Although we are officially in the winter season and fall has passed, it is still a good time to plant or even remodel your landscape, and it is certainly a good time to plant trees.

Fall/winter planting follows the heat of summer, and precedes a cool winter season. Trees and shrubs planted use this to good advantage. Plant roots grow anytime the soil temperature is 40 degrees or higher, which may occur all winter in Texas. During the winter months, the root systems of the fall-planted specimens develop and become established. When spring arrives, this expanded root system can support and take advantage of the full surge of spring growth.

Fall planting is the optimum time to plant balled and burlapped trees and shrubs. Balled and burlapped plants have ample time to recover from transplanting and proliferate roots before spring growth begins. However, all bare root plants, including roses and pecan and fruit trees, should be planted in late winter when they are completely dormant.

Another landscape activity that can take place now is testing your soil. Soil testing can be an effective tool in increasing the production in your garden, flower beds, yard, hay fields or range and pasture. The nutrients in soils vary from place to place and there is no sure way to determine what those nutrients are without taking samples. Just because your neighbor’s soil is adequate in nutrients does not mean that your land is. The look, smell or texture of your soil is not a determining fact in nutrient value.

It is important to know the nutritional makeup of your soil for several reasons. Plants do not do well in improperly fertilized soil. Improperly fertilized soil can provide too much or not enough nutrients. If your soils already have the proper nutrients, there is no need to apply chemical or organic fertilizers. Plants can only use so much nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, along with other nutrients. If you over apply nutrients, you can damage your intended crop and increase levels of nutrients in the soil.

Soil samples are very easy to take; a routine analysis will generally cost about $10. Soil sampling bags are available in the Extension office. These bags can be sent to the Soils Testing Laboratory at Texas A&M University.

When taking a soil sample, you will need a bucket, sharpshooter or soil probe. Dig a hole in the ground about 10-12” deep. Then take your sharpshooter and cut a slice of soil ½” thick. Make sure this slice is at least 7-8” in depth. Place that sample in the bucket. Move around the area to be tested and take several samples. After you have finished gathering samples, thoroughly mix the soil and take one sample from your bucket. Allow the soil to air dry and then place it in the soil sample bag and mail it to the Soils Testing Lab.

To pick up a soil sample bag and analysis forms, stop by the Extension office in room 109 of the Donald R. Jones Justice Center (Courthouse Annex.) at 112 W College.

Whit Weems is an Erathh County extension agent. His column appears weekly and online at yourstephenvilletx.com.