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Maintenance

Choose a Month:

Choose a Topic for January:

Trees

  • Best time to plant trees.
  • Prune shade trees, ornamental trees other than spring bloomers, and palms.
  • Spray fruit trees with fungicide and oil to prevent disease and insects respectively.

Lawns

  • Winterize your gas mower.
  • Mow once to keep winter weeds at bay.
  • Water no more than once a month.

Herbs

  • Pinch cool-season herbs like cilantro, parsley, and dill weekly, or more frequently if you’re cooking also.

Perennials

  • Leave frozen plants for wildlife food and shelter.
  • Begin planting perennials and shrubs.
  • Many perennials will be a collection of sticks at this point. Try to hold off pruning until after Valentine’s Day. Know you are protecting an important winter cover for birds.
  • No water needed.

Roses

  • Leave frozen plants for wildlife food and shelter.
  • No pruning.

Annuals

  • Plant bulbs, rhizomes, and corms for late spring color.
  • Plant cool-season annuals such as snapdragons, stock, geranium, and cyclamen.
  • If you are using showy bedding annuals, mass plant a small area or use in containers for a pop of color and ease of hand watering.
  • Water by hand three times a week initially, then no more than once a week.

Watering

  • Water once during the month if no significant rain occurs.

Tools

  • January is the time to sharpen blades as well as to oil handles and bearings.
  • After cleaning, disinfect blades with 10% alcohol or Lysol™.
  • A Soil Knife is a favorite tool of professional horticulturalists and perfect for digging the deep narrow holes you’ll need to plant those six-pack trays of annuals. It’s also great for weeding, which you will be doing in most annual beds.

Other Tips

  • Include both small and large trees in your yard to benefit wildlife more. Natives are your best bet. Consider leaving snags for wildlife if they are in a safe place in your yard.
  • If feeding birds, keep feeders and wildlife water sources clean.
  • This is a good time to assess your yard and plan your spring activities.

Choose a Topic for February:

Trees

  • Stop pruning oaks.
  • Prune shade trees, ornamental trees other than spring bloomers, and palms.
  • Continue to plant trees. When you plant a tree, you plant for generations. Spend a little extra time on the selection and placement of your tree.

Lawns

  • Sharpen your mower blades.
  • Mow once to keep winter weeds at bay.
  • May apply a pre-emergent mid-month for warm-season weeds: corn gluten or Amaze if needed.
  • Spot treat with a post-emergent herbicide such as orange oil and vinegar mixture or 2,4-D product.
  • Aerate lawns with a core aerator and apply ¼ to ½ inch of screened compost over the aerated area.

Herbs

  • Pinch back cool-season herbs like cilantro, parsley, and dill weekly, or daily for your culinary creations. Dill is also a favorite of the Black Swallowtail caterpillar, be sure and share.

Perennials

  • Leave frozen plants for wildlife food and shelter until the last week of the month.
  • Begin planting perennials and shrubs that provide food in the form of nectar, berries, pollen, and seeds. They will also provide cover for wildlife. If you are interested in supporting wildlife, include plants that provide food year-round and some mid-level evergreens.
  • Cut back your perennials to 3 inches above the ground and mulch.
  • No water needed.
  • You can prepare new beds for March planting.

Roses

  • Prune rose branches back 1/3 from the tips to a bud and all dead, diseased, and dying branches.
  • Apply a small amount of slow-release fertilizer at the outer edge of the canopy.
  • Heavy pruning of modern tea roses: Remove 1/2 to 2/3 of the entire plant from the top down. Leave three to five main canes as a structure for the new season’s growth. Remove any branches smaller than a pencil in thickness, suckers from the base, and any damaged or diseased branches. Open the center of the bush to promote air circulation.
  • Prune Knockout roses to reduce their size by two-thirds. They will triple in size in spring.
  • Prune climbing roses down to main structural canes. Remove anything hanging into walkways.
  • Prune mutabilis shrub roses lightly by up to one-third.

Annuals

  • Continue weekly watering in the absence of significant rain.

Watering

  • No watering this month.
  • If you have an irrigation system, check it for leaks as it should have been off for several months.

Tools

  • Clean pruning tools with a mixture of 5% bleach and oil.

Other Tips

  • If feeding birds, keep feeders and water clean.
  • This is a good time to cozy up with our Find a Plant section and determine which plants will work best in your garden. Perennials come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. These will likely be the stars of your garden that define your style, whether free-flowing cottage or sleek modern. Remember if the plant needs sun and you plant it in the shade, it will not bloom. This is one of the biggest mistakes we see.

Choose a Topic for March:

Trees

  • Continue to plant trees.
  • DO NOT wantonly butcher crape myrtles.
  • Prune citrus trees.
  • Water once thoroughly over the entire root zone.

Lawns

  • DO NOT apply weed-and-feed fertilizers or any fertilizer of any kind. Warm-season grass species are dormant.
  • Continue to mow winter weeds repeatedly.
  • Aerate lawns with a core aerator and apply ¼ to ½ inch of screened compost over the aerated area.

Herbs

  • Cool season herbs (cilantro, dill, parsley) may be waning, but you can leave them up until they fully seed for small songbirds.
  • Warm-season herbs (basil, thyme, sage) should be taking off.
  • You’ll need to water basil the most.
  • Oregano and French thyme will need little to none once established and they will live for several years.
  • Many herbs that you like to eat, butterfly caterpillars like too. Plant a few extra to support our butterfly friends. Once herbs flower, pollinators will appreciate them.

Perennials

  • Prune back any remaining unpruned perennials to three inches above the ground.
  • You can start planning now.
  • Water plants as soon as you plant with a handheld hose. Then use the 3-2-1- establishment plan.
  • Prune shrubs to shape or get rid of dead wood.

Roses

  • Prune any remaining roses that were not pruned in February. Prune rose branches back 1/3 from the tips to a bud.
  • Spray leaves and stems with a fungicide (Plant Wash™, garlic solution, neem oil, or daconil) to prevent fungi if needed.
  • Apply a small amount (1/2 cup) of slow-release fertilizer at the outer edge of the bush canopy.
  • For once-blooming roses that flower on last year’s canes, prune after they bloom.

Annuals

  • Continue weekly watering in the absence of significant rain.

Watering

  • Check your irrigation schedule and review our section on common mistakes.

Tools

  • An ergonomic hand shovel, a garden stool, and a kneeling pad are your friends.

Other Tips

  • If feeding birds, keep feeders and water clean.
  • As you begin to plant, be sure to triple-check the sun/shade requirements and place them in the correct location.

Choose a Topic for April:

Trees

  • Last month to plant trees.
  • Take a stick and break up the caterpillar webs, providing a good food source for songbirds feeding their hungry young. If you don’t want to do that, you can use Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) on caterpillars if the tree canopy is covered more than 50% by army or webworms (caterpillars).

Lawns

  • Warm-season grass species have finally begun to arise from dormancy.
  • Mow twice.
  • Apply a slow-release fertilizer after April 15 with a ratio of 3-1-2 (example: 19-5-9 is a common one) at 1 lb. of Nitrogen per 1000 square feet of lawn. Don’t fertilize if rain is in the forecast. Or aerate and top dress with ¼” compost.
  • Begin to water weekly if necessary. Follow the SAWS weekly watering advice.
  • Lots of work, right? Consider starting the grass removal process and converting your yard to a more sustainable option.

Herbs

  • You should be harvesting your warm-season herbs like basil. Pinch the top leaves at the next leaf junction.
  • Basil will probably start needing a daily shot of hand watering.
  • Cool-season herbs are done by now and you can pull them up.

Perennials

  • Apply one (1) inch of compost and mulch throughout the beds.
  • Plant new perennials.
  • Cut-back plants should be showing good growth by now.
  • Top mulch off as needed, no more than two inches, and not too close to the plant stems.

Roses

  • Apply one (1) inch of compost and mulch at the base to the outer canopy.
  • Prune (deadhead) spent flowers. Use gloves and sharp bypass pruners. Prune to remove weak growth and increase air circulation in the center of the plant. Make pruning cuts at a 45-degree angle, ¼ inch above a healthy bud that faces toward the outside of the plant.

Annuals

  • Remove cool-season annuals and replace them with warm-season selections such as purslane, portulaca, and impatiens.
  • Water by hand three times a week initially, then no more than once a week.

Watering

  • Begin paying attention to any kind of drought warnings.

Tools

  • A stirrup hoe is a great tool to have now, especially for new beds that will have weeds.

Other Tips

  • If you have flowers to attract butterflies and bees, water at the base of the plant. If you water the flowers, it will wash away the nectar for several hours. Another reason to not have spray irrigation in beds.
  • If you are planting new flowers, try planting them in threes (3s) for a pleasing look. And think about the bloom time and color palette.

Choose a Topic for May:

Trees

  • Reduce planting of trees. Begin planting palms and succulents.
  • Prune spring-flowering ornamental trees such as redbud, Texas mountain laurel, and Mexican plum.
  • Apply one (1) inch of compost and mulch beneath the canopy and over as much of the root zone as possible.

Lawns

  • Begin planting of warm-season grass in functional areas. Resist using it as a default ground cover. Turf Grass has minimal wildlife value. To encourage more wildlife consider reducing turf and adding beneficial plants instead. As a rule of thumb only include turf grass when it has a purpose like for play areas or pets.
  • Begin weekly mowing:
    1. Gas Mower: Convenient to use but emits the same amount of pollution per use as driving 100 miles.
    2. Electric Mower: The cord is the most powerful, but you will need to watch the cord’s location. Cordless rechargeable mowers are particularly good for smaller yards.
    3. Push Mower: Keep blades sharp and mow more frequently for the best results.
  • Apply beneficial nematodes for grubs and chinch bugs.
  • Apply chelated iron products for iron chlorosis in lawns and shrubs that need it. If you do need this supplemental product, it may mean you have the wrong plant in the wrong place. Many East Coast and Deep South favorites like azaleas and hydrangeas will not do well here because they need the acidic soils in the East.
  • Water once a week in the absence of significant rainfall.

Herbs

  • Cool-season herbs are fading. Remove and collect seeds (cilantro seeds are the same as coriander seeds) or wait till they drop the seeds and cilantro will reseed for next year.
  • Plant warm-season herbs like basil, oregano, and sage.

Perennials

  • Apply one (1) inch of compost and mulch around the plant or throughout the beds.
  • Your spring-flowering perennials should be blooming well. If they are not, check to make sure they are not in too much shade. This is the main reason flowering perennials do not bloom well.
  • Apply chelated iron products for iron chlorosis in lawns and shrubs that need it. If you do need this supplemental product, it may mean you have the wrong plant in the wrong place. Many East Coast and Deep South favorites like azaleas and hydrangeas will not do well here because they need the acidic soils in the East.

Roses

  • Apply one (1) inch of compost and mulch around the plant or throughout the beds.
  • Prune flowering branches by up to ¼ to remove spent flowers and weak growth, and to improve air circulation.
  • Water every other week if no significant rainfall has occurred.

Annuals

  • Water newly planted annuals by hand three times a week initially, then no more than once a week.

Watering

  • If you have irrigation and haven’t looked at it in a while, review the Irrigation Mistakes section.

Tools

  • For weeding in those new summer beds:
    • Stirrup Hoe: Great for larger beds as you can stand up instead of having to bend over.
    • Weeder: You’ll need a hand tool to dig out deep-rooted weeds.

Other Tips

  • Butterflies and bees along with songbirds should be active. Avoid pesticides.
  • If feeding birds, keep feeders and wildlife water clean.

Choose a Topic for June:

Trees

  • Water once a month if no significant rainfall has occurred. Water at the edge or the tree canopy where the sun and the shade meet – not on the tree trunk. (link to what this should look like)
  • Apply one inch of water, i.e., 2/3 gallon, per square foot in the absence of significant rainfall.

Lawns

  • Re-sharpen your mower blades.
  • Continue mowing.
  • If you have St. Augustine grass, you may have to fertilize lightly with a chelated iron product.
  • Continue to follow weekly watering advice.

Herbs

  • Continue pinching warm-season herbs for your culinary adventures. You can do this daily. Remember for leafier herbs like basil and sage, pinch the new growth to the top on the next leaf section. Woody herbs like French thyme (the best for our area) or rosemary can be cut back at any point.

Perennials

  • Prune off (deadhead) the spent flowers.
  • Continue to follow weekly watering advice.
  • Hand watering at the base of the plant is preferred, but if you use an irrigation system, check heads to see they are not “pounding” your plant with water.

Roses

  • Hand water at the base. Avoid water on leaves.
  • Prune flowering branches by up to ¼ to remove spent flowers and weak growth, and to improve air circulation.
  • Continue to follow weekly watering advice.

Annuals

  • Continue to hand water weekly.

Watering

  • Follow our weekly watering advice – get it by signing up for the newsletter. Make sure you comply with current watering rules.

Tools

  • Herb Pruning Snips are mini hand pruners that make harvesting your herbs feel special. Kitchen scissors will work just as well.

Other Tips

  • Provide water for wildlife and keep it clean. Stay clear of pesticides.
  • This is a good time to assess your yard and plan your fall activities.

Choose a Topic for July:

Trees

  • Water once a month if no significant rainfall has occurred.
  • Oaks may be pruned again.
  • Apply one inch of water, i.e., 2/3 gallon, per square foot in the absence of significant rainfall.

Lawns

  • Continue weekly mowing.
  • Continue to follow weekly watering advice.

Herbs

  • Continue pinching warm-season herbs for your culinary adventures.
  • Continue your daily spritz of basil. If seed heads are forming, pinch them off to extend the life of the basil.

Perennials

  • Prune (deadhead) spent flowers ¼ inch from tip.
  • Continue to follow weekly watering advice.
  • Hand watering at the base of the plant is preferred, but if you use an irrigation system, check heads to see they are not “pounding” your plant with water.
  • Some perennials like Salvias can be cut back by 1/3 to get a second flush in autumn.

Roses

  • Prune ¼ from the tip to a bud and remove any dead flowers.
  • Prune flowering branches by up to ¼ to remove spent flowers and weak growth, and to improve air circulation.
  • Continue to follow weekly watering advice.

Annuals

  • Plant bulbs, rhizomes, and corms for late spring color.
  • Plant cool-season annuals such as snapdragons, stock, geranium, and cyclamen.
  • If you are using showy bedding annuals, mass plant a small area or use in containers for a pop of color and ease of hand watering.
  • Water by hand three times a week initially, then no more than once a week.

Watering

  • Continue to monitor your irrigation system – it can use over 2,000 gallons each time you run it.

Tools

  • If you didn’t do it last month, sharpen lawn mower blades and hedge shears.

Other Tips

  • Check your plant mix to see if you have enough flowering plants for pollinators. If not, consider including some in your landscape.

Choose a Topic for August:

Trees

  • Oaks may be pruned again.

Lawns

  • Continue to mow weekly unless the lawn is already dormant.
  • Continue to follow weekly watering advice.

Herbs

  • Continue your daily spritz of basil. If seed heads are forming, pinch them off to extend the life of the basil.

Perennials

  • Prune off (deadhead) spent flowers.
  • Continue to follow weekly watering advice.

Roses

  • Prune off (deadhead) spent flowers.
  • Continue to follow weekly watering advice.

Annuals

  • Continue to hand water weekly.

Watering

  • Assess your yard and plan your fall activities. If your plan includes removing turf, stop watering and cover up with cardboard, newspaper, and mulch or black tarp to kill.

Tools

  • After oak tree pruning, clean pruning tools with a mixture of 5% bleach and oil. Spray all cuts made on the tree immediately with spray paint in the color of your choice.

Choose a Topic for September:

Trees

  • Oak trees may be pruned.
  • Apply one (1) inch of compost and mulch under the canopy over as much of the root zone as possible.
  • Continue to follow weekly watering advice.

Lawns

  • Mow as needed depending on weather and growth.
  • Continue to follow weekly watering advice.
  • Apply a pre-emergent such as corn gluten, Dimension, or Barricade mid-month for cool-season weeds.

Herbs

  • Continue your daily spritz of basil. If seed heads are forming, pinch them off to extend the life of the basil.

Perennials

  • Apply one (1) inch of compost and mulch around the plant or throughout the beds.
  • Prune off (deadhead) spent flowers.
  • Fall bloomers should be gearing up.
  • You can start planting new perennials now.

Roses

  • Apply one (1) inch of compost and mulch around the plant or throughout the beds.
  • Prune off (deadhead) spent flowers.
  • Fall pruning (by Labor Day). Fairly heavy grooming in August prepares the plant for a long autumn bloom. This is a good time to remove weak growth and improve air circulation.

Annuals

  • Continue to hand water warm-season annuals weekly. Or pull up and use the space for planting and reseeding Texas wildflowers such as bluebonnets, coreopsis, black-eyed Susans, and more.

Watering

  • If you choose to use winter annuals, target water by hand-held hose generally no more than weekly in the absence of rain.

Tools

  • Bypass pruners work like scissors where two blades pass by each other. These pruners are more precise. Use them when making specific cuts that can affect the health of the plant.
  • Long-handled pruners are often referred to as loppers.
  • Clean pruning tools with a mixture of 5% bleach and oil.

Other Tips

  • Resist cutting back perennials to provide winter cover for birds and wildlife.
  • If feeding birds, keep feeders clean.

Choose a Topic for October:

Trees

  • Stop pruning oaks.
  • Continue to follow weekly watering advice.

Lawns

  • We do not recommend chemical-based fertilizers but if you insist, at least take the time to do it right. Apply ¼ to ½ inch of compost or 1 lb of Nitrogen per 1000 square feet of lawn. Do not apply fertilizer if it is going to rain as nitrogen, a major water pollutant, may filter into our streams and rivers.
  • Final mowing until January is the last week in October.
  • Core aerate and apply ¼ to ½ inch of screened compost.

Herbs

  • Warm-season herbs are slowly dying. Remove and replace with cool-season herbs like cilantro, parsley, and dill. Plant extra dill for the Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar. They’ll eat their fill, and you’ll have spectacular swallowtails in your spring garden.

Perennials

  • Enjoy your showy fall perennials.
  • Enjoy the best time of year in the garden. If you don’t see a lot happening, research fall bloomers and plant now for next year.
  • Continue to follow weekly watering advice.

Roses

  • Spray leaves and stem with a fungicide (Plant Wash™, garlic solution, neem oil, or daconil) to prevent fungi in wet years.
  • Apply a small amount (1/2 cup) of slow-release fertilizer at the outer edge of the canopy, but not during rainy times.
  • Instead of deadheading, let the rose hips form to encourage the bush to go dormant.

Annuals

  • Continue to hand water weekly.
  • Plant reseeding annuals like Texas wildflowers starting now. Just make sure seeds have contact with bare soil and lightly water in

Watering

  • As the days get shorter, there isn’t a need for weekly watering. One final watering at the end of the month may be the last one for the year.

Other Tips

  • Many migratory wildlife are passing through, including birds and butterflies. Nectar, berries, and seeds are important food sources. Leave your warm-season herbs that have gone to seed up for additional wildlife treats. If you’re worried about what your neighbors think, a cute garden sign saying you’re providing food for wildlife often helps.
  • Fall is a great time in South Texas gardens. If you don’t have enough fall bloomers, consider including them for next year.

Choose a Topic for November:

Trees

  • Planting season for trees, shrubs, and perennials begins.
  • Shred leaves repeatedly by mowing them you can compost them.
  • Apply compost and mulch (bark or your leaves) beneath the canopies of trees and throughout beds.
  • If it has been determined your tree needs additional fertilizer, apply 1 lb. of Nitrogen per 1000 square feet of root area during the first week.
  • Planting season begins.

Lawns

  • Mow once if needed.
  • If you did not aerate in the spring, then aerate lawns with a core aerator and apply ¼ to ½ inch of screened compost over the aerated area.

Herbs

  • Cool-season herbs like cilantro and parsley are doing well now, as are evergreen rosemary and thyme. Harvest and add some zing to your holiday feasts.

Perennials

  • Planting season begins. Check out that area of grass you killed in August and plant your perennials there.
  • Apply compost and mulch (bark or leaves) beneath the canopies of trees and throughout beds.
  • In San Antonio, this is a shoulder season. No water for sure.
  • If we get a cold snap, your perennials may be reduced to sticks early. Resist pruning them and keep them around for much-needed winter cover for songbirds.

Roses

  • If you want to divide or move your roses, do it now. You’ll want to prune harder than usual and do not let the roots dry. If you are not planting them right away, put them in a pot till you are ready.
  • Choose Earth-Kind roses. Plant bush roses back from pathways and patios, and in full sun. For climbers, place them on structures they can scramble up and you can get to them for pruning, if needed.

Annuals

  • Plant cool-season annuals such as snapdragons, stock, geranium, and cyclamen.
  • Water by hand three times a week initially, then no more than once a week

Watering

  • Turn off irrigation if you haven’t already – if you have thirsty annuals, hand water.

Tools

  • If you haven’t already, winterize your gas mower and any other gas tools you may have.

Other Tips

  • Resist cutting back perennials to provide winter cover for birds and wildlife.
  • Keep all bird feeders and wildlife water clean.
  • Fully explore our website and start your planning for next year.

Choose a Topic for December:

Trees

  • Plant trees, shrubs, and perennials.
  • Pruning season begins for all shade trees, including oaks, summer-blooming ornamental trees, and shrubs.

Lawns

  • Winterize your gas mower.
  • Mow once if needed.
  • Warm-season turfgrasses, the kind we have in San Antonio, have stopped growing due to shorter days and cooler temperatures. They will not grow no matter how much you water. If you are watering now, you are watering winter weeds. They’ll love you for it. You may not love your sewer bill next year though. It’s time to stop watering.

Herbs

  • Cool-season herbs continue to flourish. Continue your culinary adventures. And remember if they are getting munched on, it’s likely swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. Good for you!

Perennials

  • If we have had a hard freeze, many of your perennials may be little more than a collection of sticks. Resist cutting them back. If anybody asks, you are providing overwintering and migrating bird habitat because you are.
  • No maintenance. Take this time to assess your landscape for evergreen backbone plants. If you have loaded your garden with flowering plants, your landscape may look bare. This is a good time to plant evergreens.

Roses

  • Some roses may be blooming if the winter has been mild. Otherwise, you can do some pruning for next year.

Annuals

  • If you have them, you’re still watering them once a week if there has been no rain. Maybe consider replacing them with perennials next spring.

Watering

  • Stop watering if you haven’t already.

Other Tips

  • Keep any bird feeders and wildlife water clean.
  • Assess your yard. If it is mostly bare, consider including evergreen backbone plants. These provide year-round interest to your yard as well as winter cover for wildlife.
  • Plan your spring activities.