Stepping Stones

Stepping Stones to Gardening Success

Gardening is a succession of related tasks combined together builds our garden. The design we implement affects our choice of plants. The climate, location, water supply, soil type and texture may affect our design and style choice. Our degree of knowledge, our competence and the amount of time we have available to give to gardening affects the outcome. As we progress along this pathway to achieving the gardens of our imagination, each choice we make often affects the next step we take. We are never at the end, at the finish line, and if we act as if our job is finished, the garden begins its eventual decline.

I believe gardening should be fun. These monthly lists of gardening pleasantries or tasks are nothing more than a series of stepping stones to achieve the final goal of satisfaction, whether it’s through building the soil, building structures, building our knowledge of plants and their maintenance and helping others garden better or creating something beautiful for those less able to garden.

There are steps we should perform in various seasons and on a timely basis to achieve this goal. Long gone, however, is the sense of urgency felt out of necessity by colonists and pioneers whose continued existence depended, to a good extent, on the quality and quantity of harvest. There is some timing latitude with most gardening tasks, however, for best results, adherence to the plants requirements should be acknowledged. Low maintenance and ecologically friendly gardening is gardening to the need of the plant, not control oriented gardening.

Not every gardener will perform every task. I merely tried to address tasks necessary for maintaining many common types of gardens.

A garden and gardener comes into his own, not by following a day-to-day, or month-to-month list of chores, but by observing the climate and weather patterns and the life cycle of plants. The real art of the garden comes from recognizing the patterns of life, the rhythm of the garden and designing and maintaining to capitalize on the natural systems, adjusting our schedule to the needs of the garden. When our anticipation of garden events coincides, not with a task inscription on a calendar, but with an instinctive yearning and knowing, then we can confidently step outside, trowel in hand, and aid the process, good stewards of our landscape.

Here, to the best of my knowledge, are Stepping Stones to our gardens success for the Texas High Plains region. The menu bar to the right includes the months -- click on the time frame you need. You may notice fewer maintenance tasks for the xeric, low water-use areas. I’ve detailed easy to implement, fun, monthly to-do’s following the seven basic principles of gardening and organic, earth-friendly guidelines applied to our areas climate and soil conditions. Elsewhere in my website will be explanations not included in Stepping Stones, for instance, how to make a compost pile, how to amend the soil or how to develop your own plant profile for plant buying. I’ve included a “Keep it Up” reminders for routine duties, a special fun section “Be a Plant Explorer”, and “Extra’s” sections for gardeners who have the time, an “Ooops! and/or Don’t!” section with information or cultural practices you shouldn’t do, or do just yet.

A Note on Global Warming and Climate Change

I wrote the Stepping Stones guidelines in 2005. During the past 12 years I've noticed even more warming than I had noticed prior to that time. Not every year is warmer than the last. The trend, however is that our area is noticeably warmer than it was 30-40 years ago. Four years ago in January 2014, I compared the number of Heat Days Amarillo experienced in the period 1994 -2003 with the period 2004-2013 (GardenNotes on Heat Zones and heat days). this comparison from National Weather Service data showed an increase in 6.7 heat days per year for the latest period 2004-2013, and a mean temperature increase of .75 degrees in this ten year period over the previous period of 1994-2003. After learning this, I didn't revised starting dates for planting, etc. in However, I've altered my times for planting; moving planting times up considerably and I've payed more attention to my personal gardening skills and techniques.

Don't worry if you can't get to the task in the first week suggested. These times are when I've noticed the earliest most likely success achievable. Naturally, each and every year will be different. Some years will be warmer, some cooler. Adjust and stay tuned to the weather.

I am a firm advocate of gardening with our weather and climate, rather than against it. A knowledgeable gardener who keeps atune to changes will have better success. As the months pass in 2018, I will be updating some of the dates to reflect earlier planting times, based on my gardening successes of the past 4 years.

I hope you will enjoy success in your garden this year, and every year.

Angie Hanna

Revised, January 1, 2018.