Texas had generally mild weather conditions across the state after the “Arctic Express” swept through in December, resulting in new growth on some trees and plants. The recent freeze across much of Texas means that new growth could be in trouble.

While the warmer-than-average temperatures may feel pleasant in the midst of winter when we do get them, your garden may suffer from the roller coaster of temperatures experienced since the new year.

“Due to lack of chill after Christmas and the subsequent regrowth that has occurred on plants, even on cold-tolerant crops, this new growth will be very susceptible to freeze injury as our temperatures drop again,” said Larry Stein, Ph.D., horticulture specialist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Uvalde. Stein is also an associate department head and professor within the Department of Horticultural Sciences in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“These plants may need some protection as the temperatures drop,” he said. “And limb support could reduce limb breaking due to ice accumulation.”

However, this recent cool, wet weather is perfect chilling weather for fruit trees, which up until this point was lagging, Stein said. For areas where the lack of rain continues to be a problem, irrigation will be critical prior to budbreak.

While waiting to see what weather Mother Nature will dole out as spring approaches next month, Stein offered the following gardening guide for February.

Plant or transplant new trees and shrubs

Continue to plant or transplant new trees and shrubs. The sooner you get them planted, the sooner the plants can initiate new roots to really take off and grow when warmer weather comes.

Treat with herbicides

Preemergent herbicide needs to be applied and incorporated via water into your lawn now to prevent spring weeds from germinating.

Those concerned about ball moss can treat it now with a copper spray.

An assortment of winter leafy greens growing out of the soil. They are bright green with red and purple stems in the foreground. In the background the leaves are a deep purple.
Winter is the time to continue to stagger plantings of leafy greens, leaf lettuce, kale and collards. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Laura McKenzie)

Pot frost-sensitive plants       

Frost-sensitive transplants such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants can be purchased and potted into larger containers. This will make for a larger plant with a vigorous root system to set out mid-to-late March.

Prune roses, plant potatoes and leafy greens

We typically use Valentine’s Day as the day to prune rose bushes and plant Irish potatoes, Stein said.

Continue to stagger plantings of leafy greens, leaf lettuce, kale and collards. You still have time to plant onion plants.

A person over looks a freeze damaged Orange Frost Mandarin Hybrid. A hand holds a damaged brown branch with leaves.
A citrus tree after a freeze. Plants may need extra protection against freezes after experiencing a mild few weeks at the start of the year and new growth may be affected. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Courtney Sacco)

Care for fruit trees and woody ornamentals

Complete the pruning of your fruit trees as they begin to bloom. Treat fruit trees with dormant oil prior to budbreak.

Fertilize woody ornamentals with a 3-1-2 slow-release fertilizer toward the end of the month.

Remove thatch, utilize mulch

Scalp your lawn toward the end of the month to remove any thatch layer you may have and promote spring green-up.

A close up of mulch on the ground, which can be used to protect plant's new growth. Various shades of brown organic material comprise it.
Dropped leaves can be gathered and utilized as part of your mulch. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Laura McKenzie)

Thatch is the layer of intermingled living and dead and organic matter that accumulates between the actively growing grass and the surface of the soil. It can help provide an excellent growing environment for grasses, but excess thatch can prevent water and oxygen from reaching plant roots and create conditions for diseases.

As live oaks drop their leaves, collect them to use as mulch in your garden and flower beds.

For more gardening advice, explore Aggie Horticulture’s diverse and robust educational resources and programs.

Susan Himes
Susan Himes is a writer and media relations specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife. She writes news releases and features from science-based information generated by the agency. She also covers human interest stories and events across the state.
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