Rohde’s January Organic Gardening Calendar
Daylight Savings Time begins Sunday March 14, 2010, 2:00 am.
Average Date of Last Spring Frost: March 15th, 2010.
First day of Spring (Spring Equinox): March 20, 2010; 12:32 pm CDT (Central Daylight Time).
We are in USDA Cold Hardiness Zone 8a with an annual minimum temperature of 15 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit and in Texas AgriLife Extension District 4 (East Region) - North (Dallas).
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! It’s a new year. If you’re like me, you didn’t get around to or finished all the things you wanted to do or we recommended you do in past Rohde’s Gardening Calendars. So now you have to do everything while it’s cold. But January is still a good time to plant, and a better time to prune. A warm day in January may still be better than a warm day in spring with the mosquitoes and high humidity.
First, we need to get an idea of what the weather for winter and spring is going to be. We are in an El Niño weather pattern right now. This was announced July 9th by NOAA after tracking data from Pacific weather buoys scattered all over the ocean. El Niño is a periodic warming of central and eastern tropical Pacific waters. It happens on average every two to five years and typically lasts about a year. La Niña is sort of the opposite affect. The Pacific weather doesn’t alternate between these two patterns on a strict schedule. There are times of “normal” weather in between and all three patterns occur for varying lengths of time. There are more or less severe cases of El Niño and of La Niña too. This El Niño started out mildly and while thought to increase in effect, it may stay mild through spring. The effects of El Niño in the U.S. shows up most clearly during the wintertime, though it’s most likely responsible for the wet fall we’ve had. While El Niño is a Pacific Ocean phenomenon and is only one of a number of factors that can effect the terrestrial U.S. weather, it will likely result in above average rainfall and a little below average temperatures in the winter and spring around here based on historical records.
What would be the results of a cooler and wetter winter and spring?
- Cool season spring vegetables and flowers should benefit if it’s cool enough, and all plants will enjoy ample moisture of a wet spring.
- Germination of warm season weeds may be pushed back to a uniform germination time if it’s cool, giving us a more successful treatment with Corn Gluten Meal. A wet spring will mean more weeds.
- Fungal and bacteria problems will be favored. Get ready to treat lawn Brown Patch outbreaks with the Corn Meal and Actinovate we carry. For fungal problems on trees, crape myrtles, bushes, roses, and other vegetation we carry a good selection of anti-fungal plant oils like Organocide, Safer products, and Neem oil, along with Sulfur products and Potassium Bicarbonate. You may consider coming by now to stock up while the selection is good. Also consider having us aerate your lawn to help combat fungal problems. Back fill the aeration holes with compost &/or lava sand for maximum benefit. A wet spring means poor digging, so lets us help you with aerating, designing, and preparation of your landscape now so we can schedule around the dry periods.
- Transplants are usually better in cool wet springs than seeds as they are more resistant to damping off fungus. We will have a nice selection of recommended and uncommon flowers and vegetables for you to choose from when its time to plant them.
- Fungus, bacteria, and late freezes can also affect the bugs, infecting and killing their eggs and larva.
- Some bugs though, like wet spring weather. Mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, ants, termites, thrips, aphids, slugs, snails, sow bugs, and pill bugs can be as much of a problem than the normal plant-eating bugs. Be prepared with Sluggo for slugs, Nematodes for fire ants, fleas, and grubs, Garlic and Cedar oil repellants for mosquitoes, and Orange Oil and DE for general spot treatment control.
- For those bad garden bugs that like wet springs, their predatory buddies do too. We carry Trichogramma wasps, lacewings, and ladybugs to get the population going.
- Lush growth in the spring will mean lots of varmints in the summer and fall. This includes rodents. We carry an assortment of traps and baits for these fellows too.
What to Transplant
Protect small plants against severe cold until they are well established.
Plant Asparagus crowns (we have three year old root stocks), Broccoli, Cabbage, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Potatoes, Spinach, Strawberries and Turnips
Toward the end of January, plant Onion Slips, Shallots, Snap-type English Peas.
If you’re growing lettuce or spinach already, you can cut or pick leaves off instead of pulling it all up at one time. They will keep producing into spring until the heat causes them to bolt.
You can cut off the heads to cauliflower, chard and Brussels sprouts to keep them producing also if you don’t hack them up. Carefully use a sharp knife and don’t damage the plant crowns or stems.
Watch for cabbage loopers in your cole crops, use Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).
If you planted onion sets in the fall, start thinning them out for green onions so that plants are about six inches apart. This will give them the room to grow as big as they will get.
What to Sow/Seeds
For the Dallas area, seeds for flowers, herbs and vegetables are normally started indoors or in a greenhouse 6 to 10 weeks before last killing freeze. Average last freeze is March 15th for Dallas. So purchase your seeds in December or January and start them in January through February.
Start seeds indoors or in a greenhouse for broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, lettuce, parsley, radish, petunias and begonias.
Start seeds in late January for Carrot, leek, leaf lettuce, parsnip, garden pea, rutabaga, spinach, shallot, Tomato, pepper and eggplant.
Cold weather covers: If you have tender plants in your garden and would like to extend their lives, cover them with purchased crop covers, or use old sheets, blankets, tarps, or buy or make cold frames or “hoop” houses. With floating row covers (floating means just laying on the plants) you are looking for something that breathes if you have to use it for more than a night or so. This generally means no plastics. Plastics can be used on cold frames and hoop houses though if it doesn’t touch the plants. A sealed clear plastic cover, while letting sunlight in during the day, can make the inside colder than the night air. On clear, cloudless nights, radiant heat can be sucked into space from under the plastic and bring the temperature down to freezing even if the ambient air is above freezing. So let the plants breath.
Add cedar, hardwood, or pine straw mulch to bedding areas and bare soil before freezes. Mulching doesn’t really keep the ground warmer over long periods, but helps insulate, slowing down temperature swings and letting the plants adjust easier.
Keep your cool season plants well fertilized. Strong plants can deal with freezing weather better. Also try using Green Sense Kelp Extract liquid fertilizer. Kelp contains many micronutrients that help plants make it through the winter in their best shape.
Don’t forget to water if it doesn’t rain. It can be easy to over water now, since your landscape doesn’t dry out as fast, but it does dry out. Many plants go dormant when it drops below freezing, but if the ground is not frozen, a lot of plant roots still grow. Hydrated plants survive freezing weather much easier than dry plants, so check the ground moisture before freezes. You may notice that Mother Nature usually has rain leading the cold fronts that bring freezing temperatures.
If your plants do turn to toast from the freezes, be sure to remove the dead plants (and weeds too) for composting. Pest and Disease can over-winter in the dead material. This is also the reason to replace and compost your mulch at the end of the growing season.
Plant cold hardy herbs; Chervil, Chives, Cilantro, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, lavender, rue, dill, and fennel. Dill and fennel may be less cold hardy. You may need to cover them during freezes.
Plant herbs in your empty annual beds to give the beds life through the winter along with fresh ingredients for cooking.
While it’s a little late, you can still try to plant cold hardy annuals like Diantus, Ornamental Kale, Ornamental Cabbage, Pansies, and Snapdragon, but remember that young, un-established plants are much more susceptible to freezing weather.
All Perennials can be transplanted anytime including flowers. Fall is the best time, winter is next best. You want them established by spring.
If you are in sandy acid soils of East Texas or the Post Oak Woods of Denton County, you can plant Camellias. If you live in black Clay soils you can plant them in pots.
Late January is also the time to start seeds for transplants of spring and summer blooming annuals.
Apply water-soluble fertilizer to get newly planted annuals off to a good start. Green Sense Kelp Extract used with soil watering is an excellent root stimulator, and Green Sense Foliar Juice is perfect for spraying on the foliage month during the winter.
Fertilize houseplants and greenhouse plants once during the winter with Rohde’s Green Sense Earthworm Castings.
Fertilize, water, mulch, and cover any plants that may be damaged by freeze.
Again, don’t over water, but don’t forget to water. Stick your finger in the soil to be sure your plants need watering.
You can still plant Ornamental Grasses. Rohde’s carries a large selection of varieties that do well here. They can work great with your fall-flowering perennials in your landscape, giving nice contrast with interesting seed heads and fall colors. During the winter they can enliven your sleeping yards with their distinctive shapes and graceful rustling foliage.
As an alternative to planting a few different kinds of grasses for variety, do a wall of one kind as a backdrop for other plants, ornaments, or landscape features. They can also screen unsightly views of neighbors, sheds, fences or section of your property.
Grasses are susceptible to crown rot, especially in winter. Most like well drained soils and sun. Cut back grasses to short clumps in early spring. You can divide clumps every three years or so as some will do better.
Trees, Shrubs and Vines
This is still one of the best times to plant new trees, shrubs, and vines. Plants endure less drought and heat stress, and their roots have months to grow and become established before spring growth begins.
Come to Rohde’s if you're planning on buying trees and shrubs. Ask about our delivery, planting, and warranties. Don’t forget the soil amendments; Green Sense Kelp Extracts for root stimulation, Green Sense Mycor granules to inoculate the plant with mycorrhizae fungi, compost, and a variety of mulches.
Consider some rarely used trees this fall. Larger trees to consider; Montezuma Cypress, Cedar Elm, Lacey Oak, Chinkapin Oak, Texas Ash, or Bur Oak. Some smaller trees to look at; Texas Mountain-Laurel, Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum, Desert-Willow, Eve's Necklace, Goldenball Leadtree, or American Smoketree.
Hollies and nandinas are good for foundation plantings. They come in manageable heights and have a variety of different leaf shapes, colors, and styles.
Plant shrubs with winter berries or colorful foliage to brighten up the winter landscape. Hollies, Pyracanthas, Nandinas, Chinese Photinias, Mahonias, Purple Wintercreeper, Euonymus, Junipers, and Cleyeras are options.
Plant evergreens as an interest for deciduous plants or use as background or as a divider for your landscape.
Plant bareroot or potted fruit and nut trees, berries, and grapes.
Many fruit trees, berries, and grapes become available in bare root form in January. Common fruit trees are not native to black clay soils, so they need special treatment. They have specific pruning requirements and pest controls for best growth and productivity. This should be planned for before planting using a planting and pruning guide for your trees. Rohde’s has books on growing fruit trees that will help you pick out and maintain your trees properly.
Now’s the best time to prune most everything through to February when the plants are dormant. This is most important for Oaks trees that are susceptible to Oak Decline disease. This disease is carried by Sap Beetles that will come to the sap oozing out of the saw wounds. It is very important to apply Rohde’s Green Sense Tree Goop to the wounds immediately and to insure it stays on for two days till the wound’s sap hardens. Green Sense Tree Goop is a powder you mix with water to a paste. It contains rock phosphate and dairy manure for nutrients to help the wound heal quicker, and Diatomaceous Earth to help keep insects away from the wound.
When pruning, remove dead, damaged, troublesome, or diseased branches. You also can prune to shape trees and shrubs.
Most source suggest there is no need to pruning crape myrtles to remove the seed heads and most especially the severe for the practice of “topping” the tree where all of the branches are cut way back. Outside of dead branches or “in-the-way” branches, try not to prune anything any larger than pencil size. Wait till end of December through to February to prune. Early winter pruning could cause freeze damage to the tree.
Do not prune knees from bald cypress trees – they are part of the root system. Instead change the root zone areas from grass to ground cover or mulch.
Do not prune cold-tender plants such as: oleander, pittosporum, and palms. If the top parts freeze, it can still protect the ground level crown from dying. Wait to prune till after the last freeze.
Reshape shrubs including summer flowering shrubs and vines with light pruning as needed, but do not prune spring-flowering shrubs or vines until after they bloom. Prune evergreen shrubs limb-by-limb to retain natural form instead of shearing to a ball or box shape.
Transplant established landscape plants (trees, shrubs, etc) now that they are in their winter dormancy. Read November’s Calendar comments before attempting though.
Clean up fallen leaves, fruit, and nuts, old mulch, and other yard material, particularly around roses, and fruit and nut trees, that may harbor wintering pests and disease. Compost the yard litter well to destroy any pathogens. May need to shred the litter and subject it to solarization prior to composting. Solarization is commonly used to control weeds and pests in the soil prior to planting. Expose the well-moistened crop or yard residues, layered and sealed between two sheets of clear plastic, to several days of sunshine to kill pests and disease organisms.
Reapply any mulch taken up and add to old mulch to bring to a 3-inch layer. Keep the mulch from contacting the trunks or stems of the plants to prevent rot.
Do not throw any fallen leaves or grass clipping away. Either compost them or shred them with the lawn mower and use as mulch.
Remove mistletoe from tree limbs, while it is still young (less than one year old), even if it means removing the entire branch. There is no other control.
Apply thick layer of mulch around shrubs and perennials.
Lawn and Turf Grasses
You can plant grass sod anytime you can find it.
Plant ground covers and borders.
Spray your lawn and landscape once a month with Green Sense Kelp Extract or Rohde’s Liquid Foliar Juice, which contains Kelp Extract. The Kelp’s potassium, minerals, and growth hormones help harden your plants for winter. For the same reason Kelp Extract is used for a root stimulant, it will increase root growth during the winter for better spring performance. A foliar spraying of Kelp also improves fall flowering and helps with disease and pest control.
Watering and Mowing
Don’t stop watering, but cut back to an inch every 2 weeks if it doesn’t rain, and the ground is dry. It’s better to water in the morning. Letting the grass go a little dry is better.
Water plants and turf before freezes if they are dry. Hydrated plants are hardier, especially evergreen plants. Moist soil also holds more of the daytime warmth.
Pests, Disease and Weeds
Fallen leaves: Mow, rake, shred, compost, and mulch beds. A few dry leaves blowing around your yard is no problem, but if you get a heavy fall of leaves on your yard, they can pack down when wet, cutting off air and holding moisture on your grass. In the wet, cool fall, this is a perfect place for fungus to grow. It can take hold and take out your grass underneath very quickly.
General Pests and Diseases
Watch for pill bugs (sow bugs, rollie-pollies) eating seedlings and young transplants of winter and spring flowering annuals. For organic treatment for slugs, snails, and pill bugs, use diatomaceous earth, hot pepper and beneficial nematodes. Also cayenne pepper powder dusted can repeal them. A citrus oil spray can be used if there are a lot of them.
Scale, mealy bugs and other bugs can over winter on your trees or shrubs. Pecan and fruit trees, euonymus, camellias and holly are favorite hosts. Spray with a vegetable based dormant oil. Following product label directions avoid harming your plants.
Plastic cups sunk in the ground and filled with beer attract and drown slugs and snails.
Watch for spider mites, mealy bugs, scale and other insects on your house plants. Rohde’s has plant oil based sprays for tender houseplants.
Rohde’s carries “Precor”, an insect growth regulator, for treating your house for fleas. One 1-ounce bottle will treat 1500 square feet. We also carry “food grade” diatomaceous earth for ticks, fleas, bed bugs, cockroaches, and many other indoor insects.
Other Things to Do this Month
Have landscape and garden soil tested now to know how to prepare your gardens and lawns for the spring. Rohde’s recommends “Texas Plant & Soil Lab” at 5115 West Monte Cristo Road, Edinburg, Texas 78541-8852, 956-383-0739. They can give you organic recommendations.
Don’t forget the wildlife. Rohde’s has a very good selection of bird feeders, bird houses, and bird baths. You can put out different feeders for different seeds, and suet, for particular birds, so the different species don’t have to compete with each other. You will get to watch the birds fly between the feeders checking out their favorites. Try squirrel feeders. It will keep them out of the bird feeders somewhat, and they can be very entertaining themselves. Bird bathes can be heated to keep them from freezing up, and they supply water for animals other than birds. Cats, squirrels, opossums, raccoons, insects will all use them. Keep them clean.
With most lawn and gardening chores at a minimum, now’s a good time to plan for next year:
- Send off for seed catalogs and place orders now for best selections and so you will have them for spring.
- Prepare old planting areas or create new planting areas for spring planting. Rohde’s has designers to help with your planning and crews to help with your preparations.
- Design and build a compost pile.
- Design, install or repair irrigation and/or drip systems while everything is dormant or dead.
- If you want to stay inside during the cold, read some books. Rohde’s has a great selection of fundamental books on plants, the organic methods, pest and diseases, and insects that apply to our area.
- And there are years and years of these past newletters to read too.
Most of this calendar is designed for Dallas, Tx in USDA Hardiness Zone 8a, with a predominant soil type of blackland prairie clay.