Even though we are less than three weeks away from the “official” start of summer, as every Texan knows, when June arrives so does summertime. Here are a few tips for your garden and lawn for the month of June.
Vegetables. If you’re growing vegetables, you probably have tomatoes. One of the most common tomato disorders is blossom end rot (BER). This is not a disease but a rather physiological problem caused by a lack of calcium and fluctuating soil moisture. BER is most severe on large, flat fruit varieties. Don’t let the soil fully dry between watering or rain, but keep the soil more evenly moist. Mulching helps conserve moisture to minimize this problem. Before planting the next crop of tomatoes, lime the soil to provide calcium. BER usually only affects the first tomatoes to ripen.
Tomatoes, peppers and other garden plants benefit from a side dressing of fertilizer (mainly nitrogen) to keep them vigorous and productive throughout summer. The extra nitrogen stimulates leafy growth on peppers which will help prevent sun scald on the fruit.
Another common vegetable problem at this time of year is with squash not setting fruit. This is due to a lack of pollination. Squash plants have separate male and female flowers. Often, the first blooms to appear are mostly all male blooms. These have skinny bloom stalks, and, of course, male flowers do not produce fruit. Female flowers have a swollen stem that is actually the unpollinated fruit. Once pollen is transferred by bees from the male flowers to the female flowers, the fruit will develop normally. If the female flower is not pollinated, the swollen base can continue to swell for a day or two, but then shrivel, giving the false appearance that the fruit is growing but rotting.
Squash flowers only open for one day, mainly in the morning. If mornings are windy, cloudy or rainy, bees may not be out and about, and flowers will not get pollinated.
Vacation Planning. Before going on vacation, group plants in containers together near a water source and out of the afternoon sun. Grouping them will help plants conserve water, and shade will help reduce the need for water. If plants are located together near a hose, it will make it easier for a neighbor or friend to water all the containers in one spot.
Mow and edge the yard just before leaving for a neat and tidy appearance, and then give the lawn and garden a good soaking. Don’t give the appearance you are away, so stop the newspaper while you are gone.
Harvest garden vegetables prior to leaving, and if you’ll be gone for a longer period, invite neighbors to help themselves to the produce.
Lawns. Hotter weather means grass will be growing faster. Keep up with the mowing so you don’t have to bag the clippings. That may mean mowing every 5 or 6 days instead of every 7 to 10 days. Letting the clippings fall back into the lawn recycles nutrients. Keep the mower blade sharpened. Ragged ends indicate a dull blade. Mowing frequently at the correct height promotes a healthy, thick turf that is resistant to weeds.
The rule of thumb for watering is to apply enough to wet the soil 6 inches deep. Do not water too frequently. Shallow, frequent watering promotes a shallow root system that is more susceptible to the stress of summer heat and winter cold.
June’s warm soils make this an ideal time to establish or renovate the home lawn. Lawns for our area include Bermudagrass for all sun with no shade, and St. Augustine, centipede or zoysia for all sun or partial shade. The Texas AgriLife Extension Service has an informative brochure called “Turfgrass Establishment for Texas”. It is available online at Agrilifebookstore.org – just type the publication number B-6239 in the search box.
Summer Color. June is a great month for setting out colorful summer annuals. For large areas, directly seed zinnias, cosmos, gomphrena or portulaca. There are many types of annuals that can set out as transplants including angelonia, marigold, salvia, gaillardia, vinca, purslane, dusty miller, ageratum, amaranthus, cuphea, gomphrena, celosia, Texas bluebells, cockscomb, and trailing petunias.
Don’t overlook the great color that tropical plants provide throughout the summer. Yes, they’ll probably die this winter but so will those summer annual bedding plants. You get a lot of visual bang for your gardening dollar using tropicals like mandevilla, copper plants, tropical hibiscus, bougainvillea, crotons, ixora, jatropha and many others that provide season-long color through flowers or foliage.
Perennials are another great way to brighten the summer garden. Examples include mallow hibiscus, canna, daylilies, summer phlox, salvias, lantana, montbretia, rudbeckia and coneflower. Plant mums now for fall bloom. Pinch back established mums, along with other fall bloomers like Mexican mint marigold, Mexican Bush Sage, and autumn asters to encourage compactness.
Water transplants before you plant and then again after planting. The soil should be well-prepared with organic matter, and well-drained. Apply a diluted solution of water-soluble fertilizer at planting and then regularly once they begin to put on new growth. Or, use a slow-release fertilizer. Remove faded blooms to encourage new growth and repeated bloom. A layer of mulch will conserve water and prevent weeds.