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Tree Problems

air date: January 5, 2013

Consulting arborist Don Gardner explains why trees suffer and die in drought and how to save them. On tour, Annie Gillespie salvages an uncomfortable slope for gardens and family. Get Daphne’s tips to care for wintering bluebonnets and other spring wildflowers. Her pick of week is winter edibles to tuck into perennial beds. John Dromgoole shows how to prevent insects and disease on fruit trees.

Question of the Week

Daphne Richards

My bluebonnets are coming up. How do I care for them in winter?

Thanks to Jean Warner for this great question and to Sara Robertson for her fabulous picture! Jean’s bluebonnet plants are up and vigorously growing. She’d like to know if freezing temperatures will be a concern. What else can she do for good flowers this spring?

Most of our wildflowers sprout in the fall and spend their winters as rosettes, which are plants with shortened stems that grow very close to the ground, but not towards the sky. This strategy allows them to survive and even thrive through the worst cold that Central Texas can throw at them, so they shouldn’t be at all damaged by freezing temperatures or even snow.

The MAIN THING to do to ensure their survival is to water them when rain doesn’t come. Bluebonnets and some other wildflowers are annuals. They will only flower and set seed once. If they wither from lack of moisture, you’ll lose your spring flowers and the seeds for next year.

Depending on your soil type and the amount of natural rainfall we get, and also how sunny we are, you might need to water as much as once a month on clay soils, or a couple of times a month on really well-drained soil, rocky soils. But if we have a cool, cloudy winter, with even one or two rainfall events, you may not need to water at all. If you do water your wildflower areas, be sure to give them a deep, thorough soaking.

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Plant of the Week

Winter Vegetables

Winter Vegetables

Winter vegetables like lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, cabbage, kale, and broccoli not only provide you with food, they also look beautiful planted right in the middle of your established landscape. Most Central Texas gardeners plant these from late summer through fall, but if you got a late start or want to plant a second crop, there is still time to plant in January and February. Most local nurseries carry these cold hardy vegetables all winter long, so you don't have to worry about sprouting seeds. Also, there's really no need to plant vegetables in rows unless you just want to. A grouping of lettuces, Swiss chard, kale, and broccoli look right at home beside fall asters and Salvia greggii in your front flower bed. Include them among your perennials, which will live below ground all winter anyway, so there won't be any competition for space. They'll fill that dormant space with beauty that you can eat! The leaves of winter edibles, which are what we eat on many of them, are truly striking and provide brilliant color to what might otherwise be a drab winter landscape. Winter vegetables are naturally very resistant to cold temperatures, but an added benefit of having them planted among your landscape is that they're more protected if we get any truly cold temperatures, especially if they're well mulched, so there won't be much need to protect them on cold nights, even if we're down in the 30's. But if you want to be extra careful, protecting with light row cover should do the trick. You can also leave them past their prime harvesting when weather warms. As they prepare to flower and ultimately die, they shoot up into the sky, a process known as bolting, to provide a striking, architectural element to the garden for a brief period. Their flowers will also feed beneficial insects. As they end their life cycle, aphids will arrive on many. If you can, leave those plants to attract ladybugs to deposit their eggs for larvae that rely on aphids. Once they pupate, you'll have adult ladybugs around to fend off insects as the season progresses.

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