It was just four weekends ago that we all emerged, kind of numb, from the mid-February deep freeze and took a look around. Even if you were among the fortunate who did not have damage to your pipes and home, you surely were disheartened to view our Houston landscape … the queen palms, sagos, hibiscus and citrus trees blasted and brown, many never to recover.

It’s been a dreadful experience. But my mother used to often say I view the world through rose-colored glasses (and she didn’t always mean it as a compliment), and I think there are some changes we gardeners might make right now as everything is being re-set. Here are some ideas for big changes in the garden before everything starts growing again.

  • Change out your old-school sprayer irrigation system for drip irrigation. It can deliver water to exactly the right spot, and you won’t lose nearly so much water to wind and evaporation. Also, drip irrigation won’t blow on your windows or fence or siding, as often happens with the spray heads. Even if you’re not up for changing out the irrigation in your lawn, consider the switch for your beds at least. You can do it yourself, like we did, and you can run lines into potted and hanging plants.
  • Clean out, sterilize and refresh your large pots. Go ahead and spend the money on new potting mix. But before you pour it into a pot, clean the pot thoroughly – first with water and then with a something to kill mold and bacteria. Here’s a video that demonstrates cleaning a large terra cotta pot with a spray bottle containing water, vinegar and biodegradable dish soap. The narrator uses a metal bristle brush to scrub. Some experts recommend a water-bleach dilution for cleaning/disinfecting. Your call.

  • While you’re getting messy cleaning pots, also clean and sharpen your garden tools, especially hand pruners, hedge clippers, saws and loppers. This video demonstrates and endorses a particular sharpener. The product itself might not be for you, but it’s a good way to get started with tool care. Final step: After cleaning and sharpening, sterilize your tools and with rubbing alcohol applied with a rag or wad of cotton. This will help to prevent inadvertently spreading viruses among your plants.
  • Review your hardscape. If ever you were going to upgrade your veranda, rebuild walkways or, perhaps, add a water feature, this is the time, while the plants are mostly still dormant (or dead, alas). We built a goldfish pond a few years ago, and I enjoy it every single day. And unlike many of my plants, the goldfish handled February’s freeze just fine.

  • Thinking about honeybees? Do it! There is an initial outlay of money and time as you set up your hive, but it becomes a fairly passive responsibility once the bees are established. Here’s our blog on bees from 2019. Yes, we did get a little honey last year. Cameron enjoys caring for “his girls” so much that he has ordered a second hive and nuc for delivery in May.

  • Lagniappe: If you’re a plant nerd – or married to one – I recommend the recently published The Gardener’s Botanical: An Enclyclopedia of Latin Plant Names (Princeton University Press, 2020). The New York Times gave it a fun review last October – yes, Latin can be fun! – and I ordered it immediately. It includes pronunciation guides, historical trivia and fabulous illustrations. You can order it on, of course, for less than $25.