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Brenda's Garden
Brenda's Garden
by Brenda Beust Smith
Friday, February 03, 2012

Gardening time has officially started in Brenda's Garden

The year's at the spring
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hillside's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in His heaven -
All's right with the world!

~Robert Browning

We may have a few cold days yet, but the truth is: our gardening season has started.

It's spring as far as our flowers are concerned.  What care they for what the calendar says?

Check out the nurseries.  You'll find wonderful early spring bloomers like the larkspur pictured above as well as snapdragons, dianthus, and myriads of other flowers that need some cold.

These are the plants that our northern friends (as in Dallas!) will be planting later in what is officially called Spring.

It's upon us now, even though we might have some really cold days ahead.  Just mulch these plants really well and they should make it through just fine.

The key is not to expect them to last forever.  These are "spring" bloomers that really can't handle our summer heat. 

But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy them to the fullest and, best of all, use them to fill in all those empty garden spots while we wait for the now-dormant, usually-perennial plantings and shrubs to come back out.

Well, after last summer, maybe we better to say "... IF our now-dormant, usually-perennial plantings and shrubs come back out"!

One of my most favorite spring flowers (and the absolutely hardest for me to grow) is the poppy.  One key to success, get these in the ground now. They truly need the cold to bloom and they truly hate our heat!

Ah, but I can hear you thinking: What do I do if it freezes? 

Not a problem.  Most of these can take our freezes easily.  The tops may burn but they'll pop back out.  Their roots will appreciate the cooler soil.

But if you're worried about, now's the time to put down a good heavy mulch when you plant. 

Best source?  All those leaves your neighbors are putting out for the garbage men to take to our landfills where they will LAST FOREVER IN T HOSE PLASTIC BAGS!

These leaves are the best possible fertilizers for the trees from which they've fallen.  Grass clippings are the best possible fertilizer for our lawns. On and on.  How do you think Nature fertilizes?

But what do we do?  We haul off the best possible fertilizers for our plants, send them to our already overfilled landfills where they LAST FOREVER IN THOSE PLASTIC BAGS and then we go out and buy new fertilizers that may or may not be the best for our climate, soil, etc.

So! If you're smart enough to gather up all those leaves, pack them liberally around all your plants.  They may be puffy at first, but they'll soon pack down, start decaying and provide gourmet treats for the roots below. 

Want to cut down on weeds?  Spread about 3-4 layers of newspapers over the open garden areas before putting the leaves down.  These will help slow — and in many cases stop completely — the sprouting of spring weeds in a short time.  The weeds up now? Just cover them up with your mulch.  They'll die anyway when it gets hot. 

Then, if  you do the newspaper/leaves bit next December, instead of waiting until February, you'll stop most of these from re-sprouting.  Roots have to produce above-ground leaves to survive. 

Keep those leaves smothered and deprived on sunlight and you'll kill the roots.

Which flowers do best for you so early in the year?

Brenda's (slightly-quirky) Lazy Gardener has been a Houston Chronicle fixture for almost four decades.  Check out her latest gardening post at Your input is always welcome and appreciated!

"THE LAZY GARDENER'S GUIDE ON CD" — Specifically for Houston area gardens: monthly do-now reminders & gardening advice. 12 pre-designed gardens for butterflies, hummers, sun, shade and more. A gardening book on CD. $20. Make checks payable to Brenda B. Smith & mail to: Lazy Gardener's Guide on CD, 14011 Greenranch, Houston, TX 77039-2103.

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