Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener
Well here we are, the June tourists have arrived, the bay water is lovely, and it is time to become a horticulture detective! Look for insects and diseases (spider mites and aphids can be especially annoying at this time.) To keep this in check use either chemical or organic control, or use insecticidal soap. If you live very near the bay, be aware of the chemicals that you are releasing into the soil.
It is better to use a slow-release fertilizer during the hot summer months. A high nitrogen fertilizer will push the plant to grow too fast and therefore stress the plant. Research at several Universities proves that using an organic solution such as seaweed will actually help plants with stress. It is available in liquid and powder form. Dilute according to directions and spray once a week on top and on the undersides of foliage early in the morning or late in the evening when the stomata on the underside of the leaves are open.
Make sure that your flower and vegetable bed are mulched properly during hot summer months. If weeds are a problem, apply a layer of newspaper, 4 to 6 inches thick, before adding the mulch. Now is also a good time to apply around 2-4 inches of compost before the mulch is applied. A well-mulched bed requires less irrigation and has cooler soil to protect the plants.
For lawn maintenance, the same things apply that were discussed in previous months. Keep the mower blade sharp as ragged cuts invite disease. Cutting the lawn too short results in the grass using up all its energy to grow grass blade and none is left for root development.
Vegetables should be picked at their peak. Tomatoes, however, can be picked when the first blush of pink is on the fruit. Then allow the fruit to ripen indoors at room temperature. They will taste just as good as “vine-ripened.” Tomato plants should be evenly watered to avoid split fruit. Plant eggplant (plants), cantaloupe, okra, southern peas, sweet potato slips, summer and winter squash, peppers, pumpkin and watermelon.
Use Dipel or Thuricide (Bacillus thuringiensis- BT) for caterpillars on corn and other vegetables. Be especially careful when using this insecticide around your butterfly garden, as Bt will kill butterfly larvae also. If a white, stocking-like- web appears on tree trunks, leave it alone. It is a beneficial louse cleaning up the tree.
In flower beds, be sure to “deadhead” flowers as they finish blooming. There is still time to plant some colorful, heat tolerant flowers. You can still direct-seed zinnias and portulaca. It is better to purchase plants of periwinkle, salvia, marigold, and purslane. Be sure to water transplants as needed until the roots become established.
Fall blooming perennials such as Mexican Marigold mint (tagetes lucida), chrysanthemums, and Salvia leucantha, was well as re-blooming salvias, such as Salvia greggi and S. Farinacea should be pruned back periodically to keep them compact. To make the job easier, use hedging shears, and remove only the spent flowers and a few inches of stem. This type of pruning should be completed by September 1, since flower buds begin forming about that time.
The height of summer is also a time to take a critical look at your landscape. Make notes on how it can be better arranged for drought tolerance, taking into consideration plants that need to be removed because they are overgrown or removed for a more efficient management. If each of us takes care of our little plot of earth, we will see a Rockport that truly is IN BLOOM!