By Katie Kuchta
Spring is right around the corner and bulbs will be breaking through the ground before we know it. If you are a garden enthusiast, the excitement for your garden to wake up is palpable. For some people, gardening may not necessarily be on the mind, but late winter is a great time to start thinking about your outdoor space.
Here is a short “to-do list” so that you can get one step ahead in preparing your Texas garden for this coming spring.
Order Flower and Vegetable Seeds
Now is a terrific opportunity to order any vegetable or flower seeds so that they arrive in proper time for spring planting. By doing this early, you can ensure that your favorite varieties are still in stock. If your favorites or rare finds have run out, a great alternative is to use native plants of Texas. You’ll likely find them at every local nursery and are sure to restock faster than others.
It is always good to buy seeds from a trusted source to make sure they have been properly treated for disease. For vegetable seeds, these companies have a great selection of varieties: Johnny’s Selected Seeds and High Mowing Organic Seeds. For the rare, more unique varieties, try Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
Sharpen Your Tools
Ask any professional – a sharp pair of pruners can go a long way in assisting you with your day-to-day gardening chores. Come spring, there will be other important tasks to take care of, so sharpen your tools now; hand pruners, loppers, and shears alike. After sharpening, try spraying a little bit of WD-40 on your tools to keep them well lubricated and to stop them from squeaking. We tend to think of plants first when it comes to maintenance, but well-oiled, sharp tools can last a lifetime if they are properly maintained.
Tidy Up Flower Beds and Borders
If you have not already done so in the fall, take the time to tidy up your herbaceous borders, cut back any remaining perennials, and remove any leaves, fallen branches, sticks, and debris from your garden.
Don’t forget about the essential task of weeding. Remove any weeds that have overwintered. Pulling weeds while they are still small will save a lot of time down the road; preventing weeds from going to seed can drastically reduce the amount of weeding you will have to do later in the season.
Tree and Shrub Pruning
Many of our trees and shrubs are still dormant, so depending on the species, this time of year can be ideal for pruning. Two important rules of thumb to remember: 1) Never remove more than a third of the branches on any given tree or shrub. 2) The following “three D’s” can be removed at any time of the year, as long as they fit into at least one of the categories: dead, diseased, or damaged wood.
Top-Dress With Compost
There is an old saying in the gardening world: feed the soil, not the plant. Spreading a few inches of well-rotted compost can go a long way in building up your soil, and has been shown to improve both nutrient levels and water-retention.
Outsource the busy work
If you’re going to put in the hard work yourself, consider letting someone else do the routine and mundane so you can save the fun and creative work yourself. It’s fairly inexpensive to hire someone to trim your bushes and mow your lawn. For example, lawn mowing here in Houston costs only $37 on average, and the cost of regular bush trimming starts at $20. Let someone else do these, so you can dedicate what little free time to the bigger projects.
Before spring arrives, it’s nice to sit down at the drawing table and map things out for the upcoming season. What annuals will be planted this year? Which plants did well last year and which ones could you do without? What style will the outdoor pots and containers be? What new vegetables or perennials will be planted?
It’s helpful to come up with plant “wish lists,” and (even if you’re not artistically-inclined) map out a diagram or a master plan for any new garden beds. Some of the greatest landscape designers simply draw circles with abbreviated letters for plant names, along with a plant key. The important thing is that you have a vision, and that you have fun with it too!
Katie Kuchta is a gardening guru, outdoor living expert, and self proclaimed foodie. She can often be found cooking in the kitchen or on the hunt for the best tacos, follow her on Instagram @atxtacoqueen