GROUND RULES AND TOOLS FOR FEBRUARY 2008
--See For Yourself with Tours of VEG

February 7, 2008

By Victoria County Master Gardener, Monica Pilat

Edited by Charla Borchers Leon
PHOTO BY NANCY KRAMER, VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
O’Connor Magnet School teacher Cindy Diggs accompanied her 1st Grade Students to Victoria Educational Gardens (VEG) last spring for an educational field trip.  Plan your visit to VEG this spring on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
As we welcome a New Year, Victoria Educational Gardens (VEG) is gearing up for a busy and exciting season of spring garden tours.  Since its opening in 2003, the gardens have hosted many schools and groups – totaling several thousand visitors - for educational tours.  VCMGA is excited this year to incorporate its VEG expansion gardens, which includes a koi pond and many theme garden areas, into the tour operations.

In the past years, students have learned about seeds and potted plants in the greenhouse, created butterfly feeders from sponges and learned all about fruits and vegetables.  Student groups are usually divided into smaller groups, and move from station to station.  Time spent at each station, as well as how many or which stations are visited, depends on the time allotted for the field trip and the specific educational needs of the group.  Adult groups can simply choose to meander throughout the garden, while getting ideas for their home or can be led through the garden while getting a brief introduction to the different areas.  Each area of the garden has an information box that highlights the plantings or gives tips for its specific purpose. 

Tours can be scheduled for Wednesdays and Thursdays between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.  Please contact Monica Pilat at moni31@suddenlink.net or 361-648-2515 if you have any questions, would like to get on a mailing list, or need to make a reservation.  Any and all groups, from young to old, are invited to schedule a VEG tour today.  Tours can be designed to meet your group’s specific educational needs.

February Landscape Care


The month of February brings the start of spring garden preparation to our area.  If you have any established landscape trees or shrubs that need relocation, it’s best to do so before they put on new spring growth, usually by mid-month.  Likewise, you should also begin thinking about any new tree and shrub plantings you would like to add to your landscape this year.  The mid-month rule is also good to follow for any seasonal maintenance pruning of your roses, trees, and shrubs.  When pruning back your landscape plants, remember the three D’s – diseased, damaged and dead – these are the areas of the plants that need to be removed.  It is also good to remove any criss-crossing branches to promote good growth form in the upcoming year.

A good rule of thumb when deciding how much to remove from a tree or shrub is one-third, or 30 percent, of the crown.  However, you do not want to do any heavy pruning on spring or summer flowering shrubs and vines.  Doing so will cause your spring-flowering ones to not bloom, as they have already set bud, and will retard blooming in your summer-flowering varieties.  It is best to wait until after the bloom cycle to do any heavy maintenance pruning on these varieties. Spring flowering varieties include spirea (bridal wreath), azalea, forsythia, quince, climbing roses or Indian Hawthorne.  Asian jasmine, a common groundcover used in our area, can be sheared to remove growth browned by cold temperatures and promote good spring greening, and you should also remove any unsightly browning from daylilies, mondo grass and liriope.

Garden Planting Ideas

You can still plant cool-season annuals such as pansies, snapdragons, dianthus, stock, larkspur and sweet alyssum to bring some color to your garden.  The annual date of the last killing freeze for our area is around mid-February, but has happened as late as the end of March, so you still have time to set out some cool-season vegetables.  Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and potatoes should generally be set out by 4 weeks prior to last average frost, while leaf and root vegetables such as lettuce, carrots, spinach, radishes, onions and beets should be set out anywhere from two to four weeks prior.  If you follow the mid-month rule for planting, you should be fine on any of these.
 
Sweet corn can be planted towards the end of the month.  Put off planting any warm season crops until the soil and air temperatures have risen above 70 degrees.  You can check with the local Extension office to find out specific planting dates and vegetable types and varieties that do best in our area.

Landscape Pep-Up


The month of February is also the time to dig and divide summer and fall-flowering perennials such as cannas, purple coneflowers, perennial salvias, mums and fall asters before new spring growth begins.  If your lawn is looking rather dull, don’t fret, it will start greening up when the temperatures get warmer and the spring showers come, but you might think about trying to remove any brown growth by scalping your lawn (mowing it to very short heights) to give it a better start.  If you had serious problems with your lawn the past year, you might need more serious measures to reclaim it.

In general, February is the month to get all your landscape “spring-cleaning” done.  Not only does this apply to your landscape plants, but to your landscape soil, as well.  February is the perfect time to send soil samples to Texas A&M University for testing and they are relatively inexpensive, $10 per standard test.  Based on your results, you can then decide what amendments you might need to take care of any nutrient deficiencies in your garden.  It is also very common for soil tests to show that you may be over fertilizing your lawn or garden area.  With the right combination of clean-up and soil preparation, you can ensure that your landscape will be off to the right start for a beautiful growing season!!!

Oh, and don’t forget the free “ Lunch and Learn with The Masters” program on Roses presented by Master Gardener Jerome Janak this next Monday, February 11. It will be from noon until 1:00 p.m. at the Pattie Dodson Health Center, 2805 N. Navarro in Victoria. We hope to see you there…and at VEG later this spring.

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas Cooperative Extension-Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, Texas 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.

Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.  The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas cooperating.  Individuals with disabilities who require an auxiliary aid, service or accommodations in order to participate in this meeting are encouraged to contact the County Extension Office at 361/575-4581 to determine how reasonable accommodations can be made.  The information given herein is for educational purposes only.  Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Cooperative Extension Service is implied.
VEG Tours Include Expansion Mini Gardens

Tours of the Master Gardeners’ Victoria Educational Gardens (VEG) this year incorporate 18 expansion mini gardens. Contact Monica Pilat at
moni31@suddenlink.net or 361-648-2515 for information, to be placed on a mailing list, or to make a reservation. Tours can be designed to meet your group’s specific educational needs.

Expansion Mini Gardens on Tour at VEG

annual/seasonal
antique rose
EarthKind rose
daylily
heirloom
international
iris
meditation
ornamental grass
patio container
patriotic
perennial
shade
tropical
terraced herb/groundcover
water garden
turf grass
xeriscape