As cooler weather begins around the state, start preparing your gardens and lawns for the drop in temperatures. A good rule of “green” thumb is the farther north you live in the state, the sooner you need to start preparing. Here are some winterizing tips from Michael Arnold, Ph.D., director of the Gardens at Texas A&M University and professor of landscape and horticulture in the Department of Horticultural Sciences at Texas A&M
1. Remove spent annuals
Plant cool-season annuals for winter color in your gardens. “Annuals are a cost-effective way to add temporary color to your garden year-round by purchasing season-appropriate plants. Plant wildflower seeds immediately.
2. Weed and clean
Pansy is a good choice for an annual once the weather cools.
As we enter the winter season, many gardeners will find it is the perfect time to remove unwanted plants. Weeding now will minimize the work your garden will require for the other three seasons. Gardeners should also apply a pre-emergent herbicide, or a ‘weed killer,’ for cool-season weeds in landscape beds and turf areas if desired.
Late fall is the ideal time to plant woody plants so roots can be established before the summer heat.
4. Prune trees and shrubs
As the weather cools and plants truly go dormant for winter, it is time to prune. Raise limbs on shade trees, remove overlapping branches on trees, set scaffold branching on orchard plants, and prune shrubs that bloom on new wood by early February at the latest.
5. Plant grass seed
You may get nice, green grass even in the winter, but you must be prepared to maintain it. Water while the seed germinates, then mow. So maybe think twice if you want to do that.”
6. Divide perennials and transplant true cool-season plants
Choose cool-season plants like pansies, snapdragons, dianthus, ornamental cabbage, kale, and such. Remember that annuals typically only last a season, whereas perennials can come back for years or even decades.
7. Consider planting winter vegetables
Many regions of Texas can get in one last late fall harvest, and now is the time to transplant cool-season veggies if you live in warmer parts of the state.
8. Use fallen leaves as mulch or compost
Fallen leaves make ideal compost. In late fall, after the first few touches of frost and before the first hard freeze. Use those mulched leaves or shredded bark around the crown of tender perennials for protection.
9. Take cuttings of any tender, at-risk plants
If plants are sensitive to the cold, you might want to take cuttings to propagate and overwinter. Watch for cold nights and observe at-risk plants that may need to be protected. Light blankets or tarps may be placed on them overnight to protect them from frost.
10. Relocate potted plants that are not cold hardy
“Keep in mind that potted plants have roots that will get colder than those in the ground,” Arnold said. Be aware that plants brought indoors may drop their leaves in response to the change in sunlight but will then put on new ones. Tropical plants will need to be in a warmer area of a home with a sunny window, but other plants can be in a garage with a window or on a protected porch.
11. Visit your local public gardens
Plan a visit to your local public gardens to take note of trees, shrubs, and vines that provide fall and winter interest; consider planting them for future years.
12. Clean tools and plan spring plantings
In addition to planning future gardens, in the winter, take the time to repair and replace tools you won’t immediately need.
13. Prepare your pipes
Locate your drainage and cutoff valves to preserve and protect pipes and irrigation systems. “Find your valves today and make sure you know how to turn them off.” Purchase or prepare insulation materials for exterior spigots and exposed pipes.
14. Think delayed gratification
Long-term herbaceous perennials and bulbs need to be planted well before you want to enjoy them. Now is a great time to get some perennials into the ground and established before the cold.” With bulbs, refrigerate them for about six weeks to prepare them to be planted around mid-December, so they’ll be ready for spring bloom.”
15. Be patient
Plants that may look dead may still be dormant come spring. As the weather warms, gently scratch the stem. If it is still green underneath, it’s alive. Be patient; a little fertilizer and TLC can work miracles and don’t forget to ask for help
Resource: Mike Arnold, Ph.D., director at The Gardens at Texas A&M University. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by S