Back to the garden for a new year

·3 min read

Another year is nearly done. A new one beckons.

After the frenzied activity of the holidays, I am looking forward to new gardening adventures. Maybe some of the ideas in this article will be helpful for your January gardening.

Last year, I bought a tomato transplant that produced the most delicious tomatoes I have ever grown. I lost the plant tag and don’t remember which variety I planted. I wish I had followed my annual advice to keep a garden journal.

This does not have to be fancy. A spiral notebook with pockets to hold seed packets, plant tags, and other helpful treasures will work fine. Texas Gardener magazine publishes an annual planning guide and calendar that has helpful hints for each month as well as a little space for personal notes. There are many beautiful and useful professionally done journals for the wordiest among us. I plan to use the first one above with an expandable file to hold folders for each month.

Following are some more ideas for the new year that you might find useful.

If you have fallow garden beds or are planning a new one for spring or later planting, consider tilling 2-to 3- inches of organic matter into the soil. Compost is perfect for this, but shredded leaves, shredded paper (a great use for all those “expired warranty” notices), ground-up bark, crushed pecan shells, and more will work, too, and cost nothing.

With all the latter, adding a little nitrogen fertilizer will hasten the decomposition process but is not necessary. Microorganisms will break down the organic matter into a nurturing environment that will help plants thrive. Clay soils are loosened, and sandy soils have increased water-holding capability.

As early as you can, plant English peas. Be sure to provide something for the peas to climb on and keep frost cloth or sheets, etc. to cover plants in event of hard freezes. Start your tomato seeds indoors so you can have large, healthy transplants to set out in the garden later for the best yield. Production stops or slows down with the advent of summer heat and the many pests and diseases that plague almost everyone’s favorite vegetable to grow.

If your soil has not been tested for a couple of years, or ever, now is the perfect time to do that. Your county extension office should have forms and collection bags, or you can get a kit from https://soiltesting.tamu.edu.

From the end of January until just before buds swell, woody ornamentals and fruit trees with scale can be sprayed with dormant oils to suffocate insects and their eggs. Crape myrtles and pomegranates are beginning to be infested with a nasty new, fast-spreading bark scale that feed on these landscape favorites. Extensive honeydew deposits and the growth of black sooty mold add to the problem.

This is a good month to top-dress established fruit trees and beds with compost. Refresh mulch layers to a depth of 2 to 3 inches deep. Shredded leaves or wood chips are great choices for this. The result is fewer or more easily dislodged weeds, less evaporation of precious water, moderated soil temperatures, more earthworms, and slow, constant soil improvement over time.

When temperatures finally reflect the season and sap in trees and shrubs slows, it is time to prune. Look for Texas Forest Service YouTube videos for expert advice. If shade has caused turf areas to thin or disappear, trees can be limbed up to allow more light to reach the area. An alternative would be to replace the turf with a shade-tolerant ground cover.

Order seeds from catalog sources as quickly as possible. Some that I ordered last year already were out of stock.

The Big Country Master Gardener Association can help with your garden questions. Call us at 325-672-6048 or email us at mgardeners@yahoo.com.

Until next time, happy gardening!

This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Back to the garden for a new year

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