Monday, October 2, 2023

Denton County AgriLife: Winter gardening chores

By Janet Laminack, County Extension Agent-Horticulture, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Denton County

Now that the Christmas decorations are down, you may be wondering what to do in your yard on those warm winter days. Perennials can be pruned back now, but how low do you go? Perennials like turk’s cap and lantana die back to the ground, so you can remove all of that growth. Some perennials will keep their leaves such as rosemary and lavender and don’t need to be pruned. Other perennials will indeed have some dieback, while some may just be ugly-dormant. For these plants, or when in doubt, start trimming at the tip, and stop when you find some green in the branch. Ornamental grasses can be pruned back, but I like to wait since they do still look good. Sometime before March I would suggest pruning back the ornamental grasses, leaving a height of six inches.

Trees don’t really need to be pruned very often, but it seems to make some people very happy to prune.  Pruning is recommended if trees are damaged or dangerous and removal of dead branches is always ok. Pruning a tree because it’s too tall or too wide is not recommended. That will be an on-going battle and you would do better to replace with a more suitable tree. Sometimes people want to “limb up” a tree to allow mowing under the tree without losing their heads. This is a good idea. And, sometimes limbing up a tree to allow your house to be seen is also desirable. However, limbing up can be overdone and becomes referred to as “lion’s tail.” If you want to remove a few branches, limit yourself to only removing branches up to 5-6 feet.

Crape myrtles are commonly topped or polled, which is not necessary. They will rebloom without being pruned. Also, pruning them back severely can weaken the tree structure. But, again, if it makes you happy to prune back your crape myrtles, then I think you should stick with it. Life is short.

Why not try growing some of your own food this year? Peaches do well here and that’s actually a tree that does need annual pruning. A win-win for you pruning enthusiasts!  Pecans make lovely shade trees and will make the squirrels in your neighborhood very happy. Blackberries are one of the best-suited crops for our area. They grow into medium-to-large shrubs but can have vicious thorns (thought there are thornless varieties).

If you are more interested in vegetables, it’s almost time to start planting. Many crops get planted in mid-February, such as lettuce, onion, broccoli, and parsley.  The Denton County Master Gardeners have put together a beginner’s guide to vegetable gardening that you can find under the North Texas Gardening tab on the website. Also, check there for upcoming classes on all sorts of gardening topics.

But remember, winter is also a time to rest. We all might do better if we followed the lead of nature a little more. So this season, give yourself the opportunity to take life a little slower.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension provides equal opportunities in its programs and employment to all persons, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating

CTG Staff
CTG Staff
The Cross Timbers Gazette News Department

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