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Don’t wait for spring fever to start gardening this year. February is the time to start gardening in Central Texas. There are many things that you can do this month.

Of course, anytime in the spring can be risky, as we never know for sure whether spring-like conditions will suddenly revert to freezing weather. However, it is quite worth the risk to get things done now, as our biggest threat to success is not the cold, but the early arrival of hot weather.

Hopefully you took my advice and already prepared your garden beds for flowers, herbs or vegetables. If not, you will need to get it done right away before spring rains leave you no time to dig in the garden.

Remember, the rule is: no digging in wet soil! You will ruin your soil and correcting this problem will require replacing a huge part of your soil. It’s not worth it.

Bed Preparation

Once your beds are ready for planting, there are many things that can go into the ground now. Almost any herb except basil can be planted now. It is better to plant in the fall, but not all of us are able to get to it then, and now is the second-best time of the year to plant.

Here is the list of what you can plant now:

  • Broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
  • Kale, lettuce, spinach and beets.
  • Carrots, onions and radishes.
  • All herbs except broccoli and lemon grass (wait until mid-March for these).
  • Cool-season flowers such as pansies, dianthus, and petunias.
  • Potatoes; plant these on Valentine’s Day.

Whenever you can, use transplants and not seeds. Seeds are best planted in the fall months. If you can’t find something in a transplant, then go ahead and try it. One caution: you will see wildflower seeds available for planting in the spring. This always makes me angry. One way to have a failure is to plant something like bluebonnet seeds in the spring. Instead, find transplants of wildflowers and plant them in the garden in early March.

I would also never plant the seeds of tomatoes, broccoli, dianthus, pansies, petunias or any herbs in the spring. It is a very bad idea.

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Potato Plans

Potatoes should be planted from cuttings mid-month. Cut seed potatoes you have obtained from the nursery into 2-inch pieces with two or three eyes. Let the cuttings dry for a couple of days. Dig a hole in the garden deep enough to bury the seedlings, eyes up, about 4 inches deep. Water well, then wait to water again until the ground is almost dry.

When the sprouts appear, you will want to hill up the potatoes. This means you will gently scoop the soil over the sprouts until they are covered with a light layer of soil. You can continue this process until your tomatoes are 6 to 7 inches tall. Then let them grow.

If you see any potatoes poking out of the soil, cover them over with at least 1 inch of soil. If your potato is green, you will need to cut that part off the potato before cooking it, as the green is poisonous.

About the time your kids or grandkids are about to get out of school for the year, you can harvest your potatoes. Of course, you can also remove an occasional new potato before that time, but they will be at their full size sometime in May.

You will also see many devices for keeping soil hilled up quite a bit on the stems of the potatoes in the hope of getting a bigger harvest. One thing you must know if you want to use this method: your potato leaves must not be shaded by one of these devices from getting sunlight.

Potatoes must have full sun to mature. If you are using some sort of grow bag or box, then make sure full sunlight will fall on the leaves. If you don’t, you might not harvest any potatoes.

Onions a Possibility

Onions can be planted this time of the year, but remember that fall was when they were supposed to be planted. You will probably be disappointed planting now if size is your objective. If little green onions is your goal, then you will do fine.

I want both, so I plant some of my onions in the fall and the rest in the spring. Nothing is better eating than green onions served with pinto beans and cornbread.

Be sure that any lettuces or root crops have some space between them to spread out. Otherwise, you can end up with too much moisture and diseases as well as snails, which can be a real problem. Keep the area where you are growing these plants neat and clean and they will be healthier.

Get started now and you can look forward to a great garden this year.

Melody Fitzgerald is a McLennan County Master Gardener who has spent more than 35 years facing the challenges of Central Texas gardening.

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