Calvin R. Finch, Ph.D., Conservation Manager, San Antonio Water System,
Week of January 14, 2002
Q. The freezes that we had after New Year froze all of my perennials including lantana, esperanza, firebush, salvia, and ruellia. Can I cut them back now or should I wait?
A. You can cut them back to the ground at any time now. Some gardeners wait until late February because the remnants of the plants provide shelter for foraging birds.
Q. What are the bright yellow and black birds that are eating seed at our thistle feeders? They are smaller than the goldfinches.
A. The birds you describe are lesser goldfinches. Unlike American goldfinches, they are year-round residents of South Texas and do not have drab winter plumage.
Q. At our church we have a garden area surrounded by sidewalks. It was not designed right and now everyone cuts through. We tried signs and appeals from the pulpit but to no avail. Should we give up and pave it over? Are there any other ideas?
A. Sometimes short picket fences work. They are attractive in some situations. A solution I have used in the past for planting areas that are subject to traffic is to plant thorny species. Martha Gonzales rose is a beautiful plant 3-ft. tall with small red roses all season. The thorns are not savage but do discourage foot traffic. Dwarf Chinese holly is also effective; it only reaches 18 to 24 inches tall and makes a great border and/or barrier.
Q. Is there anything that we should be planting in the vegetable garden now?
A. Spinach, broccoli, and cabbage transplants should be planted for early spring production. Onion plants and potatoes should also be planted. English peas are temperamental but if the weather cooperates will produce if planted now.
Q. We neglected to get our bougainvillea in before the freeze. Do you think its ruined?
A. It depends on where the containers were located. The tops are probably dead, but if the plants were in a sheltered spot, the roots may still be alive