Thursday, March 20, 2014

Well, here we are on the first day of Spring!

Well, here we are on the first day of Spring. OK, it doesn't really quite feel like spring, but it is here just the same along with all the cold weather being gone and staying up in the Arctic! I've been going through some past blogs that were posted around this time of year and think that they need to be reposted for tips on getting your yard and gardens ready for spring time.


It's that time of year again--Pruning Time!
The following is an article by Cindy Meredith, proprietor of The Herb Cottage March 2002!

March 2002
Being too busy to prune.....

I discovered this week how being too busy to tend to a gardening chore actually helped my plants. I finally got around to trimming back my big lemon grass plant and Mexican Mint Marigold (Tagetes lucida or Sweet Marigold, Texas or Mexican Tarragon) this afternoon when I realized something. I had wanted to get those plants cut back earlier--about 3 weeks ago, actually. But, I just got around to it today. Well..... that dead looking foliage actually helped protect the new shoots coming from the root ball.
We'd been experiencing a definite warming trend thinking spring had really arrived when WHAM! -- we were hit with the coldest temperatures of the season. In fact, we hadn't experienced temps in the low 20's and teens in several years. Many plants had started putting out new growth, and the ones I had cut back earlier lost all that new growth. But, the ones I cut back today had their new growth protected by the mass of dead foliage.
Both plants I cut back today are considered tender perennials. In Zone 7 and above neither the lemon grass or Mexican Mint Marigold is winter hardy. See, that's why we're so spoiled. To us here in the southern part of the state, cold weather is something that arrives for a few days, gives us something to complain about, and then the winds turn around from the South, and we're warm again. Our plants really like it that way. But, a plant can be tricked by prolonged warm weather in Jan. or Feb. and start sending out new growth. The next cold snap kills that new vegetation, and the energy that went into making those new shoots is lost from the root system.
For the rest of the article click on the following website:

Give the earth time to warm up again.

Everyone is rushing outside and pruning back and pulling up plants that look like they are dead. Hold off before you take those drastic deeds. Give the earth time to warm up again.

Michael Womack, Horticulturist and Executive Director of the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center, wrote an article in the Caller Times basically telling us to wait until it warms up. Pruning too early encourages new growth, and then we get hit with another cold spell which can cause the plants to stress.

I have lots and lots of plants that look dead, but I'm waiting to see. I've had this happen before, and was pleasantly surprised when even though the plant looked dead, that they came back from the roots.

Patience, strong plants may return in summer
By Michael Womack
Published Saturday, March 6, 2010

—The spring gardening bug has finally hit. Temperatures are rising. The sun has come out, and everyone is tired of looking at the freeze damaged plants outside. So with bypass pruners in hand, I expect to see a lot of gardeners busy cutting back plants.

In the Corpus Christi area, we are seeing plants sprout. That provides a good indicator of how far back you need to prune. If you have a 6-foot firebush and only see new growth 2 feet up, then don’t expect new growth at the tips later. Cut it back to just above the new growth.

Gardeners living inland and in northern parts of the Coastal Bend probably are not seeing as much growth yet due to cooler night temperatures. If you are not seeing green leaves yet, don’t give up hope. Use the fingernail scratch test to find green wood. That’s where you want to cut.

The hardest hit tropicals seem to be hibiscus, Indian carnation, ixora, tropical milkweed, Hawaiian tree hibiscus, ti plants and angel trumpets. Lush foliage tropicals like ficus species and the standard schefflera also froze severely and are not showing signs of regrowth yet.

Here’s where patience may pay off. If you are depressed with looking at sticks and think that planting a new plant will give you quick results, you may be selling your current plants short. I would suggest waiting a few weeks before ripping up your plants. They might not look very good now, but keeping these plants may give you an advantage in the long run.

Even plants that were frozen to the ground may have viable stems at ground level. I’ve seen hibiscus freeze to the ground and come back full and vigorous later in the spring. Some tropical species simply need more time and warm weather before sprouting. You should see some growth by mid to late April. If not, then you are definitely ready to replant.

If you simply can’t wait to see something blooming, consider planting annuals that will provide color for a few months while you wait to see if your tropicals will recover.

The roots are the key. Even if your frostbitten plants look dead right now, they have an established root system. A strong, healthy root system will provide more water and nutrients for new growth than a new plant, resulting in faster growth than a new plant. New plants will focus a lot of energy on their root system the first year or two. We call that process “establishment.”

Establishment is also important to help a plant survive stresses. A newly planted shrub or perennial will require more water during the summer heat because the smaller root system will use the available water quickly trying to maintain healthy top growth. A plant with an established root system will be more tolerant this summer because it has a larger area from which the plant can pull water necessary for survival.

Michael Womack is a horticulturist and executive director of the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center. Contact him at

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Great Gardening Everyone!

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