Ingredients to kill ball moss and unpleasant odors

Brilliant blooms show to advantage above the mounding Pericallis.

January is almost over, and the season of love is fast approaching. With the advent of Valentine’s Day, Beeville Garden Club’s annual Table Show will be held Feb. 12 and 13 at the Spirit Bank of Texas. In addition to innovative tablescapes, there will be demonstrations, an artisan’s market, delicious baked treats, refreshments and a guest designer. 

The weather feels like early spring and I have the planting bug. The garden is showing signs of growth – larkspur seedlings are popping up everywhere along with roses and iris in bloom. Can leaf season be far behind! 

When the leaves start to fall, it’s time to take care of the ball moss (Tillandsia recurvata). These unsightly epiphytes can form large dense balls in a short time period on more than just our oaks having been found on telephone poles and fence posts. Ball moss isn’t parasitic like mistletoe – it is a bromeliad. To kill the moss you can use a mix of one small box of baking soda, one tablespoon of Dawn dish soap, to one gallon of water. Spray this mix on the ball moss, which will die, start to rot, and eventually fall. This is a slow but effective process. 

The springlike weather has critters on the move. I have noticed the not-so-pleasant fragrance of little black and white kitties. In case your pets have a close encounter with one of those cute little black and white kitties be sure to have the ingredients for the recipe on hand. The recipe for the skunk antidote is: 1 qt. of 3% hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup baking soda, 1 tsp. liquid soap and 1 malodorous pet. Mix the peroxide, soda and soap together and sponge on the poor exiled pet. Work up a good lather and then rinse with tap water. Like magic, the smell will instantly vanish. We keep the ingredients on hand for those unfortunate incidents. The antidote can’t be stored, and the Bell never seems to learn. It will even work on the husband.

Rainy days alternating with blue skies, mild daytime temperatures and crisp nights are luring me out, creating a desire to get my hands in the soil. We have only had some light frost, which means the insect population hasn’t been held in check. It will be important to be vigilant to infestations of harmful insects. 

Thanks to the fertilizer the husband spread in the fall, the lawn is growing. After a hard summer, that fall feeding was essential to the health of the lawn. Unfortunately, the husband is fussing about the fertilizer – he had to start mowing. Can you image the whining I will get when I start trying to get him to put out the spring application of fertilizer! 

I gave a program on daylilies to Hibiscus Garden Club recently and stopped by a big box store on my way home. The brilliant blooms of the flowers in the nursery section were singing their siren song and leaped into my basket.

Pericallis is one of the plants that followed me home. The brilliant blooms lured me into taking a closer look at this member of the small genus consisting of 14 blooming species. It is a mounding plant and considered an annual in our area and blooms in the spring and summer. The plant is native to the Canary Islands and Madeira. It is a butterfly magnet and deer resistant. To encourage flowering, cut back faded flower stalks down to the leaf level and feed.

Other flowers that followed me home are primroses (Primulaceae) in shades of pink. The dainty little flowers always make me think of Valentine’s Day. They form tufts of foliage with tall stems topped with clusters of blooms. The perennial is a native to the Himalayas and cool regions of Southeast Asia and Europe. While a perennial in its native habitat, it is considered a cool season annual in South Texas. That makes our current weather perfect for the impressive, circular five-petaled blooms. 

Since we are having a mild winter, it is a good time to plant pansies, violas, ornamental kale, cabbage, stock, sweet alyssum, phlox, petunia, verbena, geranium, aster and snapdragons may still be set out from four-inch transplants. Perennials such as yarrow coreopsis, purple cone flower and salvias may be set out toward the end of February. 

Sow seed of zinnia, nicotiana and cosmos inside to get a jump on spring. Outside, vegetable gardeners should sow beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, Swiss chard, collards, lettuce, mustard, potatoes, radish, spinach and turnip. After the middle of February, sow snap beans, sweet corn, cucumber, squash and watermelons. 

Watch out for scale, aphids and whiteflies. Use dormant oil while temperatures are still below 85 degrees F. Watch out for loopers and cabbageworms on broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower – use a Bacillus thuringienses product. Be ready to protect tomato transplants from a late spring freeze. You can never rule out a change in the weather.

I plan to take full advantage and play in the dirt!

Happy gardening.

Texas Master Gardener Columnist: Down the Garden Path