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Garden Tips

Top 10 Spring Tips for Central Texas Gardeners
By Bob Beyer, Travis County Master Gardener

Thinking spring?  Here are a few related thoughts for preparing for the spring garden.

  1. Planning, planning, planning: Develop a garden plan for the coming season, both short, and longer term. Know what it is you want to do before digging - what goes where and why.
  2. Grow Green GuideSelect your plants for the coming season carefully. Research them on the internet or check with a non-commercial reliable sources for advice as to adaptability and growing features of plants that you are considering for your garden. Remember, there is the right plant for the every place depending on the microenvironment of the growing location. Impulse buying at a plant center can be wasteful. Pictured here is the City of Austin’s Grow Green informative guide, Native and Adapted Landscape Plants: an earthwise guide for Central Texas (4th Edition, 2009).  This publication is available at local nurseries and at the Garden Center at Zilker Botanical Garden.  You can also download the guide at
  3. Prune back any dead wood or expired vegetation to allow new growth the opportunity to take over in spring. It is usually best to wait until new growth actively occurs before pruning. 
  4. Cultivate bed areas to aerate and refresh them. Add new organic materials and compost to encourage micro-biotic activity. The health of your soil will directly affect your gardening success.
  5. Don't be too eager to begin planting tender plant materials as we are always subject to late freezes or wintry blasts. In central Texas, April 1st should be a safe date for planting anything tender.
  6. If moving plants from indoors or low light areas where they were protected over winter, re-acclimate and re-climatize them to the higher light intensity levels in slow gradual phases.
  7. Most nurseries carry fresh stock in spring through summer but phase out stock in fall and winter, so your healthiest plants will be those purchased as early as possible as they become available. Many nurseries have difficulty taking good care of container stock during off seasons so buying prior year stock can be risky.
  8. When planting new shrubs or perennials, cut through tightly wound root balls and spread roots outward before covering with soil. This allows new feeder roots to spread and the plant to establish itself faster. The consequence of not doing that might be "girdling" or the plant strangling itself over time.
  9. If you have yard maintenance service, tell them not to pile mulch around tree trunks, not to prune back plants more than 1/3rd their size (esp. Crepe Myrtle), or use their string trimmers within striking distance of any plant trunk or base. These are common problems with such services.
  10. Learn about the plants you grow. The more you learn, the more economical and enjoyable gardening will become. Consider taking the Master Gardener class in your county. You should learn about which plants do well in your specific environment and climate zone and not try to "push the limit" of plant tolerances. A good place for further helpful information is "Central Texas Gardening", at .
©Zilker Botanical Garden,
Austin Area Garden Council