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Tips for overcoming tropic snow confusion


Beautiful gardens by William Johnson

IT’S A NEW gardening year and I hope all your gardening efforts will be fruitful and enjoyable. Temperatures over the 2015 winter season thus far have varied remarkably. It was amazing to have to turn on the air conditioner and then turn on the heating unit on the same day.
Even my single – and prized – Tropic Snow peach tree growing in the back yard is confused. It should be bare at this time yet there are almost a dozen blooms on the tree. The crape myrtle tree in my back yard is obviously confused as well as dozens of green leaves still remain on the tree, which should be bare of leaves at this time of year.

Gardening Avocado by Herman AuerEven though it’s still winter, now is the time to starting planning for this year’s garden growing season. Members of Galveston County Master Gardeners Association will provide several gardening seminars during January, including one on growing avocado and papaya on Saturday, January 9. Photo : Herman Auer

This is a sure sign that winter conditions have been exceptionally mild. Normally, I would be concerned about the peach tree producing flowers that might be damaged by cold weather. Now I have to be just as concerned that it gets sufficient chill hours for it to produce any flowers.
This year’s mild winter has allowed gardeners to continue harvesting winter vegetables and enjoying cool-season flowers, and most gardeners find this a more relaxed time of year, so here’s a checklist on activities for the month of January.
• To start the new year out, master gardeners have planned several educational programs that will be of benefit to the county’s gardening enthusiasts (see “Upcoming AgriLife Extensions programs” below). Texas master gardeners are volunteers who have completed intensive training on a variety of horticultural topics and who provide valuable assistance to the County Extension office.
• Many gardeners have inquired about the status of our annual fruit tree sale, which will be held at a new location. This year’s fruit tree and spring vegetable sale will be held in the rodeo arena at Galveston County Fairgrounds in Jack Brooks Park, on Highway 6 in Hitchcock.
It will be conducted from 9:00am to 1:00pm on Saturday, February 20. Peaches, apples, avocados, citrus and other fruit trees will be offered in addition to a variety of vegetable transplants for the spring garden. I will provide additional information in upcoming columns.
• Few shrubs or trees are best purchased and planted while they are in bloom, but camellias are one exception. These notable shrubs are in glorious bloom and right now is the time to plant them into your landscape.

Upcoming AgriLife Extension programs

Saturday, January 9
Growing Avocado And Papaya                                       9:00-11:30am
Growing Peaches In Galveston County                          1:00-3:00pm
Saturday, January 16
Wedge Grafting Fruit Trees Or Ornamental Plants        9:00-11:00am
Kitchen Gardening                                                        1:00-3:00pm
Tuesday, January 19
Gardening By The Square Foot                                     6:30-8:00pm
Saturday, January 23
Successful Spring Vegetable Gardening                        9:00-11:30am
Growing Blueberries                                                      1:00-2:30pm
Tuesday, January 26
Anyone Can Grow Roses                                                6:30-8:00pm

All programs will be conducted at the Galveston County AgriLife Extension office at Carbide Park, 4102B Main Street, La Marque. There’s no fee but pre-event registration is requested, either by phone at 281-534-3413, ext. 1-2, or e-mail at

Better yet, now also is a great time to purchase and plant camellias in containers. As beautiful as they are in the ground, camellias adapt happily to life in containers and are particularly impressive when grown that way.
• Keep your lawn free of heavy leaf buildup to prevent smothering the grass. A few leaves won’t harm the lawn but they should not be allowed to completely cover it, especially if they become heavily packed and stay wet for long periods.
• Continue to select and plant ornamental trees and shrubs to fill landscape needs. Always plan ahead before planting. Remember that, like little puppies, ornamental trees and shrubs grow up. Some can become quite large so be prudent about what you plant below electrical and telephone lines. The tree – and the homeowner – will ultimately lose in such standoffs.
• Select and order gladiolus corms for February and March planting. Planting at two-week intervals will prolong the flowering period. Choose some of the newer varieties for a vivid color display.
• We know, at some point, it will become cold enough this winter that tropical plants in our landscapes will need protection. Plan for it now by deciding what tender plants you will choose to protect and what plants will be left to fend for themselves.
Make sure you have enough materials on hand to protect those plants you will cover. Suitable materials include plastic, fabric sheets, blankets, tarps and cardboard boxes, to name a few. Each plant to be protected needs to have a covering large enough to extend to the ground.
It also helps to have stakes available to drive into the ground around plants to help support the coverings and bricks to weigh down the bottom edges of the covering.
• Last but not least, don’t forget to plant those bulbs that you’ve put in your refrigerator to provide for a chill treatment. They won’t flower in the fridge!
William Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston County office of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Visit his website at

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