Don’t neglect winter garden chores

Winter is a great time to plant trees in the South. Photo courtesy of Bill Coffey.

Winter is a great time to plant trees in the South. Photo courtesy of Bill Coffey.

By Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter horticulturist

HAMMOND, La. – Most of us relax during late fall and winter. Our minds turn more toward the holiday seasons and less toward our landscaping and gardening efforts. Many activities, however, should be included in a “to-do list” of gardening tasks for December, January and February.

It is important to remember that most spring-flowering bulbs should be planted in early December.

Tulips and hyacinths must be refrigerated for six weeks before planting in late December or early January. These plants behave as annuals in Louisiana. And both work especially well in container plantings.

If you are planting cool-season bedding plants, you can remove old flowers – or deadhead – to extend flowering performance.

Plant gladiolus in mid- to late February in south Louisiana and in early to mid-March in north Louisiana. Consider ordering bulbs now to be ready for planting later. You can prolong the blooming season by planting more bulbs at two- to three-week intervals for a couple of months.

Depending on the winter growing conditions, watch azaleas for lace bugs beginning in early February in south Louisiana and late February in north Louisiana. These insects feed underneath lower foliage and cause the leaves to have numerous small white spots. Control these pests with horticultural oil sprays, spinosad or acephate.

Petunias should be planted in mid- to late winter in Louisiana. They survive frosts quite well. February is the best month to plants. Try Supertunias and the Wave types.

Winter is a great time for planting trees. January 16, 2015, is Arbor Day in Louisiana. Some excellent native tree species for Louisiana include nuttall oak, Southern red oak, willow oak, red maple, Southern magnolia, bald cypress and mayhaw.

February is the ideal time to fertilize shade trees and fruit trees. January and February are good months to prune landscape trees and any deciduous and evergreen plants that don’t flower in the spring.

Clean and sharpen tools before you put them away. Wipe the metal blades with an oily cloth to coat them with a thin layer of protective oil to help prevent corrosion. Coat wooden handles with protectants such as a sealer, tung oil or varnish.

February is a good time to plant container or bare-root roses. Bare-root rose bushes should be planted by the end of February. Early planting allows rose bushes to become established in their new locations before they begin to bloom. This increases the number and quality of flowers, and the bushes are better prepared to deal with summer heat when it arrives in May. Plant roses in sunny, well-prepared beds that have excellent drainage.

If you have ornamental grasses, prune them in late February prior to new growth. This is also the time to prune liriope. It is important to remove the brown leaves before the new growth emerges and mixes with the dead leaves. Electric hedge trimmers are a good tool to use for this job of “trimming back.”

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