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Brenda's Garden
by Brenda Beust Smith

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow."  ~Mark Twain

Dianthus love the cold.

When it's as cold outside as it has been lately, it's so easy to put things off, especially gardening chores.  My theory is that the garden really needs to rest in January and August.  Gardening's no fun those months anyway.

One thing you definitely don't want to miss this winter is the Galveston County Master Gardener's big annual Fruit Tree Sale  It's Feb. 5.  Mark your calendar!  In fact, there are many area fruit tree sales this month and next.  Kathy Huber will be doing a huge roundup Saturday, Jan. 5, in the Houston Chronicle's Star section.

In the meantime, quoting the Lazy Gardener's Guide on CD, here are some chores that should be done in January:

    •    Plant new rose bushes.  They need 6-8 hours of full sun every day. (Valentine’s Day is the traditional day to prune roses.)
    •    Fertilize established trees and shrubs, except azaleas, camellias.
    •    Keep a water source in the yard for birds wintering in your area.
    •    Mist indoor plants.  They like humidity.  Set outside on sunny days. 
    •    Feed perennial bulbs (when they start showing greenery) with bulb food, superphosphate or bone meal.  (Squirrels may dig up bulbs to get at bone meal.)
    •    If a freeze is forecast, water all plants.  Dry roots are more susceptible to freeze damage.

If the spirit moves . . .
    •    Feed established trees if you didn’t feed them in December.
    •    In water garden, add underwater plants as forage for fish.
    •    Plant agapanthus, allium, crinum, iris, hyacinth, montbretia.
    •    Plant seed for arugula, beets, bok choy, cabbage, carrots, cress and watercress, endive, mustard, parsley, peas, red radish.  Set out either plants or seed for collards and kale.
    • Set out plants/sets of garlic chives, leeks, multiplying onions, Irish potatoes, turnips. Start broccoli, collards, eggplant, lettuce, tomato, pepper seeds in flats; protect on cold nights.
    •     Set out winter annuals like calendula, cyclamen, nemesia, pansies, snapdragons and primroses and narcissus for spring color.   Plant chamomile, coriander, tansy, lamb’s ear, feverfew.

Cutline: Narcissus will bloom this month!

If you’re really feeling energetic . . .
    •    Scrub pots well with detergent and bleach to prepare for spring annuals.
    •    Call Extension Service for information on best vegetable varieties.
    •    Plant dianthus, delphiniums, hollyhocks, larkspur, petunias, columbine, snapdragons and stocks under deciduous trees (lose leaves in winter).  These need cold to establish roots.   Dianthus and columbine need summer morning sun and afternoon shade.

Columbine need excellent drainage

Consult the Lazy Gardener's Guide on CD for more January tips.

DEAR BRENDA: Your book says to plant lots of things this month.  But what if it's freezing outside? J.T.

DEAR J.T.: You have to use common sense.  If it's 20 degrees outside, then, no, don't plant anything.  On the other hand, many shrubs and trees are dormant now.  This is the best time to plant them.  Wait until the temperatures are in the 50s or above, which they often are this month, for about a week. 

The key is to water well.  Always water all plants well if a freeze is forecast.  Well hydrated roots will tolerate far lower temperatures than dehydrated roots.

Dahlias are annuals here

DEAR BRENDA:  I love dahlias.  I've tried them but they never seem to make it into the summer.  What am I doing wrong?  SB

DEAR SB: Think of them like pansies.  You don't expect pansies to come back and yet pansies are one of our prettiest winter annuals.  They simply cannot tolerate our heat. 

But that's no reason not to plant them now and enjoy them until it gets too hot, say, in May or June. 

That's a LOT longer than an arrangement of flowers would last!

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