Special to the PRESS
Now that we are in the final week of March, we are all over the “shock” of the devastating freeze that affected all plants throughout the entire state of Texas.
After five weeks of recovery, I am seeing many plants showing signs of life: mainly from the bottom half of the plant or even from the roots at ground level. A few weeks ago, I mentioned to start lawn irrigation like you would in a normal “early spring” year. All plants need watering now since our soils are very dry and that will start the recovery process.
Now the next step is feeding and starting now would be a great time to start fertilizing the lawn, trees, shrubs and even your potted plants. With green leaves emerging the plants are showing that they are still alive and now they can complete the process of photosynthesis: the ability of pulling nutrients from the roots, all the way up to the new growth. Congratulations, your plants are showing that they have survived so just continue the TLC and by late April or May they will be back to 100%.
Lawns are rebounding as well, and fertilizing now will help them “green up” and “fill in” where the brown areas were. Hopefully by now you have “raked out” the brown areas of the lawn, if not, that is what is holding up the greening of your lawn. If the majority of your turf grass is brown, you will need to remove that by either “scalping” the dead grass by running the lawnmower at its lowest setting and mowing off the dead tips. Usually this will require raking up those clippings if you do not have a bag on your mower. Once you have done that you should see the green grass below and now that it can get the sun it will now start emerging quickly.
Feeding the lawn now will help your grass to have the nutrients needed to fully recover from any freeze damage. Your watering “run times” for sprinkler systems should be set for two days a week. Try to stay with that schedule throughout the year. If you feel that you need more water then run the sprinklers longer to ensure a deeper soaking. I would like for you to stick to the twice a week schedule throughout the active growing months and only vary from that (possibly) in the heat of summer when you might want to add one more day. The two day watering will provide a deeper root system and eventually build a tougher and healthier lawn. Watering anymore than two to possibly three times a week results in shallow root systems and leaves your lawn grass much more susceptible to lawn fungus.
Last week, I mentioned vegetable planting and the need to plant your vegetable plants on time. For the most part in this area we want to plant as early as possible so your vegetable plants can mature and produce as much fruit as possible before the heat starting in late May. With the exception of tomato plants, I think if you plant now you will be alright. Remember that tomato plants can take 3 to 4 months to have mature, ripened fruit. If planted today, many of the tomato varieties will either not set fruit in the intense heat or the tomato plant will suffer in general from the heat and be fair game for insects that are ready to pounce on weakened plants. The nurseries are full of tomato plants now, so choose varieties that will mature in the 50 to 80 day range. Almost all varieties of cherry and grape tomatoes would be great performers at this time of planting and they can continue producing further into the summer months. I know everyone wants the big tomato for slicing and on hamburgers, but these require 90 to 120 days to ripen and by that time the heat will be taking its toll on them. Remember tomato planting for the fall season starts as soon as late August. That is the next best time to plant those larger varieties.
In closing, I would suggest checking the nurseries for plants that you may want or need for replacing frozen plants. The nurseries are basically facing a “feeding frenzy,” and people are grabbing plants as fast as they can be unloaded from the trucks. With that kind of demand, the prices are naturally going to rise and possibly rise more as availability becomes much less. Your first reaction to this is that they are price gouging, but this situation is not like the demand problems of the Coronavirus situation.
Products like toilet paper, hand sanitizer and bottled water can be produced, packaged and delivered very quickly as compared to plant material. For example, a 1 gallon shrub will take at least nine months before it is a marketable size. For small trees it will take close to two years to be ready to sell. My advice is to be checking at the nurseries and stay informed about the availability of plants.
Editor’s Note: Robert Lewis is owner and operator of J&R Landscaping and Nursery in Laguna Heights, Texas. Give them a call at (956) 433-5109.