Your landscape success in 2024 hinges on these tasks. Here’s a list for Fort Worth gardeners

If you’ve ever driven across the Continental Divide, you know that mind trip you get of the water going to one distant ocean or another, all of it determined by just a short space of ground.

Much of your gardening success for 2024 will be determined on jobs you get done in the next several weeks. We’ll call them the Horticultural Divide. Some of these that I’ll list are things you must finish up before new growth begins later this month. Others are things awaiting the first warm days of spring. Let’s make a list of the critical things. These are all based on Fort Worth as the locale. If you’re very far north or south of the Metroplex you’ll need to adjust timings accordingly.

To be done as soon as possible …

Plant onions and snap-type English peas. (Sugar Snap is a long-proven example.) If you wait much longer, you’ll lose both of these crops to late spring heat.

Dig and relocate established trees and shrubs within your yard or from nature into your landscape. This must be done before new growth begins for spring. Transplant carefully, holding the soil ball around the root system in the process.

Replace cool-season color destroyed by recent cold spells. Pansies that weren’t protected by frost cloth look really rugged. Options for your new plantings include pinks, sweet alyssum, larkspurs, snapdragons, Iceland poppies, stocks, foxgloves, wallflowers, ornamental Swiss chard and, a little closer to March, petunias. (It’s still a good idea to have frost cloth nearby because there will be February freezes.)

Finish dormant-season pruning of evergreen shrubs. It’s best to maintain natural growth forms as much as possible. If you need to trim shrubs back significantly, use hand tools to do so. You can remove 30% to 35% of the height and width of shrubs one time, but repeated heavy pruning will wear them out.

Summer-flowering shrubs and vines are pruned now, but do not ever “top” a crape myrtle for any purported reason. It ruins their look, probably permanently.

If you aren’t sure how severe the winter dieback might be with particular shrubs, wait another week or two. Once stems become brittle or start to shrivel, you’ll be better able to tell.

Prune peach and plum trees to remove vertical shoots as you maintain Nine- to 10-foot tall, bowl-shaped forms with these trees. That will prevent limb breakage from the weight of the fruit. It will allow sun to reach the ripening fruit, and it will also aid in the harvesting of ripe fruit.

Prune grape vines to remove 80% to 85% of the cane growth. That will lower the number of clusters of grapes considerably, but it will improve on their quality dramatically. Train them to grow along their scaffold wires as you care for them during the growing season.

Apply horticultural oil (“dormant oil”) spray to control scale insects on hollies, camellias, euonymus, and shade and fruit trees. Read and follow label directions for best results. This must be applied before buds start to open.

Apply a broadleafed weedkiller spray (containing 2,4-D) to eliminate existing non-grassy weeds such as dandelions, clover, henbit, chickweed, thistles, plantain, and others. Stay with label directions if you expect good results.

Mid-February responsibilities …

Plant Cole crops (cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower), also Irish potatoes into a sunny, well-draining garden location.

Check roses for signs of rose rosette virus. Most obvious will be canes with many times the normal number of thorns, buds that don’t open properly, rank-growing “bull” canes, and dieback of branches. When you see those symptoms, you need to remove the plants (roots and all) immediately. You cannot prevent or cure RRV.

Healthy rose bushes should be pruned by 50%. Each cut should be just above a bud facing out from the center of the plant.

Wait to prune spring-flowering shrubs and vines until just after they finish blooming. They would include flowering quince, forsythias, bridal wreath (spiraea), azaleas, Texas mountain laurel, Carolina jessamine, wisteria, and coral honeysuckle.

Prune nandinas to remove leggy canes. Cut them to within 1 inch of the soil line. Nandinas react by sending up multiple new sprouts and filling in clear to the ground. Usually you will only need to cut 25% to 35% of the canes clear back like this. Repeat the process every year about this time to keep the plantings looking great.

Prune groundcovers that were burned by this winter’s cold. Asian jasmine is most notable. Run the mower over it on its highest setting and tidy the bed up. Apply an all-nitrogen fertilizer and water thoroughly. It will green up and start growing within the next three or four weeks.

Fertilize ryegrass and fescue, our two cool-season turfgrasses, with a high-quality, all-nitrogen fertilizer with 30 to 50 percent of its nitrogen in slow-release form to encourage good growth and green turf the balance of their season.

Scalp your lawn to remove browned stubble toward the end of the month. You’ll also be removing many of the unsightly broadleafed weeds in the process.

Leave a Comment