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
1. Plant cool season flowers – alyssum, stock, snapdragons, violas, pansies; trees – container grown, as well as bare root fruit trees; vegetables -broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, leafy greens, onions and potatoes. Refer to the vegetable planting calendar for Brazos County for other vegetables that can be planted this month.
2. Prepare to plant spring and summer-blooming perennials. Turn the soil to loosen after removing weeds, then add compost or other organic matter. This improves drainage in heavy clay soils and provides some much needed nutrients.
3. The traditional time to prune roses is Valentine’s Day. Prune bush roses by at least one-half. This includes Knockout roses, which should be pruned to 2 feet per the Knockout Rose company. Most winter-damaged perennials like lantana and salvia can be pruned to almost ground level. Reshape evergreen shrubs and prune trees, grapes, ornamental grasses, vines and groundcovers. Wait to prune these spring bloomers – spirea, wisteria, Carolina jasmine, redbud and climbing roses – until After they bloom. Prune fruit trees such as peach and plum. Evergreen shrubs may be reshaped.
4. Crapemyrtles – Do not top them, which destroys the natural shape of these beautiful, low maintenance plants. But, do prune dead branches and either one of a pair of branches that may be crossing and rubbing against each other. Also remove suckers – shoots -- that sprout up at the base of the trunk.
5. Wait to fertilize lawns! It is too early for turfgrass to really utilize the nutrients since the soil is cool, so wait until April. In the meantime, if you’ve not had your soil tested, do it to learn precisely how much and what nutrients your lawn needs.
6. Fertilize cool season vegetables, citrus trees and annuals such as pansies and snapdragons to encourage growth and blooms. Fertilize stone fruit trees – plums, peaches - at budbreak.
7. Apply pre-emergent herbicide this month to prevent warm season weeds. Timing and effectiveness is based on soil temperature and moisture. Stay ahead of cool-season weeds in your lawn and flowerbeds. They are setting seeds, so pull, mow or hoe them out. Use a weed-control aid if necessary.
8. Cover bare soil with mulch – shredded hardwood. This reduces erosion and helps to suppress weeds.
9. Divide and transplant late-summer and fall-blooming perennials such as fall asters, Mexican bush sage and garden mums.
10. Be prepared to protect plants from freezing or near freezing temperatures. See our January tips for instructions.
March Gardening Tasks
1. Plant the last of the cool season annuals - petunias, snapdragons and alyssum as well as flowering perennials. Set out transplants of warm season vegetables – tomatoes, peppers, squash - protect them in case of a late cold snap. Direct sow seeds of beans, corn, leafy greens, squash and radish. Herbs – plant basil, chives, lemongrass, mint, oregano, rosemary and thyme.
2. Prune tender plants like bottlebrush, oleander or sago palm that may have been damaged by a freeze. Most will survive and may have begun to leaf out, so it should be evident what needs to be pruned.
3. Crape myrtles do not require pruning. If you have always pruned, skip it this year and see what happens.
4. Wait to fertilize lawns until early April, but do aerate compacted soil to address erosion, increase water infiltration. An option is to follow up with a light application of compost. Mow to remove winter damage, keep the weeds down and shred fallen leaves. If you’ve not soil tested, be aware that almost all soils in Texas test high in phosphorus, the middle number of the analysis, so avoid over applying it by soil testing.
5. Fertilize vegetables with a high-nitrogen fertilizer, water soluble if possible. Flowering perennials, roses and shrubs will benefit from a gallon or so of compost, sprinkled at their base to enrich the soil and add beneficial organisms that grow healthy plants.
6. Mulch - Replenish mulch around all trees, shrubs and perennials. A two to three inch layer of shredded hardwood mulch suppresses weeds, conserves water by reducing evaporation, insulates the soil to keep it cooler in summer and reduces erosion.
7. Apply pre-emergent herbicide very early in the month to lawns to prevent germination of crabgrass, sandburs and other weeds. A broadleaf weed killer spray may be applied to eliminate weeds such as clover, chickweed and dandelions. Keep after the weeds in the flower beds by pulling them and laying on 2-3 inches of mulch.
8. Spray fruit trees that are in bud and bloom to prevent diseases.
9. Inspect your irrigation system to ensure it is operating properly, in preparation for upcoming hot, dry months.
April Gardening Tasks
1. Plant - seeds of warm season annuals - zinnia, sunflower, amaranthus, celosia, cosmos - directly into flower beds and transplants of other annuals such as angelonia, begonias, moss rose and ornamental potato vine. Vegetable – plant beans, corn, cucumber, turnips, melons, okra, southern peas, radish, squash and warm season herbs, such as basil. Stake or cage young tomato plants. Plant turf (sod, seed or sprigs) into prepared soil that is raked smooth and graded.
2. If you are planting roses, other perennials, shrubs or trees now, keep in mind, with rising temperatures, plants will work overtime to establish. Be prepared to monitor their soil moisture carefully throughout the summer.
3. Deadhead cool season annuals to encourage more blooms. Remove spent blooms from spring bloomers such as roses. Prune spring-flowering shrubs after flowering. Keep the natural shape of the plant in mind as you prune.
4. Fertilize lawns, this is the very best time now and if you test your soil to learn levels of nutrient, then apply precisely what your turf needs. Fertilize perennials with compost or slow release fertilizer and annuals with water soluble fertilizer for immediate benefit.
5. Apply a 2-3 inch covering of mulch around trees that grow in the lawn to prevent mower and trimmer damage to the trunk. Mulch the vegetable garden to preserve moisture and reduce disease.
6. Look out for insect and disease pests: aphids, leafhoppers, crape myrtle bark scale, large patch in lawns, powdery mildew and take-all patch. Take appropriate action to prevent excessive damage. Manage fire ants with the ‘Texas Two-Step” method. fireant.tamu.edu.
7. Control broadleaf weeds like with an application of a broadleaf herbicide spray.
May Gardening Tasks
1. Plant - turf (sod, seed or sprigs) into prepared soil, raked smooth and graded; flowering perennials, shrubs and groundcovers. Sow warm season annual seeds – celosia, sunflowers, bachelor buttons, cosmos, zinnias - now through August for summer/fall color. Plant cucumber, eggplant, melons, okra, field peas, and squash.
2. Mow lawn at recommended height; Prune spent flowering stalks of roses and some perennials like salvias to encourage continuous bloom. Take out cool season annuals that are past their prime.
3. Fertilize turfgrass, annuals and vegetables. For turf, if you have not yet fertilized, apply a slow release high nitrogen or all nitrogen product.
4. Irrigate on an as needed basis, especially newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials. Water lawns only if rainfall is inadequate.
5. Mulch - Replenish mulch around all trees, shrubs and perennials. A two to three inch layer of shredded hardwood mulch suppresses weeds, conserves water by reducing evaporation, insulates the soil to keep it cooler in summer and reduces erosion.
6. Watch for disease like early blight on tomatoes, powdery mildew on ornamentals and Take All Root Rot (TARR) that may show up this time of year in St. Augustine lawns. Check for – aphids, leafhoppers, leaf footed bugs and crapemyrtle bark scale - and take appropriate action.
June Gardening Tasks
1. For summer color, plant bloomers that can take the heat -mandeville, hibiscus, bougainvillea, cannas, esperanza. Early in the month, plant cucumber, eggplant, melons, okra, field peas, squash and basil.
2. Prune salvias and verbena by 1/3 to stimulate new blooms. Raise mower cutting height to help lawn withstand the heat.
3. Fertilize citrus and vegetables.
4. Check to ensure that automatic irrigation system is functioning correctly. Best time to water lawns – early mornings, 4-9am. The most water efficient hose end sprinkler is the impulse type, rather than oscillating. Water your edible crops in the early morning and harvest vegetables quickly when ripe. Pull water-zapping weeds.
5. Mulch is always important, but especially in summer. It keeps the soil cool, helps prevent weeds, conserves moisture, and slowly adds nutrients back to the soil. Add a 2-3 inch protective layer now; organic material such as shredded hardwood.
6. Monitor for insects! Leaf footed bugs and squash vine borers are active now in vegetable gardens. Aphids, leaf hoppers and bark scale can infest crapemyrtles. Be on the lookout for bagworms that can be active early in the month on juniper and cypress plants. The caterpillars are most vulnerable at this stage, as they consume foliage and carry around their silken bags. Pick them off or apply pest-control aids as needed.
7. Reduce fungal disease by disposing of affected leaves. Particularly entomosporium on Indian hawthorn shrubs and cercospora leaf spot on ligustrum or crapemyrtle. Remove, rake and dispose of diseased leaves to remove a source of infection. Water very early mornings, with drip irrigation if possible, so that leaves dry out during the day.
8. Watch for sooty mold, a common fungus that grows on honeydew, the sugary substance that is left behind by insects such as aphids, scale, mealybugs and whiteflies. The mold covers leaf and stem surfaces causing them to appear black. Commonly found on crapemyrtles and hollys, it indicates there is or was an insect infestation. The black soot wears off or may be washed off with soapy water.
July Gardening Tasks
1. Plant - Start thinking about your fall garden now. Cool-season veggies seeds like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage may be started indoors this month 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 shade from afternoon sun and adequate irrigation during hot, dry weather.
2. Mulch is critical for your garden right now. Maintain 2-3 inches throughout the summer; this will reduce watering demands, conserve soil moisture, and keep soil temps regulated.
3. July is the ideal time to inspect your garden 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. Also check your garden for "heat sinks" (reflective heat, etc.), which can cause stress on plants and may require moving them later to more suitable locations.
4. Though you may be tempted, don't overwater your lawn. It will result in wasteful runoff and shallow roots. Monitor the effectiveness of your lawn and landscape irrigation and adjust your watering schedule as needed. Regularly water container grown ornamentals, vegetables and herbs.
5. Grubworms can damage turf in summer. Consider taking control measures this month, if you discover more than 6 in a square foot area of damaged turf. Control fire ants in your lawn by using bait insecticides or mound treatments sprinkled directly onto the mounds. Fire ants forage less during hot summer months, making it easier to treat individual mounds.
August! Do what you must...wisely. Head-covering, sunblock and water are your friends!
1. Direct sow seeds of summer annuals like zinnias, for continuing color into the fall. Plant green beans, summer squash, peppers and tomatoes. Protect transplants and seedlings from hot afternoon sun.
2. Prune re-blooming roses by a third. Shear lantanas, salvias and other perennials by one third to encourage blooming into the fall. If desired, deadhead crape myrtles and vitex to encourage another bloom cycle.
3. Replenish mulch as needed to maintain a 2-3 inch deep layer.
4. Water lawns in early morning hours – 4am to 9am. Morning is also the best time to water other plants, especially seedlings, transplants, ground covers, shrubs and other perennials. This ensures they're well-supplied going into the hottest time of the day. Keep watering your fruit trees, too; next year's crop is dependent on this year's stored energy. In the absence of rain, also water mature trees deeply once weekly, but avoid over-saturating the soil.
5. Scout for pests that are active the hottest time of year – chinch bugs in lawns and red spider mites on vegetables and junipers.
September Gardening Tasks
1. Purchase spring flowering bulbs now to plant in October and November. Store in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area until planting. Wildflower seeds may be sown into prepared soil this month.
2. Fall is the best time to plant trees, perennials and shrubs. September can be hot and dry in Central Texas, so continue to water trees, paying special attention to newly planted ones.
Begin planting cool season vegetables – beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, spinach and edible pod peas.
3. Re-blooming roses that haven't been cut back in August should be pruned 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.
4. Fertilize lawn when fall rains begin, based on soil test results. Aerate lawns growing in compacted soil to increase water infiltration.
5. Apply pre-emergent to combat cool season weeds such as henbit, clover and chickweed.
6. Watch for large 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.
7. Insects – aphids and leaf-footed bugs may still be in the vegetable garden, but the beginning of the growing season for winter crops sees reduced pressure from insect pests. Wooly oak aphids may appear on trees. Fireant management is a good idea this month.
8. Observe butterfly gardens and begin planning – fall is our best time in the garden for butterfly attraction, particularly for monarchs as they wing their way south for winter.
October Gardening Tasks
1. Fall is for planting! Cool season vegetables, roses, shrubs and trees. Also spring blooming bulbs and cool season herbs –cilantro, dill, oregano, parsley. Plant seeds of wildflowers, larkspur, nasturtium and poppies. Continue to plant hardy perennial 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.
2. Before planting, be sure to work some compost into the soil. Why not consider adding ornamental grasses to your garden? They are at their best in the fall, with gorgeous feathery plumes.
3. Turfgrass – Fertilize the lawn before mid-October and water turf in the absence of rain. Large Patch can show up in lawns this month. For management, see our publication at aggieturf.tamu.edu
4. Dig and divide spring-flowering perennials such as iris, daylilies, oxalis, phlox, oxeye daisies and others.
5. Now is the time to manage fireants, if you find them. Use a broadcast bait overall areas and a product for visible mounds.
6. Recycle those fallen leaves! They're perfect for mulch, composting or shred them and leave them on the lawn as natural fertilizer.
7. October can be dry and mild-to-hot in Central Texas, so be sure to monitor soil moisture and water your perennial vines, herbs and veggies deeply and thoroughly. Remember to keep beds mulched 2-3 inches deep.
November Gardening Tasks
1. Plant broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, leafy greens, turnips and radish.
2. Fall is the time to transplant/re-locate shrubs and perennials in your landscape. Wait until deciduous plants have dropped their leaves. For optimal results, in October root prune long established larger plants, then once there has been a frost, they can be transplanted.
3. Leaves – Don’t send leaves to the landfill, instead just mow to shred them, then use as mulch or compost them.
4. Texas Arbor Day is in November, the prime time to plant trees. Why? Because the cooler temperature and soil that is still warm enough, encourages root growth and reduces the stress of planting, allowing plants to establish through the winter.
5. Continue to plant hardy shrubs, perennial, vines and groundcovers early in the month. You will see little to no growth over the winter, but the new and existing roots will be well established by spring. Plant cool season annuals.
6. Diseases and insects will overwinter, so clean out the shed leaves of evergreens and remove diseased and dead plant materials.
December Gardening Tasks
1. Plant a cover crop – like elbon rye in bare areas of the vegetable garden that are not going to be used during winter. Order seeds for special varieties of vegetables. Brussel sprouts and cabbage may be planted. Early in the month, plant trees, shrubs and the last of the spring flowering bulbs.
2. Water the entire yard in the absence of rain.
3. Rake fallen leaves and shred, compost or use them for mulch.
4. Inspect indoor plants for pests, such as mealybugs. Keep these plants evenly watered since warm indoor temps make them dry out quickly. On the occasional warm day, set them outdoors and water.
5. Decorating with fresh greenery is a classic holiday tradition. Keep in mind that without water, it will last about a week. Keep fresh greenery in water until ready to use.
6. Weeds like clover, dandelion, henbit, chickweed and other non-grassy weeds can be managed with a broadleaf weed control product if applied soon, before winter’s cold sets in to stay. Read and follow label directions.
7. Promote blooming of winter annuals like pansies with high-nitrogen, water-soluble fertilizer every 2 weeks. If you have poinsettias, Christmas cactus or cyclamen for indoor or patio color there is no need to fertilize, just keep them evenly moist.