Wednesday, June 26, 2013

July Gardening Tips

by Pat Kriener, Village interpreter and Master Gardener

Triple digit temperatures are here! Your best defense is smart watering practices, plant selection, and the secret weapon of all Texas gardens--MULCH.  I usually do not plant once the summer heat hits but the garden centers always run sales this time of year and I can never resist a good sale. I at least try to only buy plants that are Texas hardy, but I know I am going to have to baby it through the next few months.

  • Annuals - With this heat it’s a great time to check out the seed catalogs for cool season annuals. For the Texas heat, plant amaranthus, blue daze, cosmos, Esperanza, gaillardia, marigold, moss rose, purple fountain grass, purselane, sunflower, tropical hibiscus, variegated tapioca & zinnia.

  • Bulbs –Deadhead bulbs, up-pot spring bulbs that have overgrown their pots. Wait to cut back bulbs until brown. Do not cut back gladiolus until foliage is totally brown & dry, remove foliage and mark the location and leave them or lift them & store in paper bags in a dry cool place. 

  • Composting - Continue to add garden, kitchen and yard waste to the compost bin, stirring occasionally. Work compost into your beds and in the vegetable garden for fall crops. A great way to deal with all of that waste that comes out of the kitchen is by adding a kitchen composter. They make small counter bins to large under the counter self-contained units.

  • Containers – For a yellow & blue annual combo use Esperanza  in combination with blue daze. Purple and white perennial combo purple coneflower & oxeyed daisy. For a patriotic pot, try red verbena, white periwinkles and blue plumbago. Check spring containers to see if the your plants need to be discarded and replaced with summer dazzlers. 

  • Fruits - Many of our plums, peaches and other fruits are ready to be harvested--check them often. If the birds are a problem, get netting to put over your tree or hang old CDs facing towards the sun in your trees. They reflect sunlight and movement that can deter the birds.  Woodland butterflies will flock to their favorite fruits.

  • Greenhouse – Use a frame green house and cover it with shade cloth for the summer. With this open-air greenhouse you can still continue to propagate by seed, root and tip cuttings for fall vegetables, annuals, perennials & herbs.  Check plants twice daily to see if they need water, spot water from rain barrels.  This also helps add humidity.

  • Herbs – Deadhead, harvest leaves and flowers; use fresh or dry for later use. Chives are a wonderful accent to any garden and they attract butterflies & bees. Lemon Chive Butter – Mix half-cup softened butter with a tablespoon of finely chopped chives. Add the zest of a quarter lemon and a few lemon drops.  Enjoy!

  • Mulch - A Texan’s secret weapon against the sweltering heat. It helps to conserve water, which helps with your water bill. Keeps the soil cooler, which keeps the plants from stressing and suppresses weeds, which keeps you out of the summer heat. What’s not to LOVE!

  • Perennials – Start planning for the fall. Existing perennials, deadhead, watch for pests & disease.  Texas hardy – autumn sage, buddleia, coreopsis, purple coneflower & oxeyed daisy.  Usually the Perennial Sale is the one I can’t resist. So if you are like me plant & baby them through the summer and if they make it through to fall, next summer they will need little care.

  • Problems – I’ve had calls on fleas, spider mites, squash bugs, corn weevils, fire ants and much more. For detailed information on how to fight these pests and many more contact Johnson County AgriLIFE Extension at 817-556-6370.

  • Rainwater Harvesting - For those of you who have not gotten on the bandwagon to collect rainwater maybe the last few weeks changed your mind. Catching rainwater in barrels drastically reduces my water bill because I use it to water my containers, greenhouse plants and the vegetable garden. For now, I only use tap water for new beds, fruit trees and landscape beds if it hasn’t been watered within 7 days.

  • Roses - Do not allow Tea Roses to wilt before watering, this can lead to stress & disease. Ground water at least 3 to 4 inches deep. EarthKind roses are Texas tough and will be fine once established.

  • Trees – if you plant trees now make sure they get water every 7 days (you may have to bump it up to every 5 if they show signs of stress). If stressed, do not fertilize.  Instead, give them root stimulator or liquid seaweed; either will help prevent stress and promote a strong healthy root system. A few Trees for Texas:  Bur oaks, Magnolias, redbuds, Althea, Desert willow, Mexican plum & Yaupon.

  • Vegetable Garden – It’s time to start planning that Fall Garden.  I know it’s hard to think about that when you are harvesting tomatoes, peppers, peas, dill, fennel, radishes and herbs. Vegetables you can propagate now by seed to plant next month:  broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards.  Plant Now - cucumbers, luffa, okra, peppers, pumpkin, shallots, Southern peas, squash, tomatoes and watermelon. Usually I recommend just cutting your spring tomatoes back and use them for fall but with all of the calls I have been getting about spider mites I am recommending that if you are having an extreme problem to take out your spring tomato plants and plant new ones for the fall and in a different spot. The vegetable garden is usually my biggest water hog, so before I planted my raised beds I dug a trenches, laid a layer of small rock in the bottom of them, placed a PVC pipe on the rock which I drilled holes in every 3 inches, then I covered the pipe with a layer of rock, at the end of my bed I put and elbow on the pipe and run other pipe to the surface. Now I know I am getting water to the roots by simply running water down the pipe but I also make sure to ground water as well.

  • Watering – I constantly harp on getting your plants & yard on a 7 day cycle and watering before the sun comes up, but again with triple digits, I realize that is not always doable and still have living plants. The vegetable garden needs water at least 3 times a week. So during extreme heat make sure you to hand water or use slow release ground-watering methods such as soaker hoses and water deeply, 2 to 4 inches deep. 

  • Wildflowers – Take an air-conditioned ride and enjoy the painted landscapes of Texas. Don’t forget to take your Wildflower I.D. Books so you can read up on the different wildflowers.

  • Wildlife in the Garden – We need pollinators for the garden but many people do not want Honeybees so check out Mason Bees.  They rarely sting because they are not territorial but if they do most people say it hurts no greater than a mosquito bite.
This is the time of year to enjoy your gardens with family and friends so I personally tend to do very little work other than sitting on the porch with a cold drink and planning on what I will do once the temperatures drop.