New year brings new gardening opportunities

Image result for New year brings new gardening opportunitiesI am so excited that in just two more days we will be officially into a new year of gardening; in fact, a new decade. This is the year I intend to keep a garden journal for the entire year and to do all the monthly chores in the month they are supposed to be done.

A great tool to help with both goals is the “Texas Gardener 2019 Planning Guide and Planner,” available from www.texasgardener.com. Here are some more January garden opportunities just waiting for our participation.

If you have not had a soil test done in a couple of years, stop by the Taylor County Extension Office, 1982 Lytle Way, for a sample kit with directions. A basic test is inexpensive and yields a large amount of critical information to help you have a more successful year in the garden.

Add two or three inches of compost to fallow or new garden beds and use to top dress other planting areas. Compost helps loosen heavy clay soils and gives sandy soils the capacity for better water and nutrient retention. The organic matter feeds multitudes of beneficial organisms that feed the soil that feeds the plants we want to thrive. Chemical reactions with existing soil results in higher availability of minerals that might be tied up in soils with high or low pH.

Search Aggie Horticulture for articles on more of the amazing benefits of compost. I know it is science, but the results seem magical to this gal.

Plant bare-root fruit trees and landscape plants. Bare-root planting is economical but must be done before the plants break dormancy.

Thin seedlings of reseeding annuals and perennials to ensure proper spacing. As difficult as it may be to do, the result will be healthier, more attractive plantings.

This is a great time to establish ground covers in areas that did not grow grass well last year. Mondo grass is a good alternative if you really want to keep a grassy texture in the shade.

Once the rush of the holidays is past, the bare trees and brown foliage can get depressing for those of us who love all things green. You can brighten up your winter garden with plantings of pansies, johnny-jump-ups (my favorite for consistent winter bloom), ornamental cabbages and kales, dianthus, snapdragons, and more. Local nurseries will have a great selection. It is also prime time to plant evergreen shrubs and trees, so our eyes have a soothing resting place.

Are you just itching to grow something? Try your hand at indoor seed-starting this year. For best results use a seed-starting planting mix. Be sure it is moist before you plant. Plant seeds six to eight weeks before you will transplant them into the garden. For best results:

► Plant seeds at the depth recommended on the seed packet.

► Mist top of soil to avoid dislodging seeds.

► Cover with clear plastic dome until seeds sprout. Remove.

► Use heat mats designed for the purpose to keep soil at the desired germination range or place in a warm area.

► Be sure you provide plenty of light. If your seedlings grow tall and spindly, low light is the likely culprit.

► The first leaves are seed leaves. When the next, first true leaves, emerge, feed with a very dilute fertilizer.

► As the seedlings grow, brush the tops gently each day with a pencil or dowel. This helps develop sturdier stems in the absence of wind.

► Start to harden off seedlings a couple of weeks before you move them outdoors permanently. Start in a protected shady area, gradually increasing the amount of light exposure.

► Congratulations! You are ready for a new growing season.

The Big Country Master Gardener Association welcomes your gardening questions and comments. Contact our hotline at 325-672-6048 or email us at [email protected]

Until next time, Happy New Year and happy gardening.

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