GROUND RULES AND TOOLS FOR JUNE 2006

 

By Karen Pye

Victoria County Master Gardener Intern

 

It seems as if we have been transitioning into the hotter summer months since January! The warmer, drier winter months segued into the warmer-than-usual, dry spring months, and this trend is likely to continue thru June, getting hotter and drier.  All this adds up to more work tending to lawns, flower beds, and container plants.  But there are things you can do to minimize the labor and still maintain a healthy, beautiful yard.

 

LAWN CARE

A healthy lawn requires about one inch of watering per week and a weekly mowing. A drip irrigation system is probably the easier, most practical and economical method of watering, especially for landscape beds.  Drip irrigation is the precise application of water where and when plants need it.  In lieu of a drip irrigation system there are many good sprinklers on the market.  Lawn sprinklers are preferable to hand watering.  Most people have neither the time nor the patience to hand water an entire yard the required six inch depth.

 

Mow the lawn only when the grass continues to grow and often enough to never remove more than 30-40% of the leaf blade.  When the grass stops growing, stop mowing.  Keep in mind that during this hot, dry period, chinch bug damage can occur.  The infestation usually appears first in a sunny area next to masonry; i.e., driveways, sidewalks, brick siding.  Treat the infected area with one of several insecticides labeled for chinch bug control. Refer to a previous article published May 18th containing chinch bug treatment information at Gardeners’ Dirt, May 2006.

 

During hot, dry months do not apply too much fertilizer to lawns or they will be prone to drought stress and pest infestations.  It is better to apply too little than too much.  Keep in mind that excess fertilization weakens roots, increases watering needs, causes thatch and excessive growth, and pollutes waterways.  Of course, the best course of action is to have a soil test to ensure that you are applying the correct amount and the correct fertilizer blend for your particular yard.  Victoria County Extension office can help you with soil analysis and recommend fertilizers and application schedules.

 

“Mulching flowerbeds of annuals and perennials and around trees and shrubs helps retain moisture in the soil and is highly recommended for hot, dry conditions. This colorful bed filled with the sun-loving barberry shrub, red yucca, and several varieties of coleus (in the foreground) with the taller yellow-blooming esperanza and canna (in the background on the right) was prepared with hardwood mulch to keep moisture in the soil and help prevent weeds.”

Photo Credit: Victoria County Master Gardener Charla Borchers Leon

 

BLOOMING BEDS

Mulching flowerbeds of annuals and perennials and around trees and shrubs helps retain moisture in the soil and is highly recommended for hot, dry conditions.  As the summer months heat up annuals will begin to fade.  For color in your beds during these hot months consider great summer flowers such as impatiens, cleome, portulaca, purslane, and periwinkle. Perennials for this area that tolerate heat include canna, esperanza, firebush, lantana, the various gingers, hibiscus and salvias interspersed among ornamental grasses and shrubs such as Russian sage, shrimp plants, Mexican feather grass, giant liriope, Aztec grass, society garlic and bulbine.

 

Last, but definitely not least, don’t forget the Texas Superstars.  These are the toughest, most reliable plants that have proven to be super-performing under Texas growing conditions.  These plants are not exotic, never-heard-of plants.  You have heard of the Texas bluebonnet, a couple of supersun varieties of coleus, several of the hibiscus, Belinda’s Dream roses and blue princess verbena.  To find out more about these and other superstars, visit the website http://www.texassuperstar.com/plants.html.

                       

Once annuals and perennials start to get leggy, wait until they have completed a flush of blooms then cut them back by about a third to encourage growth and more flower buds.  Repeat throughout the summer to keep them beautiful and blooming.  Remember to lightly fertilize after each shearing. Light fertilizing every four to six weeks is beneficial.

 

June is also the time to trim back fall blooming perennials.  This will help form a bushier plant in time for fall bloom.  Shrubs may also be lightly pruned to a desired shape.

 

 

 

CONTAINER PLANTS

Container plants require more frequent watering than those in beds, but they provide you with lots of flexibility in your beds as the containers can be moved from one location to another for a different effect.  Container plants also require more frequent fertilizing than your lawns because continued flowering demands more nutrients.

 

Keep a close eye on your beds and containers, watching for potential problems such as stress or disease opportunities.  Tiny spider mites thrive in hot, dry weather, causing even more stress or, on badly infested plants, can totally destroy the plants.  At first sight of insect infestation use an organic control such as insecticidal soap as your first resort and then a chemical control if needed.

 

OTHER RULES AND TOOLS

June is also the time to plan for next spring. Consider digging and dividing any crowded spring bulbs.  Once bulbs have matured and the foliage has turned brown, it is time to spade them up and thin out the stand.  Crowded bulbs produce fewer and smaller blooms.  Bulbs usually need thinning every three to four years.  Replant immediately in prepared soils.

 

Fertilize rose beds every four to six weeks.  Apply small amounts of fertilizer high in nitrogen immediately after a flush of bloom or every four to six weeks.

 

And don’t forget about caring for you!  During these months of intense heat, plan to garden in the early morning hours or late evening when it is cool.  Be sure to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration while working outdoors in the heat.  Wearing a hat and a long sleeved shirt will prevent sun burn and reduce the risk of skin cancer.  Look for more information on “Caring for the Gardener” in next week’s publication.

 

If you get the garden prepared, planted and mulched properly, your summer tasks will be much easier.  With your spare time you might consider starting a journal of your plants and take pictures of your landscape.  This will provide a handy tool when making changes or adding plants to your garden next spring.

 

Hopefully these suggested gardening rules and tools will provide you with a happier, healthier yard and gardens in the hot summer months ahead!

 

Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.  The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas cooperating.  Individuals with disabilities who require an auxiliary aid, service or accommodations in order to participate in this meeting are encouraged to contact the County Extension Office at 361/575-4581 to determine how reasonable accommodations can be made.  The information given herein is for educational purposes only.  Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Cooperative Extension Service is implied.