Cold weather does not mark the end of the gardening season. This is an ideal time of year for some important gardening activities. One nice benefit is that we can work outside a lot longer without passing out from heat exhaustion.
Another important fact is that almost all trees and shrubs planted at this time of year get established sooner than those planted in late spring and summer.
If you have plans for a new flower bed, vegetable plot, rose garden, or landscape section in the coming months, I encourage you to go ahead and start soil preparation now. Obtain your soil amendments that you plan on using (compost, aged bark, peat moss, aged stable manure, fertilizer, limestone, etc.), and when the soil is dry enough to work, break ground and incorporate your soil amendments. Even if you don’t plant right away, the soil will be prepared and in great shape, ready to grow new roots whenever you finally do plant.
Don’t put up the mower just yet. Not all leaves have blown off the trees. Use the mower to chop up and recycle the tree leaves back into the lawn, or collect them for mulch or the compost pile. Don’t let fallen leaves remain on the lawn all winter. Fallen leaves left on the lawn can cause disease problems if a thick layer keeps the grass wet and dark. However, mulching chopped up leaves into the lawn does not cause problems, and is a good way to deal with them, since our mild southern winter allows microbes, which break down organic matter, to continue to grow and do their composting work.
Did you buy some bulbs earlier this fall? Still haven’t planted them? Not a problem, but plant them this month for best results.
Remember to provide food and water for birds this winter. If you put out a variety of seeds, like sunflower, thistle, safflower, and millet, plus suet, you will draw a large diversity of birds. Once you begin putting out bird food, continue feeding them through the springtime.
Don’t get in a hurry to prune woody trees, shrubs, and fruit trees. Late December through February is the optimum time.
However, if you want to trim some hollies or other berry plants for indoor decoration, go right ahead. But do not ruin the beauty and natural form of the trimmed plants. Also, keep in mind that holly berries are poisonous, so keep them out of reach of youngsters.
Lonnie Jenschke is an Erath County extension agent. His column appears weekly.