Guide to Gardening During a Texas Winter
Most homeowners or outdoor enthusiasts have, at some point in their lives, taken on the daunting task of bringing new life into their garden. These folks know that gardening is a labor of love, and they likely also know how disheartening it can be when external factors, like weather, cause your hard work to go to waste. The good news for our Texas residents out there is that Texas winters can be reasonably moderate. Any good Texan knows that every winter will bring the occasional freeze, but for the most part, temperatures will be cold yet tolerable (with the exception of the northernmost Texas cities located close to and inside of the panhandle). However, there’s still a sizable difference in temperature between a Texas spring or summer and a Texas winter, and it’s important to take the necessary precautions to make sure your beloved garden is able to survive until the next season, either while growing or dormant. For the most avid gardening enthusiasts, one season of flowers and vegetables just isn’t enough. The good news is that there are plenty of plants that thrive in colder temperatures. Below you’ll find our top tips for Texas residents on how to “winterize” your garden in Texas and satisfy your winter gardening cravings.
Preparing Your Garden
The first thing that any avid Texas gardener should consider as colder temperatures start to roll around is how to ensure that last season’s garden nursing doesn’t go to waste.
Protect your garden from pests
Ensuring that you have a healthy garden before winter begins is especially important if you plan on minimal garden maintenance during the winter months. In Texas, you’ll start to get some serious (by Texas standards) cold weather toward the end of November. These cold fronts typically last until the end of February. Plan to do an invasive weed-picking overhaul around late October to make sure that your garden is clean before the temperature drops past a comfortable outdoor temperature. Your pre-winter garden cleanup should also include the removal of any dead plant debris or stalks, as these can be a breeding ground for harmful diseases and other pests. If you have plants that you know are finishing annuals, remove them at the start of winter for a clean slate of soil when spring rolls around.
Prepare the beds
Winter is a great time to let nutrients really soak into the ground so that when prime gardening time rolls around during the spring, your soil is healthy and nutrient-rich from months of decomposition. During early November, before the winter rains start, add around 3 inches of compost to your beds. Over time, the compost will decompose into crucial nutrients in the soil, making springtime gardening a breeze. In northern Texas, you may also want to consider adding a thick layer of mulch to your garden to prevent freezing and thawing cycles. However, most of central and southern Texas won’t experience steady freezing temperatures throughout the winter that would make it worthwhile to try to keep the garden frozen with mulch. However, in the drier areas of Texas, mulching your garden can help to keep moisture in the soil. If you’re expecting a dry winter, mulching your gardens at the beginning of the winter will be beneficial.
Freezing temperature planning
In Texas, below-freezing temperatures are spread out throughout the wintertime. You might experience your first isolated freeze toward the middle of November. Freezes will become more frequent as the winter progresses; however, they are rarely constant. It’s a good idea to have a plan in place for when freezes do come to make sure that your perennials (plants that survive winter) are protected for re-blooming in the spring. Since freezes are quite sporadic during a Texas winter, it’s feasible for you to pull out all the stops when you hear news of a freezing cold front. Be prepared to take the following actions when a freeze is imminent:
- Cover shrubs and other tender plants with some sort of fabric (burlap, sheets, etc.). Do not use plastic to cover your plants.
- If high winds are expected, plan to cover evergreen plants as well.
- Cut back perennials to a few inches above where the stem meets the plant’s crown at soil level (with the exception of hardier perennials, which should be left unpruned).
What and When To Plant
So you’ve set your garden up to be successful when springtime comes, but what about the gardeners who just can’t wait until spring for another gardening season? Luckily, moderate Texas winters (hardiness zones 7, 8 and 9) are great for gardening with the right plants.
What to plant
You can find these these winter vegetables in Texas thriving when the temperature drops:
- Greens (arugula, spinach, collards, lettuce, kale, etc.)
- Brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, etc.)
- Legumes (peas, beans)
- Root vegetables (carrots, beets, radishes, onions)
Some favorite Texas flowers that bloom in winter include the following
When to plant
- Dianthus (best for cooler north Texas temperatures)
- Sweet Alyssum (best for southern Texas with minimal frost)
For winter vegetables in Texas, planting season starts anywhere between late summer and the end of fall. Our recommendation is to plan your planting days for the middle of fall, when you’ll reap the benefits of cold temperatures at night but temperatures will be moderate enough during the day to be enjoyable. The closer you get to cold days, the better luck you’ll have against diseases and pests, which become more dormant during colder temperatures. If you’d like to plant a second crop during winter, we suggest aiming for January or early February.
Since Texas is a big state, you’ll have the most success planting for the temperatures that are most specific to your region. For detailed dates on planting times for each vegetable, check out A&M’s chart on Texas regional planting
How To Water During Winter in Texas
Watering your garden
There are several tips to keep in mind when watering your garden during the winter. You’ll want to water your plants once or twice a month unless Texas is experiencing a particularly dry winter. Your plants are likely to absorb more water during the earlier hours of the day; however, try to make sure that the temperatures are above 45 degrees Fahrenheit. For most days, this shouldn’t be an issue in Texas, but every once in a while, you’ll get a cold snap during which temperatures dip below normal. Make sure to water both winter plants as well as perennials that might be dormant, as their roots will still need water to stay alive until spring. Only water until the soil of your garden is moist, and try to avoid watering when you are expecting a freeze!
Watering your lawn
Though it may be tempting, make sure to remain on a consistent watering schedule until temperatures drop below freezing. You can typically expect this to happen during some point in November, so plan to continue with your regular watering schedule until the days start to get significantly shorter. Truly frozen lawns aren’t a huge concern in Texas, as it typically doesn’t stay below freezing for more than a night or two. You should plan to stay on a fairly consistent watering schedule when you are experiencing a dry winter. Barring frozen soil, we recommend watering your lawn every two to three weeks for 15 to 20 minutes during the winter months. It’s especially important to water your lawn earlier during the day in the winter so that it has adequate time to dry before the evening rolls around. For ease of watering your lawn during the cold winter months, we recommend using a sprinkler system that you can simply turn on in the morning and turn off 15 minutes later, minimizing time spent outside in the chilly weather. Check out our favorite Element sprinkler system below.