer garden (Photo credit: Downing Street)
  • It may seem warm, but it’s time to prepare for the fall vegetable season. Alternate plant choices in planting beds and prepare areas for additional cool‑season vegetables by adding compost to soil and allow it to settle over several months.
  • Pharaoh ants marching on your kitchen cabinets? Mix boric acid, a minimum amount of water and 1 teaspoon of grape jelly. Place on wax paper out of the reach of children and pets. Ants will disappear in 1 to 2 days.
  • Having grasshopper problems? Mulch bare soil where female grasshoppers lay eggs. If young grasshoppers are visible, spray with garlic/pepper tea or dust affected plants lightly with flour or diatomaceous earth (DE).
  • Spread composted manure around the base of crinum lily to strengthen buds.
  • Hang swags of tansy or Mexican oreganonear doorways as pest deterrents.
    Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
    Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Water lawn and plants at least one inch per week if Mother Nature does not provided moisture. If you have planned for the heat with native plants, many will not need to be watered unless there is an extreme drought or if it is the plant’s first year in the ground. Learn and adhere to water restrictions imposed by your city.
  • For clean eaves on house and shed, spray Cobweb Eliminator and vacuum or sweep. The product will not kill spiders but will make it difficult to reattach a web in the area. Spiders are beneficial to the garden so you should not kill them, just encourage them to move away from the house or shed. Reapply in two months to maintain a clean area.
  • Collect seeds from annuals and perennials for next year’s plantings.
  • Apply a handful of greensand around base of plants that are iron‑deficient (yellowing).
  • Avoid the heat and come inside. Use organic principles inside the house for cleaning. Window cleaner: Add 1/2 teaspoon of liquid dishwasher detergent and 1/2 cup of vinegar to 1 gallon of water. If you have a waxy buildup from using chemical solutions, add a tablespoon of citrus oil in the first washing mixture. Use baking soda for scouring powder. Don’t want to mix, then try one of the nontoxic, biodegradable cleaners, such as Simple Green.
  • Drench fire ant mounds with 2 tablespoons of pyrethrum and 2 tablespoons of diatomaceous earth (DE) mixed well in a gallon of water. Another solution is spreading dry molasses in the mound area or container.
  • Watch for fall plant sales to fill in blank spots in the garden. During the fall, they will establish a large amount of root growth before next year’s summer heat. Don’t forget, seeds are on sale too!
  • Apply a light dusting of DE, if necessary, to lawn areas for fleas, ticks, chiggers and mites. Begin on the outside perimeter of the garden and work toward the center. Use only 1 to 2 cups of DE per 1,000 square feet. Wear a mask and goggles and apply on a non‑windy day.
  • Companion plant second season of cool‑season veggies: potatoes with nasturtiums or parsnips; lettuces with garlic, onions or strawberries; carrots with brussel sprouts, chives, onions or rosemary; cauliflower with oregano, rosemary or spinach; and, broccoli with bush beans or carrots.
  • Didn’t have time to plant cool season crops in your vegetable beds? Toss out seeds of vetch.  The cover crop will provide nutrients to the soil and deter weeds. In the spring, turn over the first few inches of soil.
  • Before the growing season subsides, fill in sparse lawn areas with buffalo, Bermuda, St. Augustine or zoysia grasses.
  • Mix and spray 1 tablespoon of baking soda in a gallon of water for blackspot on roses.
  • Foliar feed all foliage with fish emulsion and/or seaweed products. Being diligent once a week will prepare plants for winter freezes.
  • Stop deadheading antique roses if you want rose hips during fall and winter for a Vitamin C source in hot tea.
    English: Some rose hips in close-up
    Up close ripe rose hips (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Finish planting cool‑season vegetables, including beets, radishes, peas, and cabbage.

 

SEPTEMBER

  • Time for this growing season’s final spray application to fruit and nut trees. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses, 1 to 2 tablespoons of seaweed, and 1 tablespoon of natural apple cider vinegar per gallon of water. Optional ingredients: fish emulsion, garlic tea, baking soda, liquid biostimulants such as Agrispon or Medina, neem and citrus oil or D‑limonene.
  • If you don’t have the room inside for an entire plant, take cuttings of your favorite scented and zonal geraniums before frost. Cut a four‑inch piece of stem and remove all but three leaves. Plant in sterile potting soil and keep moist. By next spring you’ll have a healthy plant to place in the garden.
  • Cut lavender or bay leaves for moth repellant. Place in small cloth sacks. Hang in cabinets, closets and place in sweater drawers. Do not use mothballs because they are highly toxic.
  • For second flush of bloom, cut off seeds from crape myrtle trees and shrubs.
  • To make a non‑toxic furniture polish, fill a spray bottle with 1/3 lemon juice and 2/3 vegetable oil. For dusting, mix 1/4 cup of vinegar and 1/2 cup of olive oil in a pint of water. Shake mixtures thoroughly before each use.
  • Purchase and plant species tulips. Although they are not as showy or tall as hybrids, species tulips will establish and bloom in North Texas more than once.
  • Spread seed of cool‑season grasses (rye and fescue) to fill in areas where grass has died. Thick grass won’t allow weeds a foothold on bare soil during the spring. If you have spring weed problems, now is the time to sow these grasses over the complete lawn area. To prepare the lawn, cut grass short.  This is the only time that organic gardeners have an excuse to scalp the lawn. Spread seeds and keep moist during dry periods.  The cool‑season grasses will be strong in the spring, thus not allowing weed seeds a place to germinate.
  • Order and spread wildflower seed through the beginning of November. Wildseed Farms (1‑800‑848‑0078) has a specific seed mix called Firecracker for North Texas conditions. To establish, mow Bermuda lawn short and throw out seeds. If you have St. Augustine, remove the sod first. Toss out seed. Keep moist for several weeks and again during March and April for good germination. The wildflowers will need six or more hours of sun. Be patient and allow wildflowers to produce and disperse seed naturally over several seasons. The area will improve with age.
  • Collect annual and perennial seeds at mid‑morning after dew has dried. Label and store in envelopes or paper bags to avoid mold.
  • Rake and compost fallen leaves. Too many? Find a gardener who will put the leaves to good use instead of adding materials to the landfill.
  • Plant elbon rye in vegetable bedding area where root nematode damage has been on plants.
  • Reapply two to four inches of mulch over all bed areas. It will conserve water and regulate soil temperature.
  • To make spring planting easier, mark flowerbed areas with wooden markers or stones where they need replenishing.
  • Plant Johnny‑jump‑ups, calendula, salad burnet, chervil and parsley for salad greens. Plant pansies, kale, and other cool‑season flowers. Toss out seeds of Iceland, California or French poppies for next year’s blooms. Sprinkle annual seeds such as sweet pea, love‑in‑the‑mist, larkspur, phlox and Shirley poppy seeds.
  • Harvest garlic bulbs when foliage begins to turn yellow. Save largest bulbs for replanting or purchase new varieties from Gourmet Garlic Gardens, Route 1, Box 44, Bangs, Texas 76823, (325‑348‑3049) or visit their website at http://www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com .
  • Apply fall application of corn gluten meal to deter seed germination of weeds. Although dustier, organic gardeners report better results from the dust‑like corn gluten rather than the granular product. Apply 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet two weeks before fertilizing. Do not spread in areas where you’ve spread any seed.
  • Weekly foliar feed with liquid fertilizer (Medina, Agrispon, Bioform, or Neptune’s Harvest) during cool morning or evening hours. Product labels provide mixing portions.
  • Plan new flower and vegetable beds. Dig grass and weeds to a depth of two inches. Whatever you dig up should go to the compost pile to decompose over the winter. Place a thick layer of newspapers and apply compost as well as any amendments you desire. Some soil amendments include greensand, lava sand, soft rock (colloidal) phosphate, molasses, sugar and earthworm castings. Purchase and spread a few bags of some or all of these materials and you’ll notice the difference when you dig the area in the spring.
  • Time for third fertilization of lawn. For lawn, apply granular fertilization (Bioform Dry, Sustane, or Texas Tee) at a rate 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Take advantage of Mother Nature and fertilize just before or after a rain storm.
  • Take hardwood cuttings of favorite plants that won’t survive the cold temperatures outside. Propagate by placing a cutting into potting mix 1 or 2 inches. Keep moist. In early spring there will be enough root growth to transplant it to a larger pot for a until temperatures are consistently warm in the garden.

OCTOBER

  • Time for third granular fertilization of the year to fruit and nut trees. Spread at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet and organic fertilizer, such as Garden‑Ville, GreenSense, Bradfield, or Sustane. For additional nutrients, apply soft rock phosphate or Sul‑Po‑Mag at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet.
  • Prepare houseplants to return inside. Run out critters by adding 1 tablespoon of seaweed and 2 tablespoons of vinegar per gallon of water and drench the soil. A handful of dry molasses across the top of the container will run out the fireants in a few days. Hand wipe foliage to clean off spider webs.
  • Divide and trim foliage of iris, daylilies, cannas, and peonies. Before transplanting, soak divisions for a few hours or overnight in a mild solution of seaweed. Fill the hole with water and allow it to drain. Place a handful of earthworm castings and soft rock (colloidal) phosphate or Rabbit Hill Farms Bulb Food in the bottom of each hole before replanting.
  • Bring your poinsettia indoors to a sunny area when temperatures drop below 60. In October begin placing it in complete darkness for 14 hours a day. For the remainder of the day, place in a sunny window. Continue this treatment until December. Then bring it into full, indirect sun in December. By Christmas, it should produce bracts.
  • Order bulbs to plant in November: tulips, narcissus, daffodils, snowflake, scilla peruviana, candy lilies, bearded iris, Louisiana iris, crocosmia, oriental lilies, madonna lily, crinums, Chinese ground orchid, oxalis, and rain lilies.
  • Early October is a great time to multiply your roses. To propagate roses, cut sections of 1 to 2 feet of pencil width wood. Cut sections 1/4″ above an outward‑facing bud.  Then, cut the sections into pieces 8 or 9 inches long.  Make an angled cut above the top bud and a straight cut below the bottom bud.  Soak the pieces in a seaweed mixture or willow bark tea overnight.  Plant in Rabbit Hill Farm’s Big Pot soil.  Keep soil moist with seaweed solution.  Pieces should root within 8 weeks. In early spring transplant small plants to the  garden.
  • The next two weeks are your last chance to plant solid sod before freezing temperatures.  If you have bare spots, planting solid sod now will establish roots over the winter and jumpstart the lawn in the spring.
  • Purchase prechilled bulbs for forcing holiday blooms while supplies are plentiful. Choose large bulbs that show no signs of mildew or rot. Place bulbs in shallow dishes, leaving at least 1/2 of the bulb exposed to the air. Use gravel, stones or potting soil to bury the bottom half. Add enough water to thoroughly moisten the soil or to barely cover the stones or gravel. Place in cool dark area of refrigerator or greenhouse until plant shoots begin to emerge. When shoots are 1 to 2 inches, bring the container into a well‑lit room. Turn the container every few days so growth remains as straight as possible. When buds form, add fish emulsion or seaweed to the watering routine.
  • Continue feeding all foliage with a spray of fish emulsion and/or seaweed products. Being diligent once a week will prepare plants for winter freezes.
  • Divide spring blooming perennials. Add a handful of earthworm castings to the bottom of each hole when replanting.
  • Purchase and plant vines to cover unsightly walls or fences. Good choices for North Texas are autumn clematis, Virginia creeper, Boston ivy, cross vine and coral honeysuckle.
  • Need a fall/winter project for the children that will also teach? Purchase a bird book and help children identify different species that appear at backyard feeders throughout the winter months.
  • Collect and dry rose hips for a tea high in Vitamin C during winter months. To use, boil for 10 minutes in water to bring out the nutrients and flavor. The water will turn a light pink after steeping. The number used for per cup of water will depend on how strong you like taste.
  • Dig up lemongrass bulb if you don’t want to repurchase in the spring. Cut off foliage and hang in the kitchen to use in cooking. Store bulb wrapped in newspaper in cool, dry area.
  • Take advantage of Mother Nature’s rain. Purchase rain barrels or make your own with a plastic trash can. Cut out a hole to fit rain guttering so water will drain into container.
  • Finish planting cool season crops and flowers. For salad greens, plant a container of Johnny‑jump‑ups, calendula, salad burnet, chervil and parsley. Cool‑season flowers and foliage include pansies, snapdragons, sweet alyssum and kale. Need to fill in a space in flowerbed? Sprinkle annual seeds of love‑in‑the‑mist, larkspur, phlox and Shirley poppy.
  • Bring in the last of your houseplants before heavy frost. To rid them of bugs, add 1 tablespoon of seaweed and 2 tablespoons of vinegar per gallon of water and drench the soil. A handful of dry molasses across the top of the container will run out any fire ants in a few days. Hand wipe foliage to clean off spider webs.
  • Do a light dusting of DE inside and out at door thresholds to discourage insects from coming in during winter. Reapply every 3 months.
  • Cleaning cutting boards is a task that should be done at least once every year. Spray with vinegar first and then immediately spray with hydrogen peroxide. Rinse and air‑dry. Spray each solution separately, one after the other for effective results at destroying e‑coli and salmonella.
  • Harvest the last of your basil before freeze. To make basil vinegar, fill half of a one‑gallon glass container with washed and air‑dried basil. Finish filling the container with rice vinegar or white vinegar. Cover and allow to steep for a month or steep to taste. When ready, strain and bottle. To make a simple pesto, wash and dry 4 cups of fresh basil leaves. Put basil and 6 large cloves of minced garlic in a food processor. While the motor is on, drizzle in 2/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil through the feed tube until the leaves are pureed. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Place in covered container and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days or freeze it for later use. Variations on the recipe may include pine nuts or Parmesan cheese.
  • Empty the water from hoses and store them before a freeze.
  • Harvest the last of your herbs and make ice cubes to melt in warm soups or other dishes. Parsley or basil can be washed, patted dry, or chopped in a food processor. Add olive oil until the mixture becomes a paste. Spoon into ice‑cube tray and freeze. Transfer to a resealable plastic freeze bag to save storage space. Another way to freeze is to pack leaves into the bottom of a quart‑size resealable bag. Make a thick layer and roll up the bag. Secure with rubber bands and freeze. Slice as needed.
  • Prepare your attic for critters seeking winter shelter. Seal any openings to the outside. If you still have unwanted critters, saturate cotton balls with fox urine. Squirrels and rats will avoid the area because it will smell like a predator. Place the saturated balls into a yogurt container or film canister with holes poked in the lid. Another solution? Dusting with hot pepper. Lightly dust Boric Acid in the attic, at back of cabinets and behind refrigerator to kill roaches.
  • Harvest the last of fall vegetables before freeze. For light freezes, keep crops warm with row cover or light blankets. Remove any covering on warmer days so plants do not dry out.
  • For easy access, repair trellis, arbors and other wood structures while perennials and annuals are dormant.
  • Bring in your poinsettia plant when temperatures drop below 60. To produce it’s colored bracts by Christmas, begin placing it in complete darkness for 14 hours a day. For the remainder of the day, place in a sunny window. Continue this treatment until December.
  •  Clean and store hummingbird feeders.
  • Start new roses by taking cuttings from mature canes.  Remove the lower leaves of 5 to 6 inch long cuttings.  Stick in the soil and cover with a canning jar or cloche.  Water if the winter is dry.  In the spring, a new rose plant should be well on its way.

NOVEMBER

  • Transplant trees and shrubs. Take as much root ball as possible. Dig the hole where you are planning on moving the plant. Fill the hole with water and allow it to drain. After transplanting tree or shrub, rewater the hole and root ball and allow it to drain before backfilling the hole with existing soil. Mulch root system. Do not stake or wrap.
  • Plant and divide spring and summer blooming perennials. Cut dead foliage off perennials unless you want the winter interest of strong stems and flower heads.
  • For an early spring harvest, finish planting garlic bulbs in October. Plant organic garlic purchased from a local grower or use cloves from your own harvested crop. Gourmet Garlic Gardens at Route 1, Box 44, Bangs, Texas 76823 (915‑348‑3049) or http://www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com  has catalogue descriptions if you want to try a new variety. Soak bulbs in diluted fish emulsion or liquid seaweed for about an hour before planting 1 inch into the soil. Cover with an inch or two of mulch.
  • If you need to do major pruning, now is good time to prune on all shrubs, except those showing berries, and to all trees, except fruit trees.
  • To put nutrients back in the soil, add 20 to 30 pounds of lava sand per 1,000 square feet and in flowerbeds, 2 to 3 cups per 100 square feet.
  • Put a large, dead branch or log to good use. Carve out shallow holes and fill the holes with peanut butter and birdseed.  Place outside, close to a window for easy viewing. Keep the bird book handy.
  • Begin saving citrus rinds (bagged in the freezer) to amend the soil surface in areas where root nematodes have done damage in previous years. Place chopped up rinds in flowerbed areas in January and February.
  • Continue planting spring bulbs for early color. Crocus, muscari and snowdrop are first to appear in the spring. Then, daffodils, jonquils and tazettas, followed by Chinese ground orchids and oxalis. Other bulbs for the North Texas soil and weather conditions are candy lilies, blackberry lilies, crocosmia, oriental lilies, madonna lily and crinums for summer color. Plant rain lilies for spurts of color after thunderstorms. Purchase anemones and ranunculus for January planting.
  • Need some low growing evergreens in your landscape? Plant rosemary, thyme and lavender and reap the benefits of fragrance, herbs for cooking and enjoy the blooms.
  • Put out suet cakes for bird watching during cold temperatures. Inexpensive suet cakes can be made at home. Mix 3 parts peanut butter to 1 part cornmeal in a large bowl with birdseed, raisins or other morsels you know birds love. Place a piece of wax paper in the bottom of a pan. Determine what width of cakes you need to fit your suet feeder. Spread mixture and place in freezer until solid. Remove from freezer. Cut squares to fit your suet feeder. Keep any remaining squares in a plastic bag in the freezer. A mesh bag makes an inexpensive suet feeder.
  • Cut tansy if burned by frost. Dry the foliage and save it to sprinkle around the house to repel ants in the spring.
  • Cut frost bitten epazote and tie in bundles (6 to 7 stems per bunch). Store until spring. Then, hang the bundles every six feet in barns or eaves of buildings where wasp nests were a problem.
  • Finish mulching flowerbeds with a two to four inch blanket of winter warmth. Because they are inexpensive and will last at least a year, native tree trimmings and compost are good choices to use.
  • Finish collecting rose hips and seeds to disperse in the spring.
  • Clean and store empty terra cotta containers for the winter. Use a mild detergent or soap to clean. Allow them to dry thoroughly for several days. Turn pots upside down and stack one inside the other for storage. Stacking them in this manner helps prevent cracks.
  • Apply a new layer of cedar flakes to greenhouse floor to deter insects. Cedar Fiber Co. at (817) 478‑9241 [cq] sells flakes and other cedar products by bag or in bulk.
  • To prepare new spring beds, remove grass and weeds to a depth of two inches. Lay down several layers of newspaper and apply mulch on top of it. This will decompose and make the bed area easier to dig the spring when planting.
  • Renew garden tools with cleaning and sharpening, if necessary. Dip them in a diluted mixture of bleach (1 tablespoon per gallon of water). Dry thoroughly and wipe down with any type of clear oil.  Don’t forget to oil the wooden handles to prevent cracking and drying. To repair small splinters on handles, smooth on a layer of white glue then peel it off.  To remove rust, soak them overnight in white vinegar.  Scrub the next morning.
  • Build a cold frame for early spring annuals and vegetables. Use a recycled window for the top cover and scraps of wood for the four sides. Nail together the boards to create a rectangle or square. If the cold frame is large, attach the cover window on hinges for easy lifting. Place the four sides into the soil a few inches to avoid wind drafts. Remove all weeds and grass from inside the area. Amend soil with compost, greensand and/or lava sand and water in. After a couple of weeks of settling, add seedlings. Use a stick or dowel to raise the lid on warm days.
  • Cut evergreen branches for a holiday wreath. Add dried seed heads, berries and fragrant herbs. Replace window boxes and entry containers with berry‑laden limbs or small, wispy gold and silver painted branches.
  • Cover perennial beds with a layer of leaves. The leaves will add warmth and nutrients.
  • Pick up pine cones for fire starter.  To create colorful flames, oak pinecones in solution of Epsom slats and water.  dissolve a pound of Epsom salts in a gallon of water and soak the dried pinecones in the solution for 24 hours.  Let them dry completely before using.

DECEMBER

  • Decorate gifts with clippings of thyme, rosemary and lavender. Add a sprig of an herb inside Christmas cards for scent.
  • If you are having problems with fleas and ticks inside the house, purchase and apply Demize and/or Enforcer. These organic products are available locally.
  • Take a break from holiday madness with spring catalogues and begin your wish list. Review journal and pictures of garden to fill in holes.
  • Clean kitchen area with a citrus solution. There are many commercial products on the market that contain citrus instead of toxins. Routinely cleaning using a citrus‑based cleaner will safely deters insects.
  • Cut mistletoe from trees and remove infested limbs if possible.
  • Fertilize houseplants once during the winter with a handful of earthworm castings or lava sand.
  • Fertilize each greenhouse plant with a handful of bat guano or earthworm castings.
  • Remove and replace damaged soaker hoses in flowerbeds or add soaker hoses to new beds while foliage takes its winter nap. Soaker hoses keep water at the base of plants. Avoid splashing plant foliage and you will increase your chances of avoiding mold, mildew and fungal problems.
  • Scrub the birdbath and supply feathered friends with fresh water every couple of days.
  • Purchase a Christmas tree that can be recycled by planting outside immediately after holidays.
  • Fungal problems on evergreens? Apply colloidal rock phosphate at 20 to 40 pounds per 1,000 square feet or 2 to 4 cups per shrub depending on size of shrub or apply Cornmeal Juice.  This natural juice is made by soaking horticultural or whole ground cornmeal in water.  After soaking 1 cup per 5 gallons of water, screen out the solids and spray.  This drench may also be used directly on the soil for soil borne diseases.
  • Check inside plants for spider mite damage. The tiny, red insects cause a light, freckled look on plant leaves. To check a problem, place a white piece of paper beneath a leaf and tap a leaf. If small reddish insects scurry across paper, then treat for spider mite infestation. Give the plant a hard spray of water or 1 or 2 applications of a fine spray of ultrafine oil and Palmolive dish soap or Neo‑Life soap. To make your own solution, mix 1 tablespoon of canola oil and 1 tablespoon of dish soap or Neo‑Life to a gallon of water. Shake before and during use to keep mixed.
  • Collect pet and human hair to spread around base of plants that slugs and snails chew. Chop into fine pieces before spreading.
  • Add kitchen scraps and unwanted leftovers to the center of compost pile to avoid odors that bring in unwanted animals.
  • Share leftover stuffing, dried bread and cranberries with the birds.
  • Water 1 inch every 10 days in all lawn areas if no rainfall has been received.
  • Enjoy a day of sunshine outside and improve your lawn. Spread a bag of sugar across 1,000 square feet to increase the activity of beneficial insects in the soil.
  • Check the garden area to see if mulch needs replenishing.
  • Scratch in saved citrus peelings to surface soil in garden areas where plants have shown root nematode damage.
  • Recycle your holiday poinsettias. Leave poinsettia in a full, indirect sun location. Water when soil is dry to the touch.

2 comments

  1. Gail, Thank you for this wealth of information! I am a beginning gardener in Texas. And I am about to teach botany to third graders for a year. I will definitely be returning to this post for ideas. 🙂

  2. You’re welcome! Hope you have a banner year in teaching. Enjoy the garden!

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