March is the time to ramp up our vegetable gardens! Vegetable gardening is a great way to provide fresh produce for your family, and it’s a refreshing way to relieve stress and get some exercise.
The average last frost date for our area is the end of March, so we can begin to plant seeds and transplants of frost-sensitive crops. Try planting seeds for pole or bush beans, beets, squash, cucumber, melons, turnips, and pumpkins. Plant transplants for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant. You can purchase transplants at any garden center or nursery right now. (more…)
One trick to successful gardening in Texas, especially vegetable crops, is knowing when to plant. Checking the signs of the moon and trying to predict the last frost in Texas is a fun mental challenge, but it might not be very predictable.
Soil temperature is the most important factor to consider for good seed germination and seedling growth. Soil temperature for vegetable seed growth is classified into four categories: the minimum temperature for seed growth; the optimum temperature; a realistic temperature; and the maximum temperature for germination to occur. (more…)
Gardening in Texas has its challenges, but I think vegetable gardening throughout the winter makes up for the other difficulties we face (remind me I said that when I get tired of mowing in the August heat). A fresh salad of homegrown lettuce, spinach, and other greens is a delight in the middle of January or February!
One of my favorite parts of being a County Extension Agent is that every day is different! Sometimes I’m out with vegetable farmers talking about weed control. Another day I might be talking about lawncare with homeowners in Sun City or visiting with a classroom of cute kiddos about growing a garden. It’s fun!
On November 13, 2019, we had an interesting visitor at the office. A Williamson County resident brought in a big green caterpillar that she found eating on her tree. She was concerned about the health of her tree since the monster of a caterpillar was eating all the leaves. I was just fascinated by the caterpillar! It was about three inches long, bright green with red tubericles, and about as big around as my thumb.
It’s that time of year when weed control is on my mind. Winter weeds like henbit and clover are actively growing and making a nuisance of themselves. Just when you start to think you can take a break from lawn care for a couple months, all these pesky winter weeds start showing up.
We have some options to control winter weeds that are already up and growing. Fortunately, some of these control options will also help you stick to your fitness goals for the new year! One option for weed control is to mechanically remove the weeds either by hand pulling or hoeing them. If you have just a few weeds in your yard, this might be the best option. (more…)
Nandina is an old-fashioned evergreen shrub that has become one of my favorite shrubs. The foliage is dark green, but can turn orange, red, or maroon in the fall with bright red berries in the winter. Also known as Heavenly Bamboo for its slender stems and spreading growth pattern, Nandina domestica is drought tolerant and cold hardy. Nandina is also great because it can grow in sun, part shade, and shade.
When the days are short and many plants are dormant during this time of year, I am always drawn to anything is green or blooming. I love putting out fresh greenery and poinsettias, but there are two other winter-blooming plants that are eye-catching at Christmas and will continue growing throughout the year. (more…)
I am a little bit of a traditionalist when it comes to decorating for Christmas. I like a real Christmas tree, and you aren’t supposed to start decorating until December 1 (or at least until after Thanksgiving). Controversial holiday decorating opinions aside, hopping for a live Christmas tree is so much fun! I have a few pro tips for keeping your tree fresh throughout the Christmas season.
Selection: Christmas trees come in a variety of sizes, so be sure to measure your space where the tree will be kept. Consider the diameter of the base of the tree as well as the height.
Check your tree for freshness. The needles should be fresh and flexible and should not come off in your hand. The branches should also be pliable. The tree is too dry if the needles and branches are brittle. Shake your tree well outside before you bring it into the house to remove any dry needles inside. It wouldn’t hurt to check for bugs if you cut your own tree from a Christmas tree farm.
A live Christmas tree is very easy to keep fresh for several weeks. The most important rule is to supply plenty of water. A traditional reservoir type tree stand is the best way to display your tree and maintain freshness. Be sure it will hold plenty of water. As a rule, stands should provide one quart of water per inch of stem diameter. Check the water level daily. Once a tree gets dry, it has a hard time taking up new water when you refill the reservoir.
Use a stand that fits your tree and avoid whittling down the sides or drilling holes in the trunk. When you bring your tree home, cut a half inch disc off the bottom of the trunk and place it in water as soon as possible.
Keep your tree away from major sources of heat such as fireplaces and heat vents. Lower the temperature of the room and use lights that produce low heat to slow the drying process. Always inspect your lights before you place them on the tree and be careful not to overload the electrical circuits.
Christmas tree farms provide a really fun opportunity to cut a live tree, usually while you enjoy hot chocolate and Christmas sweets. It’s also a great way to support a local farmer! Most Christmas tree farms in our area grow Virginia Pine and Leyland Cypress trees, and they usually offer other pre-cut varieties like Frasier Fir.
I hope you enjoy the holiday season and have a fun time decorating your Christmas tree! For more information about lawn and garden topics, contact Kate Whitney, Williamson County Extension Horticulturalist, at 512-943-3300.