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SKIP RICHTER: Timely Tips for Weekend Gardening

SKIP RICHTER: Timely Tips for Weekend Gardening

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Plant cool season color

Don’t give up on color for the cool season. The cold hardy champs of our cool season landscapes are pansies, viola, ornamental cabbage and kale. Yet there are many other flowers that will make it through most of our relatively mild winters including stock, snapdragons, alyssum, dianthus, cyclamen and dusty miller (foliage) if covered when a hard freeze threatens.

Christmas tree TLC

A little extra attention early on will help keep your tree fresh and attractive through the month of December. Cut an inch off the base when you get it home. Quickly put the base in water and check the basin daily for the first week, as it will use lots of water early on. After a week or so check the water every few days to prevent it from drying out.

Reduce fertilization on indoor plants

Houseplants slow their growth during the late fall through early spring season due to cooler indoor temperatures near a window, and lower light levels. Reduce fertilizing by about half during this time. Check soil moisture levels before watering since soggy soil is a death sentence for houseplants and their water use is minimal during this season.

Prepare garden beds for spring

A wise, 90-year-old gardener taught me to build my garden beds in fall whenever the soil is dry enough to be worked. That way in spring, when rainy weather can prevent soil preparation the beds would already be ready to plant. Raised planting beds also warm up faster in spring for a head start on the gardening season.

Harvest tomatoes before frost

Peppers can be eaten immature, even if small. Tomato fruit reach a mature green stage from which they will continue to ripen indoors on the kitchen counter. Less mature green fruit won’t. Store sweet potato roots in a warm, moist location for 2-3 weeks for “curing”, and then move them to a cool, dry location for long term storage.

Plant woody ornamentals

There is no better season in our area to establish woody ornamental landscape plants than mid to late fall. Planted now they have all winter to establish roots and will be much better able to survive next summer’s brutal attack. Fall planting helps protect your investment.

Fall fruit tree care

Pick off and throw away any shriveled fruit on the tree or the ground. These “mummies” are often a source of disease spores that can infect next year’s crop. Remove blighted shoot ends from pears as they often contain bacteria that can also attack next year’s crop.

Divide and reset perennial flowers

There is still time to divide and reset perennial flowering plants. Dig the clump and divide with a sharp shovel or long butcher knife. Mix a little compost into the soil and reset the transplants at the level they were growing previously. Firm soil around the clump and water them in well.

Robert “Skip” Richter is the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension horticulture agent for Brazos County. For local gardening information and events, visit Gardening questions? Call Skip at 823-0129 or email

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