Horticulturist: Plan before planting for best results
Contact: Patrick Dickinson, 972-952-9673, Patrick.Dickinson@ag.tamu.edu
DALLAS — A Texas landscape that thrives begins with a good design. That is the seasonal message this spring from Patrick Dickinson, horticulturist with Texas A&M AgriLife’s Water University outreach program in Dallas.
“Know the colors you want, the space you have to work with and the light conditions in that space before ever entering a plant nursery,” he said.
As spring landscaping activities kick into full gear, Dickinson recommends measuring the area to be planted and creating a map of it. Even a hand-drawn rendering on grid paper will go a long way toward building a successful landscape or planted bed, he said.
“Knowing where your plant will go ahead of time, for proper spacing, will guarantee a lasting design you’ll enjoy,” Dickinson said. “And it ensures the plant will have the proper room to thrive.”
Once the space is measured and drawn out, study several plants’ adult sizes, bloom colors, growing periods and requirements for light and water.
One of the most important aspects underlying a plant’s success, Dickinson said, is whether it’s planted inside its proper hardiness zone as prescribed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He stressed choosing plant varieties native or adapted to wherever they will be planted.
“The USDA hardiness zone map shows average extreme hot and cold temperatures for every region of the country,” Dickinson said. “Your plants’ packaging or soil tag should give you a range of hardiness zones where your plants will thrive.”
Dickinson cautioned consumers about the wide availability of plants offered in nurseries that demand heavy inputs, including fertilizer and water. When choosing plants primed for zones beyond where they will be planted, Dickinson endorses using containers.
“Vibrant pots can add very nice structural aesthetics and color to a landscape,” he said. “And best of all, it allows you to control micro-environments more efficiently for demanding plants.”
Whether plants are planted in the ground or in pots, Dickinson said, adding mulch will help lock in moisture during dry months. Mulch also helps to control weeds by smothering them when they sprout in spring, when pre-emergence herbicides are no longer effective. He recommends 4 inches of mulch in landscape bedding and a thin layer for pots and planters.
“All these considerations together will guarantee your landscape’s best success regardless of what unpredictable weather brings to your area,” Dickinson said.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service district reporters compiled the following summaries for Texas:
Fields and pastures dried out and temperatures were normal. Good weather conditions allowed much of the planted corn to push through. Wheat and oats continued to look good. Pastures continued to improve and were beginning to green. Supplemental feeding of livestock started to slow down. The region saw a little green grass and a lot of field preparation. Livestock were in good condition. Producers were spraying and fertilizing fields.
Weather conditions were satisfactory, and some areas saw up to a half-inch of moisture. Winter wheat was starting to look good with the recent rains and warmer weather. Ranchers were still supplementing cow herds with hay and protein. Lice were becoming a problem in many cow herds. Pastures were slowly coming out of dormancy. Milo should be planted soon, and cotton producers were gearing up to put out pre-emergent herbicides.
Many fields dried out after months of saturation. Although subsoil moisture was good, topsoil moisture became deficient. Farmers felt like they were behind in the planting season and were trying to catch up as quickly as possible. Most corn and grain sorghum were up and looked good. Cotton and some rice were being planted. Wheat was in good condition and at boot or heading stage. Pasture conditions were generally lush, green and full of winter weeds, but will need moisture soon. Fertilizer and herbicides were being applied on many summer pastures and hayfields. Livestock continued to be in good condition.
Much-needed sunshine and warmer weather helped to dry conditions across the region. Pasture and range conditions were fair to good, with only Shelby and Marion counties reporting poor to very poor. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were mostly adequate. Bottomlands were still too wet to work. Row-crop land was still underwater or saturated in Anderson County. Producers in Marion County were prepping gardens to start planting. Ryegrass showed good growth and producers were beginning to fertilize if the land supported fertilizer trucks. Livestock were eating less hay and more green grass. Hay supplies were short or out for most producers, with Polk County getting hay from South Texas. Anderson County was finishing up feeding with cubes. Sabine County ranchers were out in full force adding soil amendments, preparing equipment and patching fences to hold cattle in the pastures. The cattle market was up in some classes in Houston County, and numbers in Shelby County were steady. Livestock were in fair to good condition with supplementation taking place in Smith County. Wild pigs continued their destructive assault on pastures in Trinity County and fly numbers increased in Henderson County.
Recent rainfall helped the subsoil and topsoil moisture, but moisture quickly evaporated with the winds that followed. The South Plains remained badly in need of moisture. Pasture, rangeland and winter wheat remained in poor to fair condition. Producers continued to prep for spring planting by applying fertilizer. Cattle were in good condition.
The region reported extreme weather. Approximately 1 inch of precipitation was followed by extreme wind accompanied by scattered showers. The rain in some counties gave a much-needed boost to winter wheat production. Stocker cattle worked the forage down quickly, so many of the stockers moved to other pastures. Cotton production acres were expected to be climbing this season again, with market prices holding and irrigation continuing to be a problem. The general rainfall and high winds kept farming activity to a minimum, and producers continued to supplement cattle.
The weather was dry and sunny with soil moisture reported to be mostly adequate and a few counties reporting a surplus. The fields were able to be worked, and farmers started planting corn. Wheat was coming up great. There were signs of growth in ryegrass hay in some areas, which may lead to early cutting. Some milo was planted, but it was still a little early to plant for some milo farmers. Cattle were mostly looking good and spring cow work was done on winter calving herds.
Temperatures ranged from the high 30s to the mid 80s. Precipitation was scarce with many areas receiving under 0.1 of an inch of rain. The winds in parts of the region were a big issue, with some as high as 55 mph and gusts up to 80 mph. Corn, sorghum and cotton planting had not started, partly because of the economics and partly due to cooler-than-normal soil temperatures. Most producers have completed most of their fieldwork and pre-watering has been going on for up to a month. Moisture conditions were adequate, but pecan orchards and some smaller alfalfa fields were being irrigated. Lawns and range saw a lot of new growth. Cows were still looking good and most producers were still supplementing them with cake. Other livestock were in good condition. Lambing and kidding was completed, and producers have begun to mark lambs and goats.
It was warm and dry with soil moisture levels were declining as spring planting began. Producers spent most of the reporting period engaged in field prep. Stock tank levels remained good. Cotton producers were applying fertilizer and cleaning up fields that had weed issues. Pecan trees broke bud, and pastures were beginning to green up a little, allowing a decrease in supplemental feeding of livestock. Livestock were generally in fair to good condition. Weather in some parts have reduced receipts, but cattle generally sold steady across the board. Overall conditions headed into spring were looking good.
A week without major rainfall was good for Walker County, as warmer temperatures promoted growth of clover pastures and cool-season annual grass pastures. In Jefferson County, the ground was drying out. If rain in the next few weeks is not too heavy, rice will be going into the ground. In Grimes County, the pasture and range conditions improved. A good amount of sunshine and great temperatures allowed for spring green-up throughout the county. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely, from fair to very poor, with good being the most common. Soil moisture levels ranged from adequate to surplus, with adequate being the most common. Brazos County and San Jacinto County reported 100 percent adequate and Montgomery County reported 100 percent surplus.
Temperatures were warmer with the majority of counties hoping for a steady rain. Pasture and range conditions were slowly improving and turning green. Corn planting was mostly completed, and milo was nearing completion. Freeze damage was reported on some wheat. Livestock was in fair to good condition. Supplemental feeding slowed, but will likely need to resume if there is no rain. Spring shearing continued and some goats started kidding.
Weather conditions were generally mild with short to adequate soil moisture levels. Corn planting continued in Frio County and the wheat crop was in the heading stage. All crops were under irrigation due to lack of rainfall. Pasture and range conditions were fair to poor. Maverick County had no rainfall and temperatures around 70 degrees during the day and 40 degrees at night. Farmers who cultivate vegetables have already planted for the next season, as well as fertilized. Coastal Bermuda grass was greening fast, and the first cut should be sometime in spring. In Zavala County, native range and pastures continued the spring green-up, providing additional forage for grazing livestock. However, supplemental feeding continued in some parts of the county. Sorghum and corn planting were completed and cotton planting was expected to be completed by mid-week. Some spinach harvest continued, and onions and cabbage made good progress. Irrigation applications to corn and sorghum were active. Dimmit County remained dry and cool but still lacked a significant rainfall and rangelands continued to diminish. The county also reported they were in need of rainfall going into summer. In Zapata County, range and pasture conditions began to deteriorate in some areas. Some producers began to feed hay on overgrazed pastures. In Jim Wells County, planting season was progressing with most producers moving on to cotton. Temperatures were mild, so corn corps were slow to progress, but stands were good. If the weather permits, most fields will be planted by the end of the coming week. Range and pasture conditions remained good. Winter weeds dominated the plant populations, providing substantial forage for most grazing animals. Minimal hay supplementation was being provided. In Duval County, pasture and range conditions were in fair condition, but lack of rain decreased moisture content. Ranchers and deer breeders were supplementing their livestock and wildlife, and ranchers were planting haygrazer. Kleberg and Kenedy counties received a half-inch of rainfall as did Starr County. Germination in row-crop fields slowed due to cool weather, while early planted fields germinated and were doing well.