By Janet Laminack, County Extension Officer – Horticulture, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Denton County
Now that the Christmas decorations have fallen, you might be wondering what to do in your garden during those warm winter days. Perennials can be pruned now, but how far do you go? Perennials like Turkish bonnet and lantana die to the ground, so you can remove all that growth. Some perennials retain their leaves such as rosemary and lavender and do not need to be pruned. Other perennials will indeed have some dieback, while some may just be ugly-dormant. For these plants, or when in doubt, start pruning at the tip and stop when you find green in the branch. Ornamental grasses can be pruned, but I like to wait because they always look good. Sometime before March, I would suggest pruning ornamental grasses, leaving a height of six inches.
The trees don’t really need pruning very often, but it seems to make some people very happy to prune them. Pruning is recommended if the trees are damaged or dangerous and removing dead branches is always acceptable. Trimming a tree because it is too tall or too wide is not recommended. It will be an ongoing battle and you better replace it with a more suitable tree. Sometimes people want to “limb” a tree so they can mow under the tree without losing their minds. It’s a good idea. And, sometimes, trimming a tree to allow your house to be seen is also desirable. However, the limbing can be exaggerated and becomes called “lion’s tail”. If you want to remove a few branches, limit yourself to only removing branches up to 5-6 feet.
Crepe myrtles are usually topped or polled, which is not necessary. They will bloom again without being pruned. In addition, pruning them severely can weaken the structure of the tree. But, again, if it makes you happy to prune your crape myrtles, then I think you should stick with it. Life is short.
Why not try growing some of your own food this year? The peaches are doing well here and it is actually a tree that needs pruning every year. A win-win for you pruning enthusiasts! Pecans make great shade trees and will make the squirrels in your neighborhood very happy. Blackberries are one of the crops best suited to our region. They grow into medium to tall shrubs but can have vicious thorns (believe there are thornless varieties).
If you’re more into vegetables, it’s almost time to start planting. Many crops are planted in mid-February, such as lettuce, onion, broccoli and parsley. The Denton County Master Gardeners have put together a beginner’s guide to gardening which you can find under the North Texas Gardening tab on the dcmga.com website. Also check for upcoming courses on all sorts of gardening topics.
But do not forget that winter is also a period of rest. We could all do better if we followed nature’s example a little more. So this season, give yourself the opportunity to take life a little slower.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension provides equal opportunity in its programs and employment to all persons, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation or gender identity. Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Texas County Commissioners Courts Cooperate