Neil Sperry

There are no do-overs with this list of time sensitive lawn and gardening activities

Here are eight vegetables to grow during winter

Want to garden during the winter, but unsure of what will grow? Here are eight cold-weather safe vegetables you can harvest during the winter.
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Want to garden during the winter, but unsure of what will grow? Here are eight cold-weather safe vegetables you can harvest during the winter.

Precision is a must in everyday life. We see ample examples. Marching bands where trombones crisscross with bass drums, yet they rarely collide. Watch gears that mesh and keep ticking for decades. Gardening activities in Texas’ perfect spring weather.

Oh, wait a moment. That last one goes on the other list – things that rarely work as expected. Texas weather comes at us like a herd of wild buffalos and we’re left to dodge as best we can.

I’ve made a list of gardening activities that are ultimately time-sensitive. These are things that must be done at the right time or you may not want to do them at all. You’ll see what I mean if you’ll scan down the list.

Transplanting established trees and shrubs

Woody plants must be moved while they’re dormant, that is, while they have no leaves. That time is rapidly disappearing for this winter, so if you need to dig and relocate any plants in your landscape, get it done immediately or prepare to wait until next December.

Staking and guying new trees so they’ll stay vertical

Nobody wants a shade tree than leans a bit to the side. It’s a restless feeling that you never get used to. What you may not know is that you can’t push or pull a tree that isn’t plumb back into the vertical. As soon as you release the rope, cable, wire or timber, the tree will go right back to its old lean. You have to dig and reset it, and if it’s been growing that way for a couple of years, that’s a big chore. It’s a lot easier to get it right the first time. Set it into its new planting hole, then use guy wires and stakes to hold it in place for one to two years. The stakes should be south, northeast and northwest of the trunk, and the wires should be halfway or farther up the trunk for best stability. Pad them so they won’t damage the trunk, and be absolutely sure you remove them before the trunk enlarges to encircle them.

Wrapping the trunks of new Shumard red oaks, other oaks and Chinese pistachios

These trees have very thin bark when they’re young. While they’re growing in the nursery they shade one another, but when we plant them by themselves into our landscapes the trunks are suddenly exposed to the sunlight. Sunscald and subsequent invasion of borers are often the result. Wrap them at planting, and leave them wrapped for one to two years. If you let sunscald develop, there’s no going back.

Applying pre-emergent weedkiller granules

These are products we apply to prevent the germination of annual weeds. Apply pre-emergent granules the first two weeks of March and repeat the first two weeks of June (DFW area – dates will vary slightly in other parts of the state) for season-long control of crabgrass and grassburs. For winter/early spring weeds such as annual bluegrass, rescuegrass, ryegrass, henbit, dandelions, clover and chickweed, treat in the last week of August or the first week of September. If you miss those dates and if you’ve had annual weeds in prior years, you’re probably going to have the weeds again. And with pre-emergents, that timing is critical. I’ve never forgotten the old saying, “If you can see the weeds, you’ve blown it.”

Planting heat-sensitive flower and vegetable crops

Timing is really dramatic when it comes to vegetables. Many of our crops can’t handle the heat of late spring and early summer here in Texas. That’s why Irish potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage must be planted around the middle of February. Leafy and root crops must be planted in late February. If you miss the dates because of travel, rain, schedules or any other excuse or reason, your produce will likely be hot and bitter. Mainstream vegetables like tomatoes, beans, peppers, corn, squash, cucumbers and others must be planted soon after the average frost-free date of March 18-22 so they can mature before it turns really hot. Annual flowers follow similar schedules depending on the crops.

Digging and dividing perennial plants

The old axiom “If it blooms in the spring, you dig and divide it in the fall, and if it blooms in late summer or fall, you dig and divide it in early spring” fits perfectly. If you grow perennials, always keep it in mind.

Recognize the “permanent wilting point” in your plants

To define that term, it’s the point of wilting beyond which a plant cannot recover. We all have plants that get too dry. We water them, and usually they bounce right back. Peace lilies are the greatest example ever. They can be wilting badly, but when we water them, they usually spring back up within a few hours. They may have browned leaf edges or tips, but somehow they seem to come back.

Other plants reach the permanent wilting point and are lost forever. It can happen almost without our noticing. Hollies are a great example. Unless they have soft, brand new growth, they will show no more visible signs of drought than turning a dull, drab dark green color, and by the time that happens, they’re incapable of recovering.

You can hear Neil Sperry on KLIF 570AM on Saturday afternoons 1-3 pm and on WBAP 820AM Sunday mornings 8-10 am. Join him at and follow him on Facebook.