Guarantee color with pansies and gladioli

Beautiful gardens by William Johnson

NIGHTTIME temperatures into the upper twenties, requiring our heating units to operate? Check! Daytime temperatures into the upper eighties, requiring our AC units to operate? Check! Heavy rainfall? Check! Wind gusts to near 40mph? Check! Beautiful sunny days on occasion? Check!
Overall, the winter so far has been a bit weird, especially when air conditioning is required on a given day and heating is then needed that night. Nevertheless, I still enjoy our winter – and spring and fall – seasons.
Over the next few weeks, landscapes will be blanketed with new leaves in varying shades of green and an array of colorful flowers to lift our spirits.
The new gardening year goes into full swing in February, with many activities and options for growing and learning.
Pansies: While the cold snap in early January inflicted considerable damage to many landscapes, those featuring pansies still displayed glimmers of color.
Pansies are very cold-tolerant plants and will easily handle temperatures down to the mid-twenties and continue blooming.
Pruning: The ideal time to prune most landscape trees is during the winter, when trees are dormant. Major pruning of landscape trees should be completed by mid February.
Sweet corn: You can plant sweet corn in mid February to produce an early harvest of tasty corn-on-the-cob. If you’re a sweet-corn connoisseur, plant at weekly internals from then until mid June to extend your harvest season.
Potatoes: Irish potatoes are not grown from seed like most other vegetables. Instead, pieces from the potato itself are used to start new plants. Home gardeners should purchase good seed potatoes that are free of disease and chemicals. Do not buy potatoes from a grocery store for planting.
Seed potatoes contain buds or “eyes” that sprout and grow into plants. Some will be on sale at the master gardeners’ spring plant sale at the county fairgrounds in Hitchcock on February 18.
Whether you purchase seed potatoes at the plant sale or elsewhere, this is a reminder to get them in the ground by mid February. Red Pontiac is a recommended red-skinned variety and it will be available at the sale.
New trees and shrubs: When buying plants, the biggest is not always the best, especially when dealing with bare-root species. Small to medium trees – four to six feet tall – are usually faster to become established and more effective in the landscape than the large sizes. Don’t fertilize newly set-out trees or shrubs until after they have started to grow – and then only very lightly in their first year.
Vegetables: The recommended time to set out transplants of broccoli and cabbage is from February 1 to March 15. Given the mild weather this winter, I recommend setting these vegetables out as soon as possible. Beets, carrots, collards, Swiss chard, lettuce, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, English peas, radish, spinach and turnips can be planted throughout February.
Gladiolus: One of my brothers, who lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, is an avid gardener and we rarely miss having a word or two about our favorite pastime during our telephone conversations. Last weekend, he asked about growing gladioli.
We both agreed to purchase some gladiolus corms, bulb-like structures that are widely available at most gardening centers including “big box” stores. Their wide range of vibrant colors, sizes and flower types make gladiolus flowers particularly useful for flower arrangements.
I plan to divide the number of bulbs purchased into about eight equal lots. I hope to plant each lot on a weekly basis starting this weekend and each subsequent weekend for the following seven weeks.
Because gladioli dependably produce spectacular flowers for floral arrangements, I should be able to stay out of the doghouse for most of the spring season. Perhaps I will buy a few extra corms for insurance.
Fruit trees: Peaches and plums have already started to display their beautiful flowers and the promise of spring can be seen.
William Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston County office of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Visit his website at aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/index.htm.

WHAT: Lecture, Growing Citrus In Your Backyard
WHEN: 9:00-11:30am, Saturday, February 4
WHERE: AgriLife Extension Service, 4102B Main Street, La Marque
WHAT: Lecture, Growing Blueberries
WHEN: 1:00-2:30pm, Saturday, February 4
WHERE: AgriLife Extension Service, 4102B Main Street, La Marque
WHAT: Master gardeners’ plant sale and seminar
WHEN: 8:00am-1:00pm, Saturday, February 18
WHERE: County fairgrounds, Hitchcock

Pansies dependably provide color in our winter landscapes and did not suffer freeze injury from the cold snap in early January. – William Johnson

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