Don’t delay these year-end tasks for North Texas gardeners

Tax advisers, workout specialists (disguised as weight-loss bosses), and spouses all have their “suggestions” of things we need to do before the Old Year winds down. Well, add me to that list, gardener. I’ve brought my stack of things that really shouldn’t wait until you get around to them. (Happy holidays!)

Don’t let that poinsettia wilt! If you do that just one time, it’s going to shed big batches of leaves. Do it two times and it’s going to look like a palm tree with a red top. You don’t want to keep it soggy wet, of course, but just don’t let it wilt. (You don’t need to feed it, to answer the question you didn’t ask.)

Prune mistletoe out of your trees. It is a parasite. Think of it as ticks on a dog. (Kinda ruins the romantic side of mistletoe.) The best way to get rid of it for good is to prune it out just as it gets started. It almost always sprouts on small twigs where birds wipe the sticky seeds off their beaks. If you leave it in place for two or three years the mistletoe grows larger as do the twigs. You end up removing entire branches. It’s much better to use a long-handled tree pruner to clip off the tips while it’s still just getting started.

Check fridge for bulbs you’ve been cooling. Every year I get five or 10 calls from people who find a bag of bulbs hiding in the backs of their refrigerators as they clean out the holiday leftovers. They were put there in fall to give them the required pre-chilling. They won’t last until next year, so you might as well plant them as quickly as possible.

Don’t leave living Christmas trees indoors too long. Plants acclimate to warmer indoor conditions. They also dry out from the low humidity. Nothing good happens to living plants that are kept indoors for more than a week, then are set out into the landscape. They’re either desiccated already, or they freeze with the first cold front.

One last pass across the lawn with the mower. Get the last of the tree leaves picked up and mulched. Trim off the rank winter weeds. Even up all the fall turfgrass growth. It will all look better for your efforts.

Cut frost cloth and have it ready to protect tender plants. This lightweight material is nothing short of amazing. It’s almost like gauze, yet it offers six to eight degrees of protection from cold winter temperatures. It holds in the radiant energy that gets stored up in the soil, plus it stops the drying effects of the cold winds. Buy it before you need it, because nurseries may not have it when you want it if you don’t.

Stay current with landscape irrigation. Don’t let your plants go into cold spells dry. Dry plants are hurt much more seriously than plants that are properly hydrated. Mulching your beds also helps. Plus, mulches look good. The best-dressed beds are wearing them.

Spot treat winter weeds with appropriate weedkillers. Dandelions are already going to seed. Henbit, chickweed and clover are actively growing. All these and other non-grassy weeds can be controlled with a broadleafed weedkiller spray carefully applied directly to the new growth. Use a pump sprayer (as opposed to hose-end) for the best results, and spray on a warm and sunny day. If you leave these in place they will only grow larger and uglier. As it turns colder you won’t be able to spray until February or March.

Please, oh please, don’t top your crape myrtles. Just because you have a few hours off, and just because it’s winter, does not mean that you need to go out and behead your beautiful crape myrtles. There is never a justifiable reason for doing so. If your plant is too large and topping is your only way of containing it, either move it to a more spacious setting, or remove it entirely. Just don’t top it. That would ruin its nature form and beauty forever, plus topping delays the first bloom by eight or 10 weeks in the summer.

Shred fallen tree leaves and put them into the compost pile. OK. I’ll give that this isn’t going to happen. At least not with all the football games, family in town to visit, meals and parties happening. But it ought to be happening. My to-do list wouldn’t be complete without it. And so now my work here is done. (How’s yours coming?)

source: star-telegram

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