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Gardening Q&A

Ask the Master Gardeners: February 2014

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Guadalupe County Master Gardeners is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or

February 1, 2014 | 2,742 views | Post a comment

Q: I’d like to give my sweetheart something unusual yet related to gardening for Valentine’s Day. Do you have any suggestions?

A: Seed potatoes are traditionally planted February 14, so certainly fit the guidelines of an “unusual” garden gift. Buy seed potatoes from your local nursery rather than using ones from the grocery store which are sprayed with sprout inhibitors. If you want to be even more unusual, buy a potato bag. You put soil and seed potato pieces inside the bag, and when the ripe potatoes are ready, you lift a flap on the bottom of the bag and pull out potatoes. Potatoes can also be planted the traditional way. Dig a trench 4 to 6 inches deep. Lay the piece of potato (with two or three eyes) on the ground. Hill the soil up around the stem as the eye grows (potato tubers form around the stem). Then dig finished potatoes in 90 to 120 days. I’ve also had good luck growing in a bushel basket with the bottom cut out. Simply set the basket in your garden, place the potato pieces inside on top of the ground, cover with fresh soil, and keep covering as the sprout grows. This fills the basket. Then, when the potatoes are ready to be “dug” you don’t have to do anything except lift the side of the basket to retrieve potatoes. I like this rather than digging with a shovel because in the past I’ve accidentally cut potatoes in half. Don’t forget that when you pick your potatoes, wipe them off but do not wash before storing. Mother Earth News suggests curing the fresh potatoes by keeping them in the dark at 60 degrees for 10 days to allow the tubers to heal. That is not useful around here unless you have a root cellar, so just storing them in a dark garage would probably do.

Q: When do I prune my roses?

A: This ties into the previous question because we prune around February 14. In fact, if you were my husband, pruning the roses would be the perfect gift.

According to Doug Welsh in his Texas Garden Almanac, if you are pruning hybrids, cut the bushes back to about 24 inches leaving about four to six canes facing outward in a vase shape. Trim out the dead or damaged wood. For hybrids, I usually take off all the dead or damaged leaves also. Clean the trash on the ground under the plant.

If you are pruning old fashioned roses, cut off about one-third of the plant. We usually cut off more to keep the bushes out of the eaves of the house. Welsh mentions using hedge clippers to prune the old fashioned roses. My husband invented this on his own. It works wonderfully and saves a lot of snagged skin and clothes.

Q: When do I prune other plants and trees?

A: Welsh says, “The best time to prune is in winter just before spring growth begins.” Remember: you don’t need pruning paint except when you prune oak trees (and that’s because we have oak wilt disease in this area of Texas).

Clara Mae Marcotte is a Texas Master Gardener with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. If you have a question to be answered, call the Master Gardeners at 830-379-1972 or leave a message to be answered. The website is The Master Gardener research library is open Mondays from 8:30 to noon, at the Mary B. Erskine School in Seguin at the corner of E. Krezdorn and N. River.
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