Tag Archives: garden

Planning Your Spring Garden_FI

Now is the Time to Plan Your Spring Garden

As we turn the calendar page from February to March here in Central Texas, signs of the approaching spring are becoming more and more evident.

Signs of Spring
When I looked out the window this morning, I was delighted to see the first peach blossoms just starting to bloom. My fall vegetable garden is reluctantly offering up its last harvests of the season. The gentle rain of falling oak leaves is just beginning to hit the ground and offers a foreshadowing of the fluttering brown deluge yet to come. Of course what once was my front lawn, before our record heat and drought last summer, has been vigorously sprouting strange, green, alien intruders that seem to mock the last dry brown remnants of St. Augustine grass.

Get Started
As our thoughts also turn to spring, now is the time to take stock of our yards and make plans for our warm season garden. So grab a cold drink and find some shade, or huddle over a hot cup of cocoa and put on a warm sweater depending on what these unpredictable mornings hold, and let’s get started. By planning, and where appropriate planting now, your landscape and garden will be ready to flourish in the months to come.

Clean it Up
The best way to start getting your garden ready for spring is to clean it up. Remove any dead or spent plants from the garden and, if they are not diseased, add them to your compost pile. Pull any weeds that may have started to take hold. Once you’ve cleaned up, you will want to amend your soil by adding compost to garden beds and tilling it in. This will help replace nutrients taken up by the previous planting.

Draw a Plan
Grab a pencil and some paper and draw a diagram of your yard. You don’t need a degree in art or an expensive software program to draw a rough sketch of your landscape and garden plan. If you have the original survey from when you bought your house, make a copy of it and use that as a starting point. If not, just make a rough sketch of the footprint of your home. Draw in existing landscape features, and planned garden areas. Indicate which way is north and make note of any shady or poorly drained areas.

Plant What you Like
When planning what vegetables to plant, it’s easy to get carried away and want to grow everything under the sun. It’s always fun to try something new, but focus on growing what you really like. Make a list of the warm season vegetables for your area that your family likes and rank them from most to least liked. Plan on planting what you like. If no one in your family likes lima beans or squash, for example, then plan on planting more of what is most appealing.

Can, Store, or Eat
Once you know what you want to plant, decide what the intended use for each vegetable and herb will be. Do you plan on canning enough to last through the winter? Will you be freezing or dehydrating? Or, will you just eat and enjoy what you harvest this spring and summer. Different varieties of many vegetables are better suited to a specific purpose such as canning. Do your research.

Don’t Forget the Flowers
When planning your vegetable garden, it’s easy to overlook the importance of flowers. Look at your landscape as a whole and determine what native or locally adapted flowers are best suited to the different areas of your yard based on their color, size, water requirements, and the amount of sun needed. Flowers are an attractive, and highly effective way of drawing pollinators into the yard and garden.

Add New Beds
Now that you know what you will be planting and what your harvest will be used for, you can determine how much of each variety you should plant. Look at your existing bed space and any areas of your yard that you may want to convert to garden beds. For new beds, avoid low-lying, poorly drained areas. Clear the ground, till and amend the soil now. Better yet, try raised beds. They are a great way to avoid having to deal with the rock filled soil around here, and will maximize your harvest in the space available.

Order Seeds Now
As soon as you’ve determined which vegetables, what varieties, and how many of each you will be planting, go ahead and buy your seeds now. This will ensure that you get exactly what you want and have them ready to plant when the time arrives; however, wait until just before planting to purchase transplants.

Know When to Plant
One of the most important factors in having a successful home garden is planting each vegetable at just the right time. The Williamson County Texas AgriLife Extension Service recommends the following:

[ Spring Planting Dates for Central Texas ]

Asparagus: After February 1
Beans, snap bush: March 5 – May 1
Beans, snap pole: March 5 – April 15
Beans, Lima bush: March 15 – April 15
Beans, Lima pole: March 15- April 15
Chard, Swiss: February 1 – March 10
Collards: February 1 – March 25
Corn: February 25 – May 1
Cucumbers: March 5 – May 1
Eggplant: March 15 – May 1
Lettuce: February 1 – March 15
Cantaloupe: March 15 – May 1
Mustard: February 1 – April 1
Peas, southern: March 25 – May 20
Peppers (transplant): March 15 – May 1
Potato, sweet (slips): April 10 – May 15
Pumpkin: April 1 – April 20
Radish: February 1 – May 1
Squash, summer: March 5 – May 1
Tomato (transplant): March 15 – April 10
Turnip: February 1 – March 10
Watermelon: March 15 – May 1

- Note: The planting dates for your geographic area will vary -

To find the appropriate spring planting dates for your specific area, check with your local Cooperative Extension Agency, or refer to our Planting Guides for Fruits and Vegetables on the top menu.

Don’t Lose Track of Today
Well, there you have it. It may seem like a lot of work, and it probably is, but if you haven’t already done so, now is the time to start getting ready for your spring garden. Sometimes it’s easy to become overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done in the garden this time of the year, but remember to enjoy each day on its own merit. These pleasant spring days working in the yard will soon give way to hot summer days of weeding, harvesting, and canning. So don’t let the anticipation, or dread, of your spring garden, and the promise of warmer temperatures yet to come, distract you from today. Remember, “To everything there is a season.”

Spring Projects_FI

Five Simple Steps to Ease Into Spring Projects

(ARA) – Now, while winter is still around, is the best time for homeowners  to get a jump start on planning and prepping for their spring and summer home and garden projects; so when the weather really does warm up, it takes little effort to get the projects underway. In addition to fine-tuning home improvement and gardening plans, it is also a good idea to make certain the required tools are in tip-top shape, so the projects are not delayed.

Here are some ways to prepare for the spring and summer seasons with just a few simple steps:

* Plans – Sketch out those garden plans, and pick the plants that can be purchased or grown from seed by checking out our comprehensive Seed Source Guide. Plans don’t need to be drawn to scale, but they’ll provide great background information for a shopping list. Research how early seedlings should be started, so they’ll be ready for transplant when the time arrives.

Also create plans for any home projects that need to be accomplished. The depth of those plans depends on how complicated the project is. Make certain all permits are in order, if required by the community; and if a contractor is needed, a formal agreement and timeline is in place prior to work commencing.

* Lawn tools – Check pruning shears for sharp blades – and either sharpen or replace them if they don’t easily cut through a small stem of plant material. Also, review lawn mower blades. Check the oil, gasoline and starters on all gardening machinery to ensure they’ll run correctly when needed.

* House tools – A review of all home tools helps to determine if any new purchases – or replacements are needed. This is the perfect time to head to the store and purchase missing tools, add new blades to saws or replenish the sandpaper stash – eliminating wasted time running back and forth to the store.

* Hand tools – A little care can go a long way in keeping your hands and feet – the most valuable tools found in every household – in good shape after the long, dry winter months. These tools are vital to accomplishing everything on those garden and home project lists, and they are often forgotten. O’Keeffe’s Working Hands and O’Keeffe’s for Healthy Feet are both guaranteed to effectively relieve dry, cracked skin in even the most extreme cases. And just a little bit of the highly concentrated, hypoallergenic and odorless creams is needed. Start every project off with healthy hands, and keep them that way throughout the entire season of projects. It’s the best cream for dry hands – especially after the long and dry winter months.

* Materials – As the project season gets closer, start purchasing the materials needed ahead of time. This helps to spread the cost out, and can give an idea of how much time and effort the project will take to be completed. Get started now in matching colors, finding the perfect accessories and even price-comparing between different suppliers to help save money.

For homeowners who haven’t experienced the warm-weather-project itch quite yet, it’s still a good idea to start thinking about those items on to-do lists to help with being prepared and ready to go when the season arrives. It doesn’t take a lot of energy to have a successful spring and summer project season. Don’t forget O’Keeffe’s Working Hands and O’Keeffe’s for Healthy Feet to keep hands and feet in healthy shape to tackle any job.

Easy Blooming Flower Power_FI

Easy-Blooming Flower Power for Any Size Garden

(ARA) – Tired of winter white? Chances are you’re itching to dig in the soil and fill your garden with plants and flowers bursting with rich color and fragrance.

“Designing with colorful, low-maintenance plants that bloom year round is one of my greatest pleasures,” says Susan Olinger, president of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers.

For the average person that’s not as simple as it sounds, but coming this spring, it will be easy to add plenty of “flower power” to any garden, patio or balcony with new Bloomtastic! flowers and plants from Hines Growers.

These easy, low-maintenance flowers have been handpicked to provide rich color and gorgeous blooms that turn ordinary yards into show-stopping gardens from spring to late fall.

Check out these tips from garden pros for eye-popping color and abundant blooms spring through fall.

The Right Plant for the Right Spot
Too often we’re seduced by pretty plants at a garden center, only to find it withers and dies when we plant it in our garden.

“You’ll have greater success if you know what plants work best in your yard’s conditions,” says Justin Hancock, garden editor for Better Homes and Gardens online. “Know how much sun, soil and water the plant needs and make sure it can handle the heat and cold in your area before you buy it.”

Lack of rain can ruin a garden. Plants like new Agapanthus Summer Sky and a new Black Hawaiian Spider Lily called Crinum Purple Dream can handle drought conditions once established.

If you have deer, choose plants they don’t eat like Agapanthus Summer Sky. This airy plant with striking blue flowers and variegated foliage is perfect for containers, English gardens or mass plantings throughout your landscape.

Design for Continuous Garden Interest
When designing your garden, don’t buy plants that bloom at the same time. Instead, Hancock suggests you add plants that bloom in spring, summer and autumn. “Look for long-blooming plants to be the backbone of your garden design.”

Decorate your patio, deck or garden with spring and early summer bloomers like the new Bambino bougainvillea in eight dazzling colors with unique foliage. Then turn up the color wattage for summer and fall with the new Hibiscus Bahama Bay Amazon Queen. Its deep orange tones add tropical punch to any patio or yard.

Create Drama with Foliage
“Don’t forget how powerful foliage can be,” says Hancock. Many plants have different colors in their leaves and can show off brilliant color in a small garden or in containers.

“Plants with deep purple leaves are important in garden design because they look good all season long,” Hancock adds. Purple Dream’s leaves look almost black when grown in full sun and are dramatic against its showy pink flowers.

Make your Garden Nature Friendly
Flowers that attract hummingbirds, butterflies or song birds are good for wildlife and add extra interest beyond their beautiful blooms.

A new dwarf butterfly bush, Lavender Veil, grows low to the ground and is covered with fragrant flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies well into fall. “This new butterfly bush is perfect for hanging baskets or containers and drapes any landscape in a sea of purple,” says Hancock, who recommends mass planting three to five of the compact butterfly bush for vivid flower power.

With a little planning and the right plants, you can transform your garden from winter doldrums to a vibrant garden paradise with little maintenance.

For more information on the new Bloomtastic! plants, visit www.hineshort.com.