Summer is here! School is out, and it’s vacation time, at least for the kids. Summer also means the days are longer, and hotter, so get your gardening done in the morning and evening when it is more pleasant to be outside.
Later in June, head out to the Texas Agrilife Research and Extension Center in Overton for a look at the very latest plant introductions. This free Horticulture Field Day is on Thursday, June 28. The morning field day showcases the extensive annual bedding plant variety trials that are conducted at A&M at Overton, including sun and shade annuals and other specialty plants. Visitors get to vote for their favorites at both the North Farm, where the tour begins, and at the demonstration garden at the center. After a catered lunch, Dr. Brent Pemberton, AgriLife Research Horticulturist at Overton, who is responsible for the trials, and Jimmy Turner, Horticulture Director of the Dallas Arboretum, will give highlights in the auditorium of new plant introductions and results of plant trials. For more details, visit http://flowers.tamu.edu
Planting Opportunities. There is still plenty of time to plant colorful, heat-tolerant summer annuals. Directly seed in sunny areas zinnias, gomphrena (bachelor buttons), and portulaca (moss rose); and purchase transplants of celosia, periwinkle, salvia, marigold, tithonia, zinnias, copper plants and purslane. For part or full shade, plant nicotiana, impatiens, begonias, caladiums, salvia and coleus. Be sure to water transplants regularly until roots become established.
Often overlooked in the quest for summer color are tropical plants. They offer spectacular color all summer long, and give you even more bang for your gardening bucks. Tropicals planted directly in the ground make interesting and colorful additions to the garden. Try esparanza (yellow bells), firebush (Hamelia), allamanda, mandevilla, Mexican heather, tropical hibiscus, brugmansia (angle’s trumpet), and bougainvillea.
Lantana is another great summer bloomer for the blazingly sunny, hot spot in your yard. Lantana varieties grow either upright as 3 or 4 foot shrubs, or spreading like a ground cover, and they come in a variety of colors from cool white and lavender to hot orange and yellow.
Remove faded flowers (called dead-heading) on all perennials and annuals before they set seed to keep the plants compact, growing and producing more flowers. A light application of fertilizer every 4 to 6 weeks helps keep annuals productive and pretty.
As long as you can supply water, it is not too late to plant trees, shrubs, ground covers, and establish new lawns. Supplemental water during the first year of establishment and during dry periods is the key to success. But, do not over water new plants! More new plants are killed by over watering than by drought!
Crape myrtles will start blooming soon, and that’s a great time to select the right color variety for your yard to compliment your home. Be sure to pick one that matures to the exact height for the location. That eliminates the need to annually prune it back to fit the spot. There are many named varieties to choose from, each with a definite growth habit, color and mature height. Varieties with Indian tribe names, like ‘Natchez’, ‘Hopi’, ‘Muskogee’ and ‘Acoma’, are interspecific hybrids with very good resistance to powdery mildew.
Bare spots in your garden and flower beds are the breeding grounds for weeds. All a weed seed needs is a little bit of light and water to germinate. Prevent weeds by spreading mulch over all bare areas in your flower and vegetable gardens, and under and around shrubs. Pine straw is an excellent choice and is slow to decompose. A layer of mulch will also cut down on a plants water needs.
Lawns Care. The hotter weather of June promotes faster growth of grass, so keep up with the mowing so you don’t have to bag the clippings. To avoid stressing the grass, remove no more than 1/3 of the total length of the grass blade each time you mow. You may need to mow frequently, every 5 or 6 days instead of every 7 to 10 days. Let the clippings fall back into the lawn to recycle nutrients. Mowing frequently at the correct height will promote a healthy, thick turf resistant to weeds.
For Bermuda lawns that are making poor growth thus far this year, make a second application of fertilizer. For best results, use a fertilizer with a high percentage of nitrogen in the slow- release form so the grass won’t grow quite so rapidly. But, be careful to not apply too much fertilizer! A wet, hot June, coupled with lushly growing grass from high rates of nitrogen combine to promote Grey Leaf Spot, a fungal disease of St. Augustine grass. This summer disease causes yellowing and in severe cases, severe thinning of the turf, especially in shady areas or in low spots that tend to stay wet. If your St. Augustine is thick and rapidly growing, skip the summer application.
It is important you know how large your lawn is so you know how much fertilizer to apply. Check the bag for recommendations. Typical application rates for common fertilizer analyses might be 5 pounds of 21-7-14 per 1000 square feet, or 6 pounds of 15-5-10 per 1000 square feet. Do not exceed these rates.
Centipede lawns do not need to be fertilized at this time. Wait until fall for the next application.