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Gardening With Laurie: Winter garden can be colorful, tasty

Jan. 18, 2011 at midnight
Updated Jan. 19, 2011 at 7:20 p.m.

Laurie Garretson

By Laurie Garretson

Just because the weather becomes cold and wet doesn't mean gardening has to come to an end.

Maybe those poor folks who live in the northeastern parts of the country are snowed in and can't do any gardening, but not us.

We may not feel like working outdoors when the temperatures are in the 40s, but it can be done. There are always things to get done in the garden.

Right now, for example, if you like fresh asparagus, it's time to get outdoors and plant. If you've never tasted this delicious vegetable fresh from the garden you are missing out on one of life's simple pleasures.

Asparagus transplants, known as crowns, need to be planted in their own bed. Like most vegetables, they need lots of sun and good drainage.

Asparagus is a crop that, once established, will grow and produce for many years to come. The soil will need lots of compost and granular organic fertilizer worked into it before planting.

Figure on planting about 25 crowns in a 4-foot by 12-foot bed. It is not recommended to ever plant in really wet soil.

If your ground is still wet from the recent rains, let the soil dry out some before doing any planting.

Have you gotten a bit tired of the cloudy, cool temperatures? I have had several people commenting on how "blue" they feel because of the lack of sunshine. Perhaps adding a bit of annual color to your landscape will help anyone who's suffering from sunshine withdrawals. Try adding some annual color to one or more of your flower beds.

If there's not room in a bed gather up a few containers and plant them. Pansies, snapdragons and dianthus are a few colorful plants that could be used to brighten up any area.

Nasturtiums are another colorful annual plant that I think is under-used. They are easily grown from seed and grow well until the weather warms up. Nasturtiums grow well in containers, as well as in the garden.

Not only are nasturtiums colorful plants for the garden, but they can also be eaten. The buds, flowers and young leaves are very tasty. They have a peppery taste and are usually used in salads.

All of your blooming annuals will need to be fed once a month to stay at their best. If time allows you to do a bit of clipping, make sure all dead flower heads are snipped off. There is no reason why healthy, well-cared-for annuals can't provide you with beautiful color until the weather warms up in the spring.

There is still time to add woody plants to your landscape. This time of year, many garden centers will have good sales on last season's plants. That makes this a great time to find better buys on plants for your yard.

Just be sure to keep all new additions well watered on a weekly basis, unless it rains enough to do the job for you.

If you had problems with scale on your peach trees, or other plants last year, this is the time to spray them with a dormant oil. Dormant oil should be used sparingly to smother all over-wintering garden pests. Use on fruit trees when they are dormant, before their buds break.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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