Gardening in El Lago

Trowels & Tribulations in a Suburban Garden - June Issue

By: Donna J. Ward, Certified Texas Master Gardener (Note: This is a reprint of Donna's article that appears in the La Ventana del Lago.)

Spring has departed, summer has arrived, and so have the mosquitos. Nothing is more pleasing to the eye than a green, luxuriant landscape. But we pay a price for the view. We love our yards with their trees, shrubbery and groundcovers. Unfortunately, this verdant setting is highly prized by mosquitos. Take a tour of your yard and see if there are little pockets holding water after a rain or after you have turned off the sprinkler. Check the stack of flowerpots stored behind the garage. Their drainage holes may be plugged with soil, causing them to hold water, and it doesn’t take much water to host mosquito eggs, the eventual larvae, and the resulting bloodsuckers. There are 2,500 species of mosquitos, and our sub-tropical climate hosts many varieties. The most dangerous is probably the Culex mosquito, which may carry viral encephalitis. The life cycle of a Culex is only 10 to 14 days, so don’t give it the ideal conditions to breed in your yard. Our locale is also favored by the Salt-Marsh mosquito. They are prolific breeders, strong fliers, and an irritant not only to us, but to our pets as well. Of course it goes without saying that birdbaths should be emptied and refilled often. On the subject of mosquitos, I need to touch on the subject of a well known and widely used pesticide. Malithion is the most commonly used pesticide to control mosquitos. It is very effective and very safe when used properly, but it has a definite flaw. It becomes neutral in a very short time – virtually within minutes when mixed with our alkaline water. In order to keep it effective, one needs to add one tablespoon of plain vinegar to each gallon of water before mixing in the Malithion. This formula should be applied any time Malithion is used, whether it is for mosquitos or any other pests for which this pesticide was designed. But please, please use this pesticide judiciously.

With the sizzling temps of summer, we need to become more aware of the watering requirements of our landscape trees and shrubs. If you planted in spring, your trees need deep watering two or three times a week depending on temperatures and rainfall. A good rule of thumb is to apply 10 gallons per caliper inch of tree trunk (waist high) each time you water. Mature, established trees should get a slow, deep watering at the very least once a week. The key word here is “deep.” Don’t depend on your sprinkler system to adequately water newly planted trees. Nothing works better than a soaker hose or your garden hose set at a slow flow so that water soaks in and doesn’t run off. Shallow watering encourages the roots to rise to the surface. Trees whose roots go deep have a better chance of surviving a storm, something we have to be aware of with the arrival of hurricane season. Do we need to talk about mulch? Probably not, as you already know that it moderates soil temperature both hot and cold, and conserves moisture.

If you mow your own lawn, or if you have a service doing it for you – they need to know that setting the mower to “High” is beneficial to a St. Augustine lawn. Longer blades of grass provide shade to the stolons and roots thus helping to retain moisture. Of course you have to give it what it needs – water, water and more water. Applied in the morning when the air is still so that it doesn’t blow to the neighbor’s lawn is best. Later this month or early July would be a good time to apply a slow release fertilizer. An easily obtainable bag of 15-5-10 should do the trick. At the risk of repeating myself – “weed and feed” should not be in your vocabulary. The active ingredients in these formulations are non-discriminating and consider your trees and shrubs to be weeds, and you know what that means.

If you still have some 15-5-10 fertilizer in the garage you may want to drag it out and feed your established perennials and annuals. Remember to keep those faded blossoms removed to encourage more flower production.

Still looking for a little more summer color in your landscape? Or maybe you just want to show your neighbors how talented you are in the gardening department – you can do both by planting some warm-weather, sun-loving marigolds, copper plants, cockscomb, and don’t forget those easy to grow zinnias - but hurry.

Veggies? - Not many. Two southern favorites to plant in June - collards and okra. Yankees - nevermind...............

The information given herein is for educational purposes only. Reference to trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service is implied.

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