By Debbie Roland and Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardeners
December has really curtailed our outdoor gardening activities. Researching and planning for next year’s yard and garden by a nice warm fireplace can only occupy so much of your time. Most of us get restless. On nice days there are other things you can do.
Drop by the garden centers when you’re nearby. There are lots of pansies and plants such as ornamental cabbage available that will live through the winter and be beautiful next spring. Mix them with bulbs in your beds for great color early next year.
Trees and shrubs can be found and planted as well. Be careful not to let them dry out after planting. The same is true for trees or shrubs that are already established in your yard. If you still grow turf in your yard (especially Bermuda) it looks brown but the roots are still growing so occasional watering is a must.
If a new garden or flowerbed is in your 2024 spring plans, prepare now by digging your new area and removing all weeds or Bermuda grass. Bermuda is very invasive, and one sprout will cause big problems by the end of next year’s garden season. Go ahead and work in compost now as well as other organic matter like leaves.
If you have dead or diseased wood in your trees or shrubs they can be pruned from now until early March.
There are many crape myrtles growing in our area and some are not pruned correctly. They shouldn’t be severely cut back since it can cause freeze damage. Delay pruning until late February when other plants are pruned and then only remove branches that are the size of a pencil. Please don’t ever top a branch on a crepe myrtle.
Now is the time to remove dead vegetables and weeds from your garden. Be sure to cover your soil with mulch when the job is done. Soil should never be left bare. If nothing is growing, be sure there is some sort of mulch in its place. Order seeds now for starting early transplants or direct sowing after the last freeze.
Birds will be showing up at your feeders and it’s time to provide both food and fresh water for them and continue until spring. During a dry winter you can attract different species of birds with just a bird bath.
If you have questions, call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700. Additional information, and our blog for access to past articles, is available at westtexasgardening.org. Click on “Resources”.