Hydrangeas bloom on old growth (last year’s growth), so pruning them now will sacrifice blooms. If you need to prune them, do so right after they finish blooming. Selectively prune by cutting the tallest stems close to the ground. 'Endless Summer' Hydrangeas are an exception to this rule (they bloom on old and new growth) so if necessary, they can be pruned now.

Spiraeas: Prune Bridal Wreath Spiraea after it blooms, cutting tallest stems close to ground only if needed. It does not need to be pruned at all; it has a lovely weeping shape. Anthony Waterer Spiraea and Lime Mound Spiraea, however, can be pruned in mid-February; prune back by about half to keep more full and compact.
Tarrant County Master Gardener Association
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If you are following an organic program (and I hope you are), the window for the first fertilization is between February 15 and March 15. Put fertilizer down at the rate of 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet on lawns and all flower/shrub beds. (Note: This is the rate for ORGANIC fertilizers. If you are using synthetic fertilizers, follow the application rates on the bag.)

If you want to use the organic version of “weed and feed,” use Corn GLUTEN Meal. Using the powder form of CGM is more effective than the granular form. CGM is also a very good fertilizer, so if you go this route, you do not need to use additional fertilizer. PLEASE do NOT use chemical weed-and-feed products. (This is the one thing that both Howard Garrett and Neil Sperry do agree on!) The herbicides in weed-and-feed products can damage shade trees.
Toni's Tips - Spring 2013
LAWN WEEDS: If you are overrun with weeds in your lawn right now, most of them are spring annuals that will burn out as it gets warmer (chickweed, henbit, poa annua). Mowing often, fertilizing on schedule, and watering deeply but infrequently will solve most weed problems as your turf grass gets healthier. If you are determined to wipe out the weeds with chemicals, please e-mail me and I will forward a copy of a Neil Sperry article regarding weed control.


Generally speaking, mid-February is the ideal time for pruning mostshrubs, perennials, and ornamental grasses; but some plants are pruned later in the spring. So before you go Edward Scissorhands on your landscape, let's go over some specifics.

The reason mid-February is the best time for major pruning is because usually our last freeze comes around mid-March (March 17). Three to four weeks prior to that time is the best time for pruning. Your plants have been storing energy all winter long. Pruning will stimulate new growth, so by the time the new growth comes, chances are the deep freezes will be a distant memory. Prune too early, and new growth could get burned by a late freeze.

Late winter (January/February) is also a good time to prune trees, if needed. Just a note about oak trees (live oak or red oak), trim them very soon, if needed. To prevent the spread of oak wilt disease, the best time to prune oaks is in the winter months, preferably before February 15. The nitidulid beetle is not as active during colder months.

In the case of most shrubs, try not to just shear them, but instead selectively prune at intersecting branches toward the interior of the shrub to keep shrubs full and compact. If you only shear the tops of the shrubs, that is where the new growth will come, leaving the interior and lower branches bare.

Here are some tips on pruning specific types of shrubs, ornamental grasses, roses, and groundcovers:
3 days after topdressing with 1/2 inch compost
Meatball (egg standing on end)
Dome (egg laying it's side)

And remember…a day without dirt under your nails is like a day without sunshine

Happy Gardening…

Toni :-)
Correctly pruned nandina - 13 1/2 years old
Hollies (e.g., Yaupon, Burford) can take pretty drastic pruning, so don’t be afraid to prune as needed. I literally prune my hollies down to sticks every February and within a month, they are lush with new growth. Dwarf Yaupon Hollies do respond well to shearing, but when pruning this shrub, aim for a dome shape instead of a "meatball." Shape the top of the shrub, but do not cut in at the bottom (think of an egg lying on its side, rather than an egg standing upright on end).
Improperly pruned nandina
Abelia: Prune longest stems close to the ground. Prune selectively. Please do not shear this shrub. It has a naturally weeping shape and does not look good when it is pruned into a square or ball. If this shrub is very overgrown, or has been poorly shaped in the past, you can prune it down to about 18 inches (yes, it will be just sticks) and it will regrow in a natural shape.
Ornamental Grasses:
Cut Miscanthus and Fountain grasses down to about 3 inches. It is not necessary to cut Mexican Feathergrass; just give it a “haircut” and rake out the old grass stems. Cut Muhly grasses down to about a foot tall and rake out old stems.
Miscanthus Sinensis 'Adagio'
Roses: Prune shrub roses back by about half their size in mid-February. Follow the stem down until you find a leaf node (bud of new growth) pointing in the direction you want the stem to grow and prune it at a 45-degree angle right above the leaf node. You want the leaf nodes to be pointing to the outside of the rose, not back toward the center. Prune out all dead wood and any stems pointing toward the center of the rose. What you want left is a clean center with all stems fanning outward.

Prune climbing roses selectively, just pruning stems that have gotten out of hand, just tidy it up a bit. Prune spring bloomers AFTER they bloom.

For info on the best roses for our area, visit this website:

As I mentioned before, some plants are pruned later in the spring. Spring-blooming shrubs produce flower buds for the spring during the previous autumn, so you will need to wait until after you enjoy the spring blooms to do any pruning. If you prune in February, you will cut off all the blooms. Indian Hawthorn, Viburnum, Forsythia, Flowering Quince, Loropetalum, and Azalea fall into this category. They will be ready for pruning probably about April.
Crape Myrtles: Please do not prune the tops of crape myrtles - a/k/a "Crape Murder"
Prune only dead or crossing branches and any suckers that have grown at the bottom. This may not apply this year since we have had such a mild winter, but if your crape myrtle does not leaf out well this spring because of previous winter freeze damage, cut the tree TO THE GROUND and let it regrow. It will quickly send up new shoots, and at that point you can pick the strongest stems to become the new tree.

"Crape Murder"

Groundcovers: Asian Jasmine and Mondograss -- mow or weed-eat down to 3-4 inches. Liriope -- weed-eat or cut down to 1-2 inches. New growth will emerge in late March.
Now for my favorite subject.....Perennials! Some perennials can be pruned after freezes in the fall (see tips in Fall Newsletter). If you did not prune your perennials last fall, here are a few specifics to get them ready for spring.
Nandinas: All varieties of Nandinas are always pruned at the bottom. Never prune the sides or tops. Take the tallest canes, follow them down to the ground, and prune them. New growth will come out at the point of pruning, keeping the plant full and compact. Try not to prune more than one-third of the shrub at once.

If you planted pansies and/or kale last fall, they should still be doing great right now. They should last through March when it starts to get warmer.

It is too early to plant summer annuals, but start planning what you’d like to plant so you can be ready to plant after freeze threats have passed (after March 17). Click
here for lists and pictures of great heat-tolerant annuals for your spring/summer beds and containers.

If you planted wildflower seeds last fall (Larkspur, poppies, bluebonnets, etc.), they have probably already germinated or they will soon. Just water them as you would the rest of your garden (once every week to two weeks, depending on rainfall). They will start blooming the end of March, through April and May. Late May they will start going to seed. If you want to collect the seed, you will need to let the plants completely turn brown and dry. You can then collect the seed and pull the old wildflowers completely out. They will not regrow from the root; only from seed. Scatter the seeds back in your flowerbed, or save them to plant in the fall or share with friends.

HERBS/VEGETABLES: For a complete spring vegetable planting guide for North Texas, click here

Plant in January (19th): Spinach, onions, peas (English)
Plant in February (2nd): Beets, Carrots, Broccoli, Cabbage, Lettuce, Potatoes, Radish, Parsley, Cilantro
Plant in March (17th, after freezes): Beans, Tomatoes, Peppers (bell or jalapeno), basil, cucumber, okra, squash

If you have any questions about problems with your tomatoes, click here

As you are pruning your shrubs (especially golden euonymous and occasionally hollies) you might notice the undersides of the leaves are covered with a white "substance." This is an insect called scale. Treat with dormant/horticultural oil, spraying the tops and undersides of the leaves. Euonymous shrubs are scale magnets! I would encourage you to replace them with a better quality shrub.
Scale on Crape Myrtles: This particular scale insect (originally thought to be Azalea Bark Scale) is a relatively new pest that is showing up on crape myrtles in our area. They are aggressive, sap-feeding insects that appear as white, waxy encrustations most likely to occur near pruning wounds or in branch crotches. Larger female scales "bleed" a pink liquid when crushed.
Click here to read the latest information regarding this pest
and options for control.
Scale on Crape Myrtle

You might check with local nurseries
to see if they can get Twice-Stabbed Lady Bettles for you. They are the lady bug that will attack the Azalea Bark Scale (they are black with two red dots on their back).
Twice-Stabbed Lady Beetle

Nurseries will soon be fully stocked. Spring is a great time to get plants in the ground to get them established before the heat of summer. Fall is the absolute best time to plant, but early spring is the next best. All indications are that we are in for another brutally hot/dry summer. Click here to learn about all of the plants that thrived in my garden during the record-breaking Summer of 2011.

Before you plant or transplant anything (except trees – see link below), be sure to prepare the beds with lots of compost. Add the compost and till it in with a tiller or just a shovel. If you have heavy clay soil, add expanded shale, as well. Make sure the soil/root ball is very moist when planting (soak with liquid seaweed root stimulator prior to planting), and keep soil moist until plant is established.

Now is a good time to divide overgrown perennials and transplant them to another spot. If you’ve got too much of a good thing, plant the extras in a pot, give them to a friend, or donate them to the Grapevine Garden Club and we will sell them at our annual Plant Sale on Saturday, May 12 . If you need new plants, this is a great way to get heirloom plants at very inexpensive prices!! Mark your calendars!

Now is also a good time to transplant shrubs, if needed. January is the best time to transplant trees while they are dormant, so if you need to do that, transplant very soon.

Click here for my tips on planting trees.


In the winter and early spring, if we do not get rain for a two-week period of time, then it is time to run the sprinklers. If you know a hard freeze is expected, be sure your soil is moist down to 6 inches (run sprinklers if we haven’t gotten a rain recently).

Once we get into the growing season, follow your City’s water restriction schedule. Watering is usually limited to twice a week between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. It is best to water deeply and infrequently to encourage deeper root development. Twice-a-week watering should be sufficient for most landscapes (and even less for true xeriscaped gardens). Watering more frequently develops shallow root systems and just sets your landscape up for failure when water restrictions are enforced.

The best tip I can offer is to use the "cycle and soak" method. Run all zones of your sprinkler system, wait 15 to 30 minutes, and then repeat the cycle again. This will allow the first cycle to soak into the soil before you run the system again. This requires either a Program A and B or multiple start times on your controller (or manually restarting the system).

If at all possible, do not water at night. Dark and wet = fungus! It is best to water early morning. Water container plantings as needed.


Once we have had our LAST freeze and before your grass starts to green up, you can scalp your lawn (around mid-March). This will be the ONLY time you will scalp your lawn. Throw the clippings in the compost pile. Scalping is done by lowering the mower to the lowest setting you can still push your mower. I have found that this seems to work better on Bermuda than St. Augustine grass.


Mulch all bare soil to conserve moisture and keep the weeds to a minimum. I prefer native cedar mulch, but anything is better than nothing. Please don’t leave this step out; it is very important. Be careful that you do not pile mulch up on the trunks of trees or shrubs.


For a quick way to heat up your compost pile, add some cottonseed meal. You can purchase it inexpensively at feed stores or most garden centers.
QUESTIONS? Please e-mail me at signaturegardens@verizon.net
Organic brands that I can recommend:

Nature’s Guide 5-3-2 or 6-1-4
Texas Tee 6-2-4
Bradfield Luscious Lawn & Garden 3-1-5
Medina Growin’ Green Organic Granular Fertilizer
Gardenville Soil Food, 6-2-2 or 5-3-2
Natural Gardener - Lady Bug Natural Blend 8-2-4 Fertilizer (see bag for application rates)
Soil Mender – Yum Yum Mix
Sustane All Natural Organic
Another way to fertilize your lawn is to spread a thin layer of compost (1/2 inch) over all lawn areas. This is a little bit labor intensive, but you will get great results. Use the compost in lieu of organic fertilizers; you do not need both.