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.

My calendar says summer arrives on June 21st, but I'm pretty sure it arrived at our house about the middle of May. Mother Nature blessed us with plenty of rain this spring and our landscape plants were grateful and it showed. But June is when we need to get serious about summer maintenance in the garden. Sufficient water is the greatest concern and we need to water deeply. Moisture must get down to where the roots of the plants are located. Sprinkling only wets the soil surface, and tree roots are anywhere from 12 to 18 inches below ground level - some even deeper. Get a soaker hose - they are great for elevated beds and hard to reach places. Place them in a circle around the drip line of the tree or shrub, or in the alternative let the hose lay on the ground and run at a slow trickle at the drip line. It's hard to predict just how much rain we'll get this month, but if we have high degrees of heat and drought we'll see damage to our landscapes. During hot days plants will wilt to reduce the amount of leaf surface exposed - if in the late evening leaves are still limp, get out the hose asap.

Keep the St. Augustine well watered. If the weather is hot and dry cinch bugs will take up residence close to concrete driveways and sidewalks. I've seen the grassy median between the sidewalk and the curb turn completely brown in front of some homes. It helps to mow 'high' - at least 3 inches in the hot summer months. Longer blades shade the stolons (runners) and helps to retain soil moisture. Some folks leave the clippings on the lawn as a mulch to hold down moisture. Some prefer to put it on the compost pile - it's a judgment call. We've been known to do both at our house.

Speaking of mulch, it's not necessary I'm sure to expound on the advantages of mulching. You already know that mulch moderates soil temperature and helps to conserve moisture in the soil.

Probably your spring-blooming shrubs have concluded their annual performance, and the curtain is closed until next year. Now is the time to give them a haircut. Cut out any dead or crossed branches, and prune them down to a manageable size that complements your landscape. It also helps to thin out any excess branches, allowing air to circulate through. Growth that is too dense encourages diseases and bug infestations.

Keep the azaleas well watered (and mulched), they are setting blooms now for next year's azalea trail at your house.

It's not too late to plant heat-loving annuals around shrubs or bare spots for summer color. Coleus, pentas, impatiens are a few to consider. Keep the tip growth of chrysanthemums and copper plants pinched back to promote new bushy growth. Do the same to your hydrangeas after they have finished blooming. Every garden should have at least one daylily. Even if you practically ignore them, they will still give you a bloom or two. But if you feed and water them they will show their appreciation with even more flowers. They have very little disease or insect problems, and about the only thing that stops bloom production is overcrowding. Dig them up, separate them, replant what you want, and give the rest to a neighbor.

About the only thing left to plant in the vegetable garden is okra. A member of the mallow family, okra loves warm weather and its seeds won't even germinate until the soil is sufficiently warmed. But if you are itching to plant something read last month's (May '19) Trowels & Tribulations - there's plenty of information on how to take cuttings and do your own propagation of some of your favorite plants. My favorite new (at least to me) tomato is the indeterminate chocolate cherry tomato. Clusters of six or seven little one inch jewels are mahogany or port wine in color. First time I saw one, I couldn't believe it was a tomato until I popped it into my mouth. They are super sweet and I'm not sure how they are best enjoyed, chilled from the refrigerator, or right off the vine warm from the morning sun. Think I'm going to take a few cuttings. I know it's June, but it's not too early to be thinking about a fall garden.

Did you know that Trowels & Tribulations is published on the city site on the first of the month? Under Our Community you will find Trowels & Tribulations listed.

Chocolate Cherry Tomatoes