The cool spring weather is now a distant memory as East Texas summer has arrived for its extended stay. Beat the heat and humidity by doing your gardening activities in the early morning and early evening. Wear a hat, and protect yourself with sunscreen and mosquito repellant.
Here are some educational opportunities this month to keep you informed on gardening and plant topics.
Tomorrow is the last of the spring series of “First Tuesday in the Garden” free lectures – “Natives Beat the Heat” on June 4 in the IDEA Garden during the noon hour. Master Gardeners will share their knowledge about native plants that thrive in our area. First Tuesday lectures are held on the patio in the IDEA Garden, located in the southeast corner of the Tyler Rose Garden. While there, enjoy the dynamic demonstration gardens that the Smith County Master Gardeners maintain, including the IDEA Garden, Heritage Rose Garden, Sunshine Garden and the Shade Garden.
Later in June, head to the Texas A&M 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 27. 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, A&M AgriLife Research Horticulturist at Overton, who is responsible for the trials, and Jimmy Turner and Jenny Wegley 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
In the Garden.
Lawn Care. The hotter weather of June promotes faster growth of grass, so keep up with the mowing. 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 recycles plant nutrients. If clippings are visible after mowing, mow more often. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Mulching. A major task each summer is to make sure our gardens do not suffer from lack of water. Mulching vegetables, flowers and shrubs is one easy way to reduce the frequency we have to keep our plants watered. Mulch materials, like wood chips, shredded leaves, pine straw and bark, in a layer 2 to 4 inches deep, will help conserve water and keep plants healthier.