Gardening Month by Month To-Do List
Fall planting in Central Texas is best for trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials. Why? Fall planting gives plants 3 seasons (fall, winter, spring) of moderate weather with intermittent rainfall to put down new roots and get established, before summer’s heat.
January Gardening Tasks
1. Plant new trees and transplant older trees or shrubs that need to be relocated. Wait until early spring to fertilize and only if needed.
2. Start tomato, pepper and eggplant seeds inside for transplanting. Plant vegetables, both root and cool season crops like asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, garlic and onions. Also bare-rooted fruit trees and blackberries. Fertilize asparagus. Plant cool season annuals – pansies, petunias, violas, alyssum, dianthus, calendula and snapdragons.
3. Sharpen tools for pruning season. Depending on weather, prune grapes, ornamental grasses, perennials, roses, trees, vines, groundcovers and shade trees. Prune fruit trees such as peach and plum. Also reshape evergreen shrubs. Wait to prune some early spring bloomers such as wisteria, spirea, Carolina jasmine and climbing roses that are pruned after they bloom.
- Prune Mistletoe from tree branches. Smaller clumps at the ends of twigs can be removed by clipping the entire twig from the tree. Larger clumps on mature branches can only be clipped back flush with the bark. They will regrow, but you’ll slow them down.
- Crapemyrtles - think twice before pruning because most don’t need it. Gardening experts like Neil Sperry say, “topping crapemyrtles is the quickest way to ruin them permanently.” Chopping off the top of crapemyrtles has become a common practice, but the plant does not need pruning. It destroys the natural beauty of these attractive ornamentals and increases their vulnerability to pests. However, some corrective pruning may be needed - remove trunk sprouts at ground level and crossing or dead branches. If you use a landscape maintenance service, passalong this information to them.
4. Turn compost piles, shred leaves for mulch and incorporate soil amendments like compost before planting perennials and vegetables.
5. Lawns – In Central Texas wait until April 1 to fertilize lawns. That’s when turf can use it the most. Soil testing reveals the status of nutrients in your soil and provides precisely what and how much fertilizer to apply. Sort of like a recipe – easy to follow.
6. Weeds - Get ahead of weeds! Cool season weeds are maturing, so only thing to do is mow or pull them out. But, get ready for warm season weeds that will be germinating once soil temperatures warm up to 55 degrees Farenheit. A pre-emergent herbicide is a good management method, but timing is everything. This type of herbicide is easy to use and it controls many annual weeds. Apply prior to seed germination. In Central Texas, February is usually the best time, depending on the weather. Carefully read and follow label directions for these products.
7. Houseplants – watch for mealy bugs and other pests. Apply labeled insecticide if needed and follow directions.
8. Cold weather – Keep a supply of frost cloth on hand to cover outdoor, tender plants. During the day, the sun’s rays penetrate the soil, then frost cloth holds the solar heat and releases it overnight. This product also protects tender plants from cold winds that dry out the leaves. But the cloth must touch the ground and be anchored. Wrapping plants like a lollipop does very little to protect plants. Move container grown, tender tropical indoors or into a garage when forecast is for temperatures in the 20’s.
February Gardening Tasks
- Now is the time to prepare to plant your spring and summer-blooming perennials. Prep your beds by removing weeds, turn the soil to loosen it and till in organic matter – preferably compost. Fertilize cool season annuals like pansies and snapdragons to encourage growth and blooms.
- February is the perfect time to prune. Trim off any dead and winter-damaged portions on your perennials. Be sure to prune your fruit trees both peach and plum. Prune rose bushes by at least 50 percent or more.
- It's very important to add mulch before springtime to retain the soil moisture built up during the winter months.
- Stay on top of any cool-season weeds in your lawn. They are setting seeds, so pull or hoe them out. Use a weed-control aid if necessary.
- It's time to plant cool season flowers – alyssum, stock, snapdragons, violas, pansies; trees – container grown, balled-and-burlapped, also bare root fruit trees; vegetables -broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, onions and potatoes.
March Gardening Tasks
- Lawns - Wait until you’ve mowed the turfgrass twice (early April) to fertilize. Aerating is beneficial for compacted soil or turf growing in heavy clay soil. Then top dress with a light application of compost.
- Winter weeds are thriving. Pull them out or mow them, using a bag attachment if the weeds have already developed seeds) and make a note to self: apply a pre-emergent herbicide next September!
- Plant trees, shrubs and perennials. Truth is, they are best planted in the fall, so if you do plant now, be sure to take good care of them for the next 12 months. Also, plant tomatoes, wahoo! But, if cold temps are forecast, be ready to protect them. See our veggie planting calendar at http://www.brazosmg.com/
- Mulch, mulch, mulch! 2-3 inches of shredded hardwood is best.
- Prevent or reduce summer weeds by applying pre-emergent herbicide now. Soil is warming up and those little seeds are germinating. Follow the herbicide label carefully or damage can occur to the lawn, and nearby trees and shrubs.
April Gardening Tasks
- Fertilize lawns, this is the very best time. It is best to test your soil first to learn levels of nutrients, then apply precisely what your turf needs. Plant turf, either sod, seed or sprigs into prepared soil that is raked smooth and graded.
- Plant seeds or transplants of warm season annuals like zinnia, sunflower, amaranthus, celosia and cosmos directly into flower beds. Vegetables to plant: beans, corn, cucumber, turnips, melons, okra, southern peas, radish and squash. Cage young tomato plants and fertilize.
- Plant shrubs, trees, groundcovers, roses and other perennials. Keep in mind, with rising temperatures, they will have to work overtime to establish. Be prepared to monitor soil moisture carefully throughout the summer to avoid over or underwatering new plants.
- Mulch - Apply a 2-3 inch covering of mulch around young trees that grow in the lawn to prevent mower and trimmer damage to the trunk. Mulch vegetable gardens, shrubs and flower beds.
- Scout for insect and disease pests: aphids, caterpillars, leafhoppers, crape myrtle bark scale and powdery mildew. In lawns, watch for take-all patch. Take appropriate action to prevent excessive damage. Manage fire ants with the ‘Texas Two-Step” method. fireant.tamu.edu
May Gardening Tasks
- Remove spent, cool season annuals.
- For seasonal color, direct sow seeds of annuals like celosia, zinnia, sunflower and gomphrena. Vines to grow now from seed are morning glory, hyacinth bean, Spanish Flag, and black-eyed Susan vine. For patios and porches, fill containers with creeping jenny, caladiums, ornamental sweet potato vine, coleus, pentas, dwarf zinnias, and angelonia.
- In the May vegetable garden, plant eggplant, melons, okra, peas, peppers, sweet potato and squash. Harvest onions, potatoes, the early tomatoes and the last of the cool season greens.
- Replenish mulch around all shrubs and perennials, before the heat of summer arrives. A two to three inch layer of shredded hardwood will prevent weeds and retain soil moisture. Be sure to mulch a wide area around the base of trees to prevent mower or string trimmer damage to the bark and reduce competition with turf.
- Be attentive to any maintenance needed for your irrigation system. We’ll be more reliant on them soon. Register at www.bvwatersmart.tamu.edu for a weekly report on watering recommendations tailored to your location. Consider collecting rainwater. Texas AgriLife has good information at https://rainwaterharvesting.tamu.edu/
June Gardening Tasks
- Monitor for insects! Leaf footed bugs and squash vine borers are active in vegetable gardens. Aphids and bark scale can infest crape myrtles. Be on the lookout for bagworms that can defoliate juniper and arborvitae. The caterpillars are most vulnerable when very young, as they consume foliage and carry around their silken bags. Early detection and control can prevent irreversible damage.
- Mulch is always important, but especially in summer. 2-3 inches of shredded hardwood or shredded leaves will keep the soil cooler and reduce water evaporation.
- Reduce fungal disease by disposing of affected leaves and fruits. Rake and dispose of diseased leaves, especially of Indian Hawthorne, to remove a source of infection. Water early in the day, with drip irrigation if possible, so that leaves dry out quickly.
- Conserve water! Check to ensure your automatic irrigation system is functioning correctly. Best time to water – early mornings, 4am - 9am. For hose end sprinklers the most water efficient is the impact type, rather than oscillating.
- Water your edible crops in the early morning and harvest vegetables promptly when ripe. Pull or hoe out water-robbing weeds!
July Gardening Tasks
- Mulch is critical for your garden right now. Maintain 3-4 inches throughout the summer; this will block weed seeds from sprouting, reduce watering demands, conserve soil moisture, and keep soil temps regulated.
- This is the ideal time to inspect your landscape for areas where additional shade is needed. But don't plant trees now; wait until the fall when they have a better chance of survival.
- Start thinking about your fall garden now. Seeds of cool-season veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage can be purchased for starting in early August to produce transplants. Warm-season veggies like eggplant, pepper and tomato should be grown from transplants, not seed, to ensure a good crop before the first frost. Quick establishment is important, so be sure to provide adequate irrigation during hot, dry weather.
- Though you may be tempted, don't over water your lawn. It will result in wasteful runoff and promote disease. Monitor the effectiveness of your lawn and landscape irrigation and adjust your watering schedule as needed.
- Control fire ants in your lawn by using baits applied early or late in the day, or contact insecticides applied directly to the mounds. Fire ants forage during the cooler times of the day in these hot summer months, but individual mound treatments can be made at any time.
August! Do what you must...wisely. Head-covering, sunblock and water are your friends!
- Morning is the best time to water your plants, especially lawns, ground covers and vegetables. This ensures they're well-supplied going into the hottest time of the day. Do you have an automated irrigation system? The best time to water your lawn is mornings, starting as early as 4 a.m. Trees that have been in the ground less than a year should b watered once or twice a week with 1” of irrigation. In the absence of rain, water mature trees once every 10-14 days by applying about 1” of irrigation to the area beneath the canopy of the tree.
- Mid to late August is the time to prune roses by one third in preparation for the fall blooming season. Remove any dead stems. Follow with an application of fertilizer and water it in well.
- If you missed starting your fall veggies in July, here are a few suggestions to plant in August for a fall crop: early August – peppers, tomatoes, and fast maturing pumpkins; early to mid August - green beans, summer squash, and cucumbers; late August - potatoes.
- If you haven't already, mulch your flower and shrub beds, veggie gardens, and trees to reduce summer soil temps and deter weeds.
- Scout for pests that are active when temperatures soar - chinch bugs in lawns, and red spider mites on vegetables and junipers.
September Gardening Tasks
- Plant - Fall is the best time to plant perennials, shrubs and trees. Also, begin planting cool season vegetables – beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, spinach and edible pod peas this month.
- Prune - Roses that re-bloom and were not cut back by 1/3 in August should be pruned very early in the month. Remove the flower spikes from basil regularly to encourage leaf production; if your herbs like thyme and sage survived the summer, remove dead parts and watch them bounce back with cooler weather.
- Fertilize lawns when fall rains begin, preferably based on soil test recommendations. In the absence of a soil test, choose a product with mostly nitrogen and potassium, the 1st and 3rd numbers on the bag. Core aerate lawns growing in compacted soil to increase water infiltration.
- Apply pre-emergent herbicide in mid to late September to combat cool season weeds such as henbit, clover and chickweed. If your aerate the lawn, wait until after aerating to apply the herbicide.
- Watch for brown patch in St. Augustine lawns. Cooler nights and free moisture encourage development of this fungal disease. A fall application of fungicide may be a good management strategy but it should be applied before the disease appears or at least very early on at the first sign of yellowing.
October Gardening Tasks
Fall is the forgotten spring– it is the best time to plant in the Brazos Valley.
Plant shrubs, roses and other perennials. First, amend the soil with organic matter. Rototill or spade a couple of inches of compost into the soil in the bed prior to digging the hole and planting. It’s time to divide and re-plant bearded iris.
The easiest edible gardening season starts now! Plant beets, turnips, radishes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kohlrabi, carrots, cauliflower, garlic, Swiss chard and leafy greens: collard, kale, arugula, lettuce, mustard, bok choi, and spinach. Also, green onions, cilantro, dill and parsley.
Plant container grown trees and do not amend the soil. Research has proven that trees grow best if the soil that you dig out is the soil you put back in. The bottom of the hole should be solid to avoid settling, the sides sloped and after planting the trunk root flares should be visible, just above the soil surface.
Plant spring flowering bulbs and wildflowers, including bluebonnets. Prepare the planting area by removing weeds and raking the soil surface. Then distribute seeds and cover with a thin layer of soil. Press on the surface to lightly firm the soil into contact with the seeds and water well to improve germination results.
Turfgrass – fertilize the lawn in early October, then wait until you’ve mowed twice in spring (early to mid-April) for spring fertilization. If fire ant mounds appeared after recent rains, treat them soon. Our website has great information on management methods and products: https://fireant.tamu.edu/
November Gardening Tasks
- Texas Arbor Day falls on the first Friday in November, so, plant a tree. It is absolutely the best time! Why you ask? Because cooler weather and soil that is still warm encourages root growth, and reduces the stress of planting, and allows the most establishment time before the heat of summer.
- Fallen leaves – don’t bag them. Instead just mow, shred, mulch or compost to benefit your landscape and keep them out of the landfill.
- Continue to plant hardy perennials, shrubs, vines and groundcovers. You will see little to no growth over the winter, but the new and existing roots will be well established by spring. Sow wildflower seeds and plant spring bulbs this month, too.
- Rains may have kept you out of your garden but there are many cold weather vegetables that can still be planted. Agri-Life’s planting guide for Brazos County will help you with target planting dates. http://www.brazosmg.com/pdf2/edibles-vegetable_and_herb_Planting_calendar_brazos_county.pdf
- Are you seeing the fungal disease large patch, aka brown patch in your St. Augustine lawn? A fall application of fungicide may be beneficial, according to Extension turfgrass specialists. Learn more at our website: https://aggieturf.tamu.edu/wp-content/uploads/E-633-Large-patch.pdf
December Gardening Tasks
- Tree stakes that have been in place for about 12 months should be removed. The tree should be self-supporting now, and the stakes could cause more harm than good if left in too long. Newly planted trees with required staking should be checked regularly to make certain the staking is still properly fitted. If you see any damaged limbs, cut them off now.
- After a freeze kills your perennial plants back, prune off the dead growth and add mulch as a protective layer over the roots. This is important for all areas of your garden: keep the beds mulched and weed-free throughout the winter.
- Now is a good time to transplant roses to a new location. Dig up with as much of the root system as possible and plant immediately. Water well to settle soil in around the roots.
- Have you had your veggie garden soil tested? You should! Many veggies survive well in cold temperatures, including carrots, celery, collards, kale, onions and shallots, just to name a few. Having your soil tested is the first step to success.
- Fall and winter are great times to plant groundcovers. To keep your existing groundcover and ornamentals looking nice, cut back any brown, diseased or damaged leaves.
An extra tip for the holidays! Wondering what to do with your idle tomato cages? Turn them into mini-Christmas trees! Simply flip the cages upside down, tie up the bottom ends, and wrap in holiday lights. Santa would definitely approve!