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Keeping our lawn and garden show-worthy (or even somewhat presentable) in North Texas often tasks our patience: With this ridiculously fickle weather, who?s to say when the last freeze will come or how soon the temp will soar into the hundreds?

So it?s good that Dallasites can lay claim to one of the preeminent gurus of gardening, the Dirt Doctor (also known as Howard Garrett), who has been educating those of us who are green-thumb dumb for most of the past 20-odd years through his website and radio programs. His past landscape projects include the Dallas Junior League?s corporate headquarters and the Greenway Parks residential development.

News you can use: According to the good doctor, mid-February is just about the best time to get your trees, shrubs, ground covers, vines and perennials in the ground. Here, his top tips:

Pruning is essential, but don?t overdo it. Ever seen an over-pruned crape myrtle? It?s not a pretty sight. Garrett cautions to go easy on this ubiquitous shrub and on newly planted trees; in order for the trunk to grow in diameter, it?s essential that they keep their low limbs and foliage.

Start a fertilizing program. A vociferous proponent of the wonders of organic gardening, Garrett suggests using dry molasses as fertilizer; its high sugar content helps stimulate the grass. Another benefit? It will obliterate your fire-ant population.

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