"Gardening Tips in the Texas Coastal Bend for January" by Kitty Angell

First Posted 12/25/13
Even though the Christmas decorations are put away for another year, gardeners still have many things to keep them occupied. This is a good time to re-pot your houseplants as they outgrow their current pots. Water the plant and let it stand overnight. Turn the plant upside down with one hand and gently hold the stem with the fingers on your other hand. If the plant doesn’t slide out, tap the pot rim to loosen, or run a knife around the inside of the pot along the edge and try again.

Shake excess soil and remove dead, shriveled roots as they are toxic and can suffocate a plant. After cutting away the dead and diseased roots, loosen the healthy roots with your fingers.

Replant in a pot that is 2 inches larger than the previous pot. Texas A&M University recently reported that it is better not to add rocks or broken pieces of clay pottery to the bottom of the pot. “Doing so is detrimental. It slows water movement through the pot and reduces the root growing room.”

After placing the new plant in the pot, fill with soil, lightly tapping the container to settle the soil. Make sure the plant is placed at the same level as it was in its original container and keep the soil about one inch below the lip of the pot. After watering well (and slowly), place the plant in its former location to prevent transplant shock. 

If you need to divide your houseplant because of overcrowding, wait until after the blooming season. Let the plant settle and dry out so you can remove it from the old pot. Have your new pots and soil ready in advance. By spreading newspaper over the surface where you plan to do the dividing, you will cut down on the mess. Cut circles of wire mesh and put them inside the new pots to prevent soil erosion when your plants are watered. 

Next, measure the distance from the bottom of the old plant to the soil level so you will be able to mark that level on the new pots. You will be adding potting soil to that line in the new pots. 

Now comes the important part: Gently pull the entire plant from the pot, keeping the roots intact. You may have to use a knife along the sides of the pot to dislodge a stubborn plant. Once it is out, examine the bottom and sides of the plant. Look for the best place to make division cuts. If you can, use your fingers and gently pull the plant apart, working from the bottom through the middle sections to make your first division. You may need to use a knife to cut, but go for solid chunks of roots to decide how many divisions you can make. 

Place the divisions in the center of the pots and fill in the sides with soil. Water, and once adequately drained, place them on a saucer and move to a partial sun to shade location until they have begun to recuperate. Water the divisions sparingly for the first few weeks to allow the plant to establish.

Winter is the ideal time to select fruit and nut trees, berries and grapes. If you are unsure what local varieties thrive in the coastal area, contact your local Texas AgriLife Extension agent for help.
A word of caution for newly planted trees and shrubs: Don’t fertilize until they have started to grow, and then sparingly for the first year. Also, don’t be tempted to prune back trees and shrubs too soon. It is difficult to assess the freeze damage to existing plants until warm weather is here to stay. Once new growth appears, you can remove damaged material. 

Continue to water your winter annuals such as pansies, violas, and stock. A light application of fertilizer to established pansy plants extends their hardiness. If you want to get a jump on plant growth before hot weather arrives, sow seeds in flats or other containers. Late January or February is when plants like begonias, impatiens and petunias should be sown. 

A great thought for January: On blustery winter days, kick back in your favorite armchair, stoke the fire until you have it roaring, and work on your garden journal. Sketch out your future garden plans while sipping a big cup of hot chocolate!
By Kitty Angell, Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener

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