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Archives for January 26, 2018

‘Jefferson’s Garden’ blooms with contradictions at Ford’s

Timberlake Wertenbaker’s “Jefferson’s Garden” at Ford’s Theatre. (Carol Rosegg)

The orgy of history now playing at Ford’s Theatre finds Thomas Jefferson squirming in a British play about American freedom, in the house where the nation’s most notorious assassin shot Abraham Lincoln over slavery. We know that neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution fully realized the all-men-are-created-equal principles that made Jefferson a rock star to acolytes fired up by his rhetoric. But it’s still something to see him waffling with his human property in the new historical drama “Jefferson’s Garden.”

That fascination is partly due to Michael Halling’s subtle, intriguingly contradictory performance as Jefferson. Halling, tall and regal, is convincing as a public intellectual with a private temper. He’s also the most plausibly human figure in a show that in key areas lacks the breath of life.

“Jefferson’s Garden” is by Timberlake Wertenbaker, one of Britain’s top dramatists, and this U.S. premiere is part of Washington’s Women’s Voices Theater Festival. It’s an ensemble-driven epic with nine actors flowing in and out of roles, starting with immigrants braving the sea and founding a peaceful Quaker colony in Maryland.

A short generation later, Christian, the son of a shoemaker, has revolution fever. What does he want? Freedom. When does he want it? Now.

“There are many ways to become intoxicated,” a community elder intones of Christian’s political passion, and one of Wertenbaker’s most pertinent themes is the power of rhetoric. Speeches get people riled up in the moment, but writing forges laws that last forever. (Notably, Wednesday’s opening-night audience at Ford’s included Capitol Hill lawmakers.) Halling’s moody Jefferson says he would rather write than orate like the rabble-rousing Patrick Henry.

The play announces itself as historical fiction right away, with actors explaining the setup, commenting on the fly and grabbing costumes off racks. It’s Christian’s story, with two complications — his relationship with the paradoxical Jefferson and his infatuation with a slave named Susannah.

That romance aims to be a comparatively woke mirror of the Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings, but this is where the story remains theoretical rather than getting the audience emotionally involved. It’s as if Wertenbaker and director Nataki Garrett don’t entirely take Christian seriously, while actor Christopher Dinolfo takes him too seriously. The one-note earnestness of Dinolfo’s liberty-for-everyone Christian lacks dimension, as does the tragic nobility of Felicia Curry’s Susannah.

In fact, the show hasn’t made up its mind about when to probe its characters and when to send them up. The increasingly arch tone of the second act, filled with nattering Virginian women and the iron force of segregationists, behaves more and more like the sharp lampoon of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s “An Octoroon,” recently directed by Garrett at Woolly Mammoth. Three “Octoroon” actors are in this show, and costume designer Ivania Stack’s half-formed hoop skirts are back, too.

Christopher Dinolfo and Felicia Curry in Timberlake Wertenbaker’s “Jefferson’s Garden” at Ford’s Theatre. (Carol Rosegg)

It’s not a clean fit. The American satire rattled with rage, while this British inquiry seems to want a more reserved, realistic analysis.

What gets you leaning in is Wertenbaker’s whirlpool of verbiage, the lofty defining of terms and the pragmatic refining of practices. It’s easy to holler about liberty, but the show puts matters to the test with an unsettlingly violent end of the first act. You can also feel the consequences of Jefferson’s mixed-message America beginning to swell by the end of the play.

Garrett’s ensemble is a smooth unit that includes stalwart D.C. actors Christopher Bloch, Kimberly Gilbert, Thomas Keegan and Maggie Wilder. Michael Kevin Darnall emerges vividly as James Hemings, Jefferson’s liberty-minded servant — he’s like a tuning fork, reverberating with ambition but held in place by his station — while Kathryn Tkel doubles as a youthful Sally Hemings and then the white Virginian who casts a seductive Southern eye Christian’s way.

The spare staging gets plenty of atmosphere from Laura Mroczkowski’s careful lighting design, yet it feels like a show with holes in its fabric. Wertenbaker has woven a sizable tapestry, and it gains aura by being framed at Ford’s. The history is terribly alive, but the fiction doesn’t always connect.

Jefferson’s Garden by Timberlake Wertenbaker. Directed by Nataki Garrett. Set, Milagros Ponce de León; original music and sound design, John Gromada. Through Feb. 8 at Ford’s Theatre, 511 10th St. NW. Tickets $25-$62. Call 888-616-0270 or visit

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How small landscaping companies can compete with larger ones online

screenshot of landscaping website

Photo: 411 Locals

Regardless of the nature of your business, being seen on the Internet is a highly recommended way of getting more calls from paying customers. This includes customers who are not looking for you specifically, yet they need your services. People who would usually go to your competitors would now be calling your landscaping company instead!

With a strong online presence for your landscaping company, once they search for landscapers on the Internet, they will see your company on the first page of the results, and that will undoubtedly lead to more calls for you. Very few people actually go to the second page, which is why it should be your priority to get your company on the first page and keep it there.

Internet exposure through an optimized website, as well as a place on the grid of Google Maps, will make your business become visible to hundreds of users, and you will get more calls from paying customers.

Online search marketing has significantly grown in the past several years as online searches continue to develop from a novelty to a standard and regular feature in our everyday lives.

Using small business advantages to compete

Keyword targeting

Big brands often choose not to target specific keywords or are unable to use them for several reasons. The SEO keyword universe is limitless, and while the large companies are restricted to using specific ones by rule, a small business can take advantage of it. For example, a large landscaping company brand would definitely target keywords like “landscaping companies.”

As a small company can attract a more specific audience with long-tail keywords such as “landscaping companies Las Vegas, NV” or “garden design Las Vegas, NV.”

Broad or “short tail” keywords are one or two words such as “landscaping company” and refer to more commonly used shorter and generic terms people search for and target a broad audience. Long tail keywords are keyword phrases that are typically made up of three to five words such as “landscaping company in Las Vegas, NV,” which are longer and target a more specific audience. Long tail keywords aren’t as popular but are more targeted to specific searches and come with less competition and therefore more affordable

Brand authority and specific niches

A large, national landscaping company will focus on history and the quality of their services. Your local landscaping company can focus on latest garden design trends, proper succulent and cacti care, landscape irrigation checkup and repair, etc. Give your future customers valuable advice and not just sales tricks. Get those undecided people’s attention by teaching them what is suitable for them and not just telling them how professional your landscapers are.

Quality content

Finally, all of the above should be integrated into your website content. While large companies need to be organic in their content, as they cannot possibly cover everything that they do in small articles, you can invest 10 times more effort in a single piece of content. Set keywords that are extremely important for your business and create that quality content, giving valuable information, options and building the trust of its readers. I will walk you step by step through a proven process to move your company to the top of the list:

  1. Select your keywords

First, put together a list of keywords that reflect your services. You might try keywords such as “landscaping company,” “lawn care services” and “landscape design.”

When you have a decent list, set up a free Google AdWords account. Small business owners can use the invaluable Google Keyword Tool to help them select the best keywords for their given industries. This allows you to type in your selected keywords to find out how much traffic they get. It also suggests related keywords that may not have occurred to you.

  1. Optimize your keywords

When your keyword list is finalized, it is time to optimize them on your Google My Business page and your website:

Google My Business

Your Google My Business page appears in the “Map” section of Google local listings. It boosts your online presence and gives prospective customers a short description of your services. It is much easier to increase your rankings faster with a Google My Business page than with a website.

Make sure that all of these components are complete and accurate:

  • Verification: You must first create or claim your business page and submit it for Google verification. Your verification is confirmed when you see a checkmark and the word “Verified” next to your business name.
  • NAP: Your business name, address and phone number must be accurate and consistent in all listings. Let Google know that your business is a local one by including a local phone number instead of an 800 number.
  • Categories: Google My Business categories should focus on services. Along with “landscaping company,” list any additional services your company provides such as “garden design” and “landscape irrigation checkup and repair.” Try to select three to five categories.
  • Description: This is a brief overview of your business that should end with a call to action.
  • Hours: Make sure that your business hours are correct and are consistent with all of your internet listings.
  • Images: Add photos of your office, your staff, your team at work, etc. because this can dramatically increase customer engagement.

Website optimization

Begin with your homepage and service pages because these pages are the most important. Optimize them for your buying intent keywords. Later, you can optimize your blog posts and other content pages for research intent keywords. Here is what to focus on:

  • Homepage: The title tag is the single most important element on your homepage. It should be between 50 and 65 characters long and formatted similarly to: Landscaping Company in {Your City} | {Name of Your Company}.
  • The next element is the meta description, which lists your primary services and should end with a call to action. It must be between 100 and 150 characters in length: {Name of Company} offers affordable {landscaping services} in {Your City}. Call {Phone Number} today for a free estimate!
  • Make sure the visible headline is concisely descriptive and contains your primary category. This format works well: {Landscaping Company} in {City, State}.
  • The last major element is your page copy, which is a 500 to 1,000-word descriptive section that provides some background information about your company. You should briefly describe your services and end with a strong call to action. Make sure to use your primary keyword throughout the page in a natural way.
  • Service pages: Create a separate page for each of your services. Optimize each service page in exactly the same way as the homepage, making sure to substitute the relevant keyword.

Although SEO fundamentals and tactics may change, the goal of the search engine has always been the same – providing searchers with the information they’re after in an easy and quick way.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Roumen Todorov is the co-founder and COO of 411 Locals, a Las Vegas-based internet advertising agency specializing in search engine optimization (SEO), web design and online marketing solutions for small and medium-sized businesses throughout the U.S. For more information, visit

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After Pushback, Smithsonian Revises Renovation Plan to Preserve Beloved Garden

BIG’s updated Smithsonian Campus Master Plan (image courtesy BIG)

Back in 2014, Washington DC’s Smithsonian Institution announced a major renovation just off the National Mall, which would “revitalize” the Smithsonian Castle, expand the Hirshhorn Museum, and create an underground visitor center and event space. The plan completely re-envisioned a large portion of the area between the entrances of two sparsely visited, underground museums there, the National Museum of African Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) — which recently completed the VIA 57 West building in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood and the LEGO House in Denmark — the Smithsonian design did away with the pavilions that now lead into the two underground museums and replaced them with corner entrances that looked like wings flapping up from the ground.

BIG’s updated Smithsonian Campus Master Plan (image courtesy BIG)

The ambitious (and expensive) design was viewed somewhat skeptically, and many locals saw in the plans the total destruction of a beloved quiet garden that currently stands in between the two museum entrance pavilions. In 2016, a petition began circulating to save the Enid A. Haupt Garden, which got over 2,500 signatures.

BIG and the museum seem to have listened. Last week, BIG shared its updated design for the Smithsonian, which saves the beloved garden space and leaves the Haupt Garden largely untouched in the middle of the new landscaping between the museums.

This isn’t the first time a museum’s renovation plan has been publicly scrutinized due to the perceived elimination of a much-loved garden. In 2015, New York’s Frick Collection abandoned a plan that would have destroyed its Russell Page-designed garden space.

Whether or not DC locals will be more receptive of BIG’s revised plan remains to be seen.

BIG’s original 2014 Smithsonian Campus Master Plan (top) and the updated version (bottom) (image courtesy BIG)
The Enid A. Haupt Garden as it currently stands (top) and as it will appear after the completion of BIG’s updated Smithsonian Campus Master Plan (bottom) (image courtesy BIG)
BIG’s updated Smithsonian Campus Master Plan (image courtesy BIG)
BIG’s updated Smithsonian Campus Master Plan (image courtesy BIG)
BIG’s updated Smithsonian Campus Master Plan, Hirshhorn Museum interior (image courtesy BIG)
BIG’s updated Smithsonian Campus Master Plan, Hirshhorn Museum interior (image courtesy BIG)
BIG’s updated Smithsonian Campus Master Plan, Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden (image courtesy BIG)
BIG’s updated Smithsonian Campus Master Plan, Visitor Center (image courtesy BIG)
BIG’s updated Smithsonian Campus Master Plan, Campus Basement (image courtesy BIG)
BIG’s updated Smithsonian Campus Master Plan, Event Space (image courtesy BIG)
BIG’s updated Smithsonian Campus Master Plan (image courtesy BIG)
BIG’s updated Smithsonian Campus Master Plan (image courtesy BIG)
BIG’s updated Smithsonian Campus Master Plan (image courtesy BIG)

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Statues Removed: How About Yoga In The Park?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. ( – Well, there are plans in the works for the parks that used to have the statues. You know the statues I’m talking about, like General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis. 

Old Jeff Davis might not like the idea, but just like the Jeffersons TV Show, Memphis Greenspace boss Van Turner says when it comes to the park, it’s time to move ’em on up.

“I think it’s just really time to activate both parks,” he says. “You know, I can’t wait until the spring. To have MLK 50 to commemorate. Hopefully we’ll have this park actively used, as well as the Memphis Park.”

Van Turner makes no bones about it. He wants new landscaping and sidewalks. He wants events like yoga classes and concerts.

The parks, which are normally empty for most hours of the day, would be active places if Turner has his way.

“We want to manicure the parks,” he says, “…clean up some of the shrubbery. Make sure we have good landscaping. We also want to put in more seating, and we want to put in more things that will invite people into the park, and have them enjoy themselves.”

His ideas just don’t cut the Confederate mustard to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. They have their own plans for the two parks. Put the statues back up, they say, and leave the areas alone.

Lee Millar of the group says, “The SCV is working to preserve our heritage and history.”

The groups have different ideas on how to handle history, however.

Turner says, “We’re committed to making sure we open these parks up to all Memphians, and we honor and appreciate the history, which can perhaps mean utilizing any number of Civil War museums or parks to take the statues that were once here.”

Turner hopes to have new events at the Greenspace parks by spring.

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La Vista plans to make 84th Street an ‘iconic’ community gateway – Omaha World

Whenever Hailey Konnath posts new content, you’ll get an email delivered to your inbox with a link.

Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items.

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Coastkeeper expands free water-wise workshops for underserved communities in Orange County

Community, Environment 0 comments

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Gretna garden designed to outsmart freezes wins first place in garden contest


The recent hard freezes have drained all the bright colors out of many local landscapes, replacing them with sepia tones of browns and grays. The cold was merciless, reducing banana plants, ferns, birds of paradise, palm trees and many other tropicals to soggy masses, and even burning some cold hardy plants. 

But in Gretna, it’s as if Old Man Winter just skipped right over the tidy front yard at the home of Tommy, Dana and Wren Guidroz. In mid-January, after hard freezes, it looked as vibrant, healthy and colorful as ever.

That’s because the Guidroz garden has a secret. While on first glance, the plants appear to be layered in garden beds, most of them actually are planted in hidden containers. When a hard freeze is predicted, Tommy Guidroz, a horticulturist, moves everything inside his garage. That’s a bit of work, considering 80 percent or more of his garden is in containers, including bright rows of Torch and Frost begonias planted in pots hidden behind a trim boxwood hedge on each side of the front steps.

The upshot of all that work is a garden that stays healthy and vibrant year round, even when the weather looks like a scene from “Frozen” outside.

Such care and attention to detail earned Guidroz’s front yard first place in the third annual Jazzin’ Up the Neighborhood Garden Contest, sponsored by|The Times-Picayune, the LSU AgCenter and the Metro Area Horticulture Foundation.

The contest, held last fall, was open to front yards throughout the New Orleans area. The judges were LSU AgCenter agents Joe Willis and Anna Timmerman; Metro Area Horticulture Foundation president Kevin Taylor of Southern Accent Landscaping Lawn Care Inc.; and Susan Langenhennig, InsideOut editor. The five finalists’ gardens were visited in person by the judges.

As the first-place winner, Guidroz received a $200 gift certificate to Perino’s nursery; a signed copy of “The Louisiana Urban Gardener: A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Vegetables and Herbs,” by LSU AgCenter vegetable gardening expert Kathryn K. Fontenot; and a copy of “The Grumpy Gardener: An A to Z Guide from the Galaxy’s Most Irritable Green Thumb,” by Southern Living gardening columnist Steve Bender. (Bender will bring his hilarious take on gardening to the New Orleans Botanical Garden Feb. 3. For tickets, go to

The contest judges spotted Guidroz’s yard as soon as they turned onto the block. The garden stands out for its multiple layers of texture and colors and unusual combination of plants. Cacti and succulents blend well with Mother in Law’s tongue (sanseveria), ponytail palm, a Ric Rac (or fishbone) cactus, all in pots. The foundation of the garden — planted in the bed — are all cold hardy plants, including Little Gem magnolia trees, a boxwood hedge and neatly trimmed creeping fig vine growing on the porch and stairs. 

The garden’s charm is in its little details. For example, a pair of red coffee mugs (filled with rocks to weigh them down) sit on a small metal table next to two lawn chairs on the porch, for a decorative, homey touch. Resurrection fern is growing on a small piece of wood strapped to the branches of a large loropetalum tree. Beneath the loropetalum, “a bright red bench invites passersby to stay and enjoy the garden,” noted Taylor.

“I really like that the garden is symmetrical but not too symmetrical,” said Timmerman, the LSU AgCenter horticulturist for Jefferson Parish. “The begonias — Torch and Frost — balance each other but aren’t mirror images. The effect is that it’s formal, but still full of surprises.”

Glancing up to the front porch, Timmerman then added, “that’s the best ficus topiary I’ve ever seen.”

“It’s very diverse in a small spot, but it doesn’t look cluttered or busy,” said Willis, the LSU AgCenter horticulturist for Orleans Parish. “To have this much variety without it looking busy is hard to do.”

Taylor was particularly impressed with the way the garden fits the house. “This meticulously maintained landscape is perfectly scaled to fit this historic home,” he said.

Guidroz enjoys maintaining the garden, watering everything by hand daily. “I come home from work and play with my plants,” he jokes. “It’s my church.”

Stay tuned: the second-place and third-place winners of the Jazzin’ Up the Neighborhood Garden Contest will be featured in upcoming issues of InsideOut.

To see more photos of Guidroz’s garden, go to or @nolahomegarden on Instagram.

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Longtime Grundy Foundation administrator retires

Donna Moore McCloskey started working for the Bristol Borough-based organization in 1975, a year after she graduated from high school.

Donna Moore McCloskey is counting the days until spring, when she will volunteer to help maintain two community-nurtured gardens in Bristol Borough.

“I think it goes back to being a little girl who likes to play in the dirt,” the lifelong borough resident said. “I am happy to have dirt under my fingers. I love to see things grow.”

The recently-retired McCloskey has been an eyewitness to many areas of growth in her community while serving for more than four decades at the Joseph R. Grundy Foundation off Radcliffe Street in the borough. She is the organization’s only employee to ever work in all three phases of its operation, first as an aide in the Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library, then as the executive director’s assistant in the foundation’s office and finally as administrator of the Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Museum.

Established after Sen. Grundy’s death in 1961, the non-profit foundation oversees the late-Victorian era museum and library named in memory of Grundy’s sister, Margaret, and philanthropic efforts to benefit people and projects primarily in the riverside town. The foundation has contributed millions of dollars to the betterment of the borough, including construction of the high-rise Grundy Tower senior citizens complex in 1971, construction of a skating rink in 1975, land to build a second rink 20 years after the first facility was destroyed by fire, and the acquisition and renovation of the Bristol Riverside Theatre in 1984.

“Joe Grundy had a vision to help the community and that is why the foundation was established — to improve the living conditions for Bristol residents,” said McCloskey, who started working for the organization in 1975, about a year after she graduated from Bristol Borough High School. “It was really pretty amazing to be able to be a part of and understand all areas of the foundation’s work.”

During her 11 years as museum administrator, McCloskey updated the facility’s interpretive plan and coordinated public celebrations of its 40th anniversary in 2007 and 50th anniversary in 2017. She also oversaw the creation of “Margaret’s Garden” and other landscaping attractions, plus the foundation-sponsored Adams Hollow Creek Community Garden off Jefferson Avenue in the borough. Along the way, she founded the Garden Club of Bristol Borough and will continue to tend to the two gardens while running the club on a volunteer basis.

“I just bust with pride when I think about it,” McCloskey said.

The foundation and town have benefited from her efforts, said Gene Williams, the foundation’s executive director. “A lot of good things have come about directly because of what Donna did,” he said. “She made sure people who toured (the museum) would want to come back with friends and family.”

The organization is not hiring anyone to replace McCloskey. Williams said he has assumed many of her duties as the museum’s administrator and other staff members are handling the rest.

“The job will get done,” he said. “We do it with solid programming, solid services and good people at the helm. The staff doing it now is more than capable in large part because of what Donna has taught them. It has been a good recipe for success.”

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Winter tree pruning workshop at Sonoma Garden Park – Sonoma Index

Local certified sustainable landscaper Katy Reynolds will be sharing her knowledge and expertise at a winter pruning workshop at Sonoma Garden Park.

When it comes to keeping fruit trees healthy and strong, proper pruning is key. The workshop will provide an opportunity for new and seasoned gardeners to expand their pruning knowledge while getting hands-on training at the Sonoma Garden Park.

Reynolds grew up in Sonoma County and has a passion for promoting sustainable practices in farms and gardens. She runs a small sustainable landscaping business and has over 10 years of experience maintaining orchards, vegetable and habitat gardens, and ornamental landscapes using sustainable techniques.

She studied organic farming in Italy and at the Santa Rosa Junior College where she earned a degree in sustainable agriculture. In addition to being a certified sustainable landscaper, say Garden Park officials, Reynolds is “a wonderful teacher and we are so lucky to have her share her wealth of knowledge on this topic with workshop participants.”

Sonoma Garden Park is a 6.1-acre public park, working farm, exemplar of sustainable agriculture and an educational resource. The land was donated to the City of Sonoma in the 1970s by Pauline Bond, a retired school teacher and avid gardener. The Sonoma Ecology Center developed and has been maintaining the Garden Park since 1993.

The workshop will be held at Sonoma Garden Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 27 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 19996 Seventh St. E. The cost is $10 for Sonoma Ecology Center members or $15 for non-members. Register at

Rain will cancel, since pruning in the rain is unhealthy for trees (spreads disease, etc.).

For more information, call 996-0712 ext. 107 or email

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Late winter tips for Victoria gardeners


• Clean dead annuals/weeds from beds

• Add and till organic matter into beds

• Mulch bare beds to retard weeds

• Prune roses, shrubs and summer/fall flowering perennials in mid-February

• Follow pruning plan for shade and ornamental trees

• Consult Texas AgriLife Extension for pruning fruit trees

• Maintain landscape with freeze protection, proper watering and light fertilizer

• Plan, plan, plan!

Source: Brenda Heinold, Victoria County Master Gardener

Vegetable Recommended Varieties (not all listed) Spring planting dates

• Beans (bush) Blue Lake, Contender, Greencrop, Tendercrop, Topcrop Feb. 10 – Apr 15

• Beans (pole) Dade, Kentucky Wonder Feb 10 – Mar 15

• Beets Pacemaker II, Ruby Queen Jan 15 – Apr 15

• Broccoli Green Magic Jan 15 – Feb 25

• Carrots Danvers Half Long, Imperator 58, Nantes Half Long Jan 15 – Feb 10

• Collards Blue Max, Georgia Southern, Vates Jan 15 – Mar 15

• Corn (sweet) Silver Queen, Sweet G-90 Feb 15 – Mar 15

• Eggplant Black Beauty, Black Magic, Classic, Florida Market, Ichiban Feb 20 – Apr 1

• Lettuce Buttercrunch, Black Seeded Simpson, Oakleaf, Salad Bowl Jan 15 – Mar 15

• Pepper Big Bertha, Hidalgo Serrano Feb 20 – Mar 10

• Potato Kennebec, Red LaSoda Jan 15 – Feb 15

• Radish Early Scarlet Globe, Cherry Belle Jan 15 – Feb 15

• Squash Dixie, Early Prolific, Zucchini Elite, Zucco Feb 10 – Apr 1

• Tomato Sun Pride, Tomato 444, Amelia, Celebrity, Feb 20 – Mar 10

Source: Texas AM AgriLife Extension

This year certainly got off to a chilly start. The first four days saw freezing temperatures in Victoria and surrounding counties, even dipping as low as the upper teens to mid-20s. Then, with last week’s sleet and several days in the mid- to low 20s, the frost-sensitive annuals in our gardens that survived the snow in early December have almost certainly been decimated.

But, make no mistake about it; our landscape is still very much alive. What we do now can have a great impact on our gardening success throughout the remainder of 2018.

Planning for the spring

January and February are great months to review what did and did not work in our gardens in the previous year. Selecting appropriate plant varieties is a fairly easy task with the wealth of free information available at Texas AM AgriLife Extension Service’s website and in its printed and online publications. Many plant- and gardening-specific publications can be obtained by visiting your county extension office.

Equally importantly, we must match our plants’ needs to the resources we can reasonably devote to caring for them. It is important to understand the nutritional and water needs of selected plants, how much time is necessary to care for them and whether they are prone to disease and insects. Matching recommended plants to our ability to care for them is probably the most important thing we can do to improve our gardening pleasure and success.

Research recommended vegetable varieties for your county and make lists of those that you would like to plant. I recommend printing the list available at and marking your choices on the copy. Then, take the marked-up copy with you when you shop for transplants or seeds. If you don’t find your first choice, you will be able to make a wise second choice.

Preparing beds for spring planting

The winter months are an ideal time to prepare old and new beds for spring planting. The first task will be to mark the layout of the bed, remove existing weeds and turf, till or spade organic matter into the soil and cover the entire bed with a layer of mulch. If you are establishing a new bed, strive to achieve a balance of 50 percent organic matter and 50 percent soil to a depth of 12 inches. Refer to last week’s column on composting for information on organic matter.

In established beds, be sure to remove any dead vegetation before mixing organic matter into the soil and adding fresh mulch. Remember that your beds need organic matter added each year.

Refer to last week’s article on composting for information on organic matter.

In established beds, be sure to remove any dead vegetation before mixing organic matter into the soil and adding fresh mulch. Remember that your beds need organic matter added each year.

Planting in late winter

Many vegetables and flowering annuals can be planted now through February. The next few weeks are your last chance to plant cool-season vegetables. The second half of February, in general, is the first chance to plant warm-season vegetables. Consult a planting guide for specific planting dates.

Irish potatoes should be planted in mid-February. Remember the old advice to plant them between Lincoln’s birthday (Feb. 12) and Washington’s birthday (Feb. 22). Do not wait too late. Potatoes need enough time to mature before the combination of hot temperatures and heavy rainfall that can come in late April and May.

Trees, shrubs and roses can all be planted in January and February. Follow specific planting guidelines available through Texas AM AgriLife Extension Service.


In general, do not prune spring-blooming ornamental plants until after they bloom. Mid-February is the best time to prune shrubs and roses, with the exception of those like the Lady Banks rose that bloom just once a year. Although trees are best pruned in the winter months, remember that your shade, ornamental and fruit trees represent a significant investment of money and time. Be sure to consult a pruning guide to determine how much to prune, when to prune and even whether to prune at all.

Watering and fertilizing

Water and fertilize actively growing vegetables and cool-season flowers with high-nitrogen synthetic or organic fertilizers. Although your lawn will also benefit from adequate water, hold off on fertilizing your turf until late March. Plan to water your turf grasses once in January and twice in February unless we receive adequate rainfall.

Make light applications of water-soluble fertilizer and high-nitrogen fertilizers on newly planted vegetables and flowers. Fertilize established trees, shrubs and vines in February, but do not fertilize those that are newly planted.


Finally, remember to keep an eye on the weather forecast. Late January and February can be the coldest time of the year. Do not let your guard down. Remember to protect cold-sensitive plants from freezing weather. We are almost to the home stretch. Do not let a sudden cold snap catch you unaware.

The Gardeners’ Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AM AgriLife Extension – Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or


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