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The first day of spring will arrive in a few days (March
20 at 11:15 p.m., according to the astronomical definition).
From a gardening perspective, the exact timing of
“spring” is less precise.
This has been an unusually cool-to-cold winter.
Meteorologically speaking, that would not necessarily
be a hard science assessment––just my horticultural
opinion. Even so, I had my air conditioner on over the
weekend as I started to prepare this column.
Arizona ash trees serve as my harbinger for spring.
I’ve observed over many years that Arizona ash trees will
start setting out new leaves around mid-February, give or
take a few days. Arizona ash trees were definitely later
than normal this year in setting out new growth. Even
azaleas were delayed in setting out their floral displays.
We should remember that arrival of the spring season
along the Texas Gulf Coast tends to have a bumpy landing.
Mother Nature has been known to deliver a surprise
cold snap during this time of year.
Review the following gardening checklist for things to
do as the spring season arrives.
Moody Gardens will host the Sixth Annual Gulf Coast
Herb Festival on Wednesday, March 7, from 8:00 a.m.
to 2:00 p.m. in the atrium of the Moody Gardens Visitor
Center located at One Hope Boulevard in Galveston.
A variety of vendors will be on hand showcasing
their herbs, books, food items and gifts. The Herb Fair
will also feature cooking demonstrations. A Garden
Blessing will be held in the Butterfly Garden at 10:30
a.m. Professional and amateur craft brewers will present
programs and answer questions relating to hops which
have been named the “herb of the year.”
Master Gardeners will also be available to answer visitors’
questions on growing and using herbs. Tickets will
be available to purchase a luncheon ($35 each) that will
start at 12:00 Noon.
Proceeds from this event benefit third-graders across
Galveston schools with an educational experience at
the Aquarium Pyramid and fifth-graders at Galveston
schools with an educational experience at the Rainforest
The sequel: The Master Gardeners will be conducting a
plant sale on from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, March
1, at the Discovery Garden located in Carbide Park (4102
Main Street) in La Marque. A wide selection of vegetable
transplants in addition to citrus and fruit trees will be
available and at a discounted price.
ANNUALS: Copper plants, ageratum and ornamental
amaranth and other annuals can be set out.
March is an excellent time to fertilize established landscape
trees and shrubs as they come out of their winter
dormancy period and put out new growth. It is not necessary
to punch holes in the ground to fertilize trees or
shrubs or to use fertilizer spikes. Surface application of a
granular fertilizer is quite satisfactory and an even better
VEGETABLES: Many types of vegetables can usually
be established in the garden during March including
transplants of tomatoes and peppers as well as directseeding
of corn, cucumbers, southern peas and many
other vegetables.
Be prepared to provide cold weather protection as may
be needed. It is still too early to plant okra as okra does
not tolerate cool spells. Wait until mid-April before planting
okra seeds.
LAWNS: Yes, most area St. Augustine lawns are dull
brown in color because of several cold snaps occurring
over the past few weeks. However, do not fertilize St.
Augustine lawns now in the hope of making it green up
faster. St. Augustine lawns should not be fertilized this
time of year until after the grass starts to actively grow;
otherwise, if you fertilize now you will be benefitting winter
weeds and some of the nitrogen will be lost before
lawn growth starts.
HANGING BASKETS: Late March is an ideal time to
set out hanging baskets. The variety of plants that can be
used is limited only by your imagination. Suitable plants
for hanging baskets include portulaca, ivy, geraniums,
airplane plant, bougainvillea, English ivy, begonias, and
a host of others.
WEED KILLERS AND TREES: Many landscape trees
and shrubs are damaged or killed each year by the careless
application of weed killers to lawns, including those
found in mixes of weed killers and fertilizers (commonly
called “weed & feed”). Always read and follow all label
directions very carefully including application near the
drip line of landscape trees and shrubs.
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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