For The Answer
Week of January 27, 2003
February is the major gardening month in San Antonio.
Early in the month plant the cool weather vegetables such as broccoli, onion, and cabbage transplants. It is also time to plant carrot, radish, turnip, rutabaga, and chard seed. Potatoes should be planted in hills. Onions require heavy fertilization. A cup of slow release lawn fertilizer per 8 ft. of row every month is not too much.
If you planted winter rye as a green manure and nematode trap last fall, mow it down in mid February and till it up so the material can begin decomposing before you plant the warm season vegetables in March and April.
February is pruning month. Prune fruit trees to control height, open up the middle for light and air movement, and to stimulate the production of new fruiting wood. Visit plantanswers.com for pruning diagrams.
Prune hybrid tea roses in the same manner as fruit trees. The best time to prune roses seems to be in the week after Valentines Day most years. Postpone pruning climbing roses until after the spring flush of blooms, usually June. Begin your rose spray program after you prune. Most rose growers use Funginex for fungus and orthene for insects. Organic gardeners can try sulfur, neem oil, and pyrethrin. Old-fashioned roses are usually only pruned to remove dead wood and to control size.
Pansies, cyclamen, snapdragons, broccoli, onions, sweet peas, carrots, stocks, spinach, and rutabagas all made it through the freeze as we would expect. Beets and lettuce also survived. Do not forget to fertilize actively growing cool weather plants every month.
On most sites the root-hardy woody ornamentals (esperanza, poinciana) lost their leaves, but the stems are not frozen. We may get more cold weather that will kill them to the ground but, for now, the stems are alive and you can expect them to resprout in March or April. Even the stems of bougainvillea, oriental hibiscus, mandevillea, and plumeria are probably still alive. There is still time to get them inside shelter. If we get another freeze, one cold enough to kill the stems, you can expect to lose a good portion of the plants.
Even salvias, lantana, plumbago, and rock rose were not killed to the ground. They, like the esperanza and poinciana, will sprout from the stems, but it is not as desirable. All of them have a tendency to get woody and untidy if they do not resprout from the roots. Leave them in place for a while longer to provide cover and feeding area for songbirds. In mid February, they can be cut back to the ground.
Most St. Augustine, Bermuda, zoysia, and buffalo grass lawns had already gone dormant, but there were a few still green and growing. All of them now will be brown until mid April. Keep the winter weeds under control by mowing every two or three weeks. Do not waste water or fertilizer now. The only plants that would benefit are the winter weeds. Fertilize on or about May 1.
It sometimes gets cold at night, but the days are wonderful in San Antonio in February. If you are looking for a job in the landscape that will allow you some exercise and provide year-round benefits, consider aerating and top dressing.
Aerators rent for about $30 for two hours at your neighborhood rental shop. Insist on using the aerator that cuts plugs that are laid on the surface of the lawn. They are more effective than the spike type aerators. Aeration opens up compacted soil to water, nutrient and oxygen penetration. For even more benefit apply .5 inch of compost over the surface of the lawn after you aerate. The compost filters into the aeration holes to bring the organic material into the root zone. Top dressing a lawn improves water-holding capability, drainage, and soil structure. One cubic yard of compost costs about $30/cu. yd. when delivered in 5 cu. yd. units. The yard will cover about 540 sq. ft. at .5 inches deep.
Spreading top dressing is a great “daydream” job. It is light material that is easy to spread and you can daydream about fishing, gardening, romance, or whatever else pleases you. If you do not have the time or inclination to spread top dressing yourself, ask your compost supplier about a spreading service. For a bout $55/cu. yd. one company, Oak Hills Top Soil & Mulch of Boerne (phone: 830-249-3575), will spread it for you with a machine that works like a reverse vacuum cleaner.
February is a good month to plant fruit trees, shade trees, shrubs, and perennials.
The live oak leaves fall in February or March. Use them for mulch or let them decompose on the lawn. To speed up the process, run the lawn mower over them. The leaves provide some of the same benefits of top dressing with compost.
February is the best time to kill ball moss if it bothers you. Use Kocide 101 or baking soda. Ball moss does not hurt the tree, so it is not necessary to kill it.