Is it Safe Weather Wise to Plant and Prepare Your Yard for Spring?

Weather Talk
Thursday, February 13, 2014 - 1:11pm

Planting and Yard Tips for Mid February through Mid March

I was thinking my yard could use a little sprucing up. Maybe it just appears dreary because we are at the end of our winter season. We have some cold days and nights, but overall our cold season has been a mild one here. I remembered that I had some weather information for El Paso/Borderland area put together for me by Daphne Richards, a County Agriculture & Horticulture expert. I was so happy to find her,as she now is Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent for horticulture. She just received an award that recognizes AgriLife Extension faculty and staff members who provide outstanding performance in education or to the agency. She was presented this award Jan. 8th during the agency’s Centennial Conference in College Station. She worked 9 years in El Paso County as an Extension agent and 4 years in Travis County and now for Texas A&M. This lady knows her horticulture and plants!

I thought this would be a perfect time to share her advice for planting and yard maintenance for the Borderland this time of year. The following planting advice was written by Daphne Richards for me and NewsChannel 9 in our “Weather Wise Almanac & Handbook”.

February is a perfect month to select and plant roses. Containerized plants are better for West Texas, but some bare-root plants may also be used – just make sure that they are heat-tolerant and drought resistant cultivars. Always remember to check containerized plant for circling roots and bare-root plants for unhealthy roots. Don’t buy plants that have either of these two symptoms.

You can now divide established summer and fall perennials, including cannas, coneflowers, mallows, asters and mums.

Planting and transplanting of trees and shrubs, including fruit trees, is best finished up this month – the longer you wait to plant, the more difficult it will be to get them through El Paso’s hot summer.

Seeds of warm-season vegetables should be sown indoors now for planting out in early April. Plants such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, bean, etc., will be ready for outdoor planting about six to eight weeks after being sown. In sowing seeds in flat outdoors, make sure to bring seedlings indoors on nights when the temperature is going to drop down below 40 degrees.

Any “last-minute” pruning of trees should be done this month. Evergreens, shade trees, fruit trees, and shrubs should be pruned before they come out of their winter dormancies. Grape vines should be severely pruned back (50-80%) to encourage fruiting this spring. And remember – never top trees.

If you haven’t done so already, cut back ornamental grasses such as deer grass and fountain grass to four to six inches from the ground. The new growth on these plants will emerge from around the outside of the dead growth, leaving a “hole in the middle of your plant. To combat this, ornamental grasses should be divided every few years, to encourage a new and denser plant to form.

Fescue and ryegrass lawns should be fertilized now (but NOT Bermuda) with 3-1-2 or 3-1-1 ratio lawn fertilizer. Newly planted or transplanted trees and shrubs should generally not be fertilized until after they have started to grow, and then only lightly during the firs year.

Look for scale insects on trees and shrubs now, so you can treat them with dormant horticultural oil. Dormant oils cannot be used once temperatures warm up and the plant is no longer dormant, leaving you with very few reliable control measures for these difficult-to-get-rid-of insects.

Check for powdery mildew and black spot on roses and other shrubs those are prone to these diseases. If a problem is found, treat with any registered fungicide to get the problem in check before the growing season begins.

Pre-emergent herbicides should be applied mid to late February to control annual spring weeds in your lawn, but remember, these herbicides inhibit all seeds from germinating, so be careful if using them in garden beds where flower or vegetable seeds are planted.

Most established trees, shrubs and lawns still require a deep, thorough irrigation about once a month until April. Keeping roots moist now will give your plants a head start on spring growth and will help prepare them for the long, hot summer.

Wow, what excellent information! El Paso and the Borderland still have a month and a half of cold weather ahead. El Paso’ average last freeze date is March 19th. We cold even have a cold day or two into the beginning of April, but as Daphne wrote this is the month for planting and transplanting. Preparing your plants and lawn now will give you a better chance of a lush green yard with healthy trees, shrubs and flowers. You will be the envy of all your neighbors!

Chuck DeBroder, Chief Meteorologist
KTSM, NewsChannel 9, NBC, El Paso, TX Chuck DeBroder NC9 @wxchuckNC9


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