Ground rules and tools for January
January 4, 2007

With the holiday festivities becoming a memory, gardeners find themselves itching to get into the garden and landscape, but not able to because of the inclement weather.
There are several things one can do during this month when the days do allow the gardener outside. If they're not able to get outside, there are fun projects that the gardener can plan for those good weather days using catalogues and magazines.

Time To Plant

January is the best time to plant bare-root or container-grown fruit and nut trees as well as grapes and roses. Trees such as live oak, shumard (Texas) red oak, red bud, and crape myrtles can also be planted during the next 45 days.
The pecan is native to 150 counties in Texas as well as being the state tree. It is quite popular both from its aesthetic value and for its tasty nuts. If planting pecan trees, check with the County Extension Office as to which varieties are best for your area. Be sure that you plant these trees 25-30 feet from a home or other structure and that the site gets six hours of sun per day.

After planting, water regularly.


Sioux— A great yard tree with super quality nuts.

Pawnee— An early producing pecan tree. Watch crows as they may find the nuts first. This tree may
                 have an aphid problem; don’t plant over driveways, picnic tables or parking lots as the tree tends
                 to drip ‘honey dew’.

Desirable—A very consistent yield and good nut quality; may need fungicide protection in rainy weather.
Caddo— A medium/small nut, excellent quality, easy shelling, minimal problems.
Forkert— Disease resistant, very good quality.
Prilop of Lavaca (a native) – Easy shelling with a thin shell, very good quality.

Source: Victoria County Extension
Information from Victoria County Extension Agent Joe Janak

*Other varieties may be recommended for commercial production

Seedling trees—Take a nut from a tree that is producing well and plant it.  They may take 10-18 years for
If planting roses, be sure that the site drains well. Prepare the soil beforehand with 4-6 inches of organic material, such as composted pine bark mulch, peat or compost, prior to tilling to a depth of 8-10 inches. (Neil Sperry's Gardens, Jan/Feb 2005) Set the roses out at the same depth they were growing in the containers adding several inches of mulch; then water well to remove air pockets.

This is also a good time to transplant any small, woody plants; be sure that you get the entire root ball when transplanting. Place a good layer of organic mulch around the base and water thoroughly. If plants need extra protection during the cold nights, cover with cloth rather than plastic. Nurseries now have insulated plastic that stays dry, but be sure to remove when the sun comes out.

Resist the urge to prune those spring flowering plants (Indian hawthorn, mountain laurel, flowering peach, climbing roses and althea). It is best to prune these AFTER their blooming season is over.

In your flower garden, this is the time to plant bluebonnet, dianthus, pansy, and snapdragon transplants. Dusty Miller can be set out now; with its silvery leaves, the garden will resemble snow. Sow seeds in flats for your vegetable and flower garden now.

Time To Prune

While deciduous trees are now in their dormant state, it is the right time for pruning. Trees should be pruned back to their natural shape removing any limbs that might be brushing walls or are broken. Never prune the tops of the trees - crape myrtles included.

If any shrubs experienced frost/freeze damage, those limbs need to be removed cleanly. Wait until next month, after Feb. 14, to prune roses in your landscape.

Time To Fertilize

January/February is the best time to fertilize pansies, snapdragons and dianthus with a slow release high nitrogen fertilizer. Bedding plants can be fertilized at the rate of 1 pound per 100 square feet, according to Dr. Jerry Parsons, Extension Horticulturist (Neil Sperry's Gardens, Jan/Feb. 2005).

Time To Spray

Be on the lookout for scale on camellias, hollies, fruit and nut trees. Scale appears as white/brownish dots on the underside of the foliage or on trunks and stems. Spray with dormant oil, according to the label instructions, getting the undersides of plants in order to achieve control of the pest.

Wait for the temperature outside to be above freezing for 48 hours before spraying dormant oil.

Watch for snail and slug damage on pansies and other annuals. To get rid of theses pests, apply baits as necessary. Keep your eye on narrow-leafed evergreens in case you spot the bagworm sacks; remove those sacks by hand.

Time To Clean

On those warmer winter days, the gardener can clean and sharpen the garden tools, mowing equipment, and pruning equipment. Be sure that the mower is set at the right height for your type of turf grass - 2 inches high for St. Augustine grasses, zoysia, Buffalograss and centipede. Bermuda grass requires the mower to be set at 1 1/2 inches high.

If cleaning clay pots, wash first in a soapy solution and then soak in a chlorine bath of 10 percent bleach and 90 percent water. Let air dry before stacking back into the hothouse or storage area.

Time To Dream

Some gardeners enjoy this down time by attending garden club meetings or classes sponsored by area Extension offices or community colleges. And don't forget to check out the latest garden books in the public library or local bookstores to help develop those new ideas for your garden spaces, whether it be new flowerbeds or an herb garden.

The many gardening magazines (try
Neil Sperry's Gardens, the Texas Gardener for great ideas) can help with your selection of new plants for your landscape. Most of these are on the Internet also.

Another great resource is the Texas A & M horticultural Web site, Wonderful ways to enjoy gardening during the dreary days of winter are to confer with your gardening buddies or check with the Victoria County Master Gardener Association about when to plant or what to plant and what's new in gardening for our area.

In January, the gardener can stay busy with planting, pruning, cleaning and dreaming before the busy days of spring arrive.

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, or comment on this column at