Aransas/San Patricio County Master Gardener
Not so fast! A gardener’s work is never done; but for hobby gardeners, working in a garden is always a pleasure. The challenge now is to prolong the vitality of the garden from summer until the first frost.
Here are some tips for the July gardener:
This is a great time to start thinking about what you want to keep and what you want to replace regarding perennials. Prune crape myrtle seed heads to encourage a robust repeat bloom. A good rule to remember for crape myrtle is to never prune any branches thicker than your thumb. Flowers on all perennials need to be dead-headed at regular intervals to prevent setting seed pods and prolong bloom time. One exception is Esperanza. It will produce seeds after the flowers. These become long beans. Removal of these beans will result in more flowers. Talk about a “Tough Texas” plant: The Gold Star Esperanza, a Texas SuperStar ™ (ask for it by name at the nurseries) will withstand salty air, windy beach environment, drought, you name it! Right now, my Esperanza is over six foot tall and covered with those luscious yellow bells!
Prolong the color in your garden by replacing leggy and worn-out annuals this month. Garden stores are still full of beautiful annuals such as marigolds, zinnias and periwinkles that do well in this area. Did you know that picking flowers frequently encourages most annuals and perennials to flower even more abundantly? Cutting flowers not only brings the outside in, but also encourages healthy plant growth. Water the evening before and cut early the next morning as this will give you the freshest blooms. Keep flowers in cold water for a couple of hours before arranging. Be sure to remove all the leaves below the water line. Cut flowers need fresh water every day.
Sow seeds of snapdragons, dianthus, pansies, calendulas, and other cool-season flowers in flats or separately prepared areas of the garden for planting during mid to late fall.
Keep herbs productive by pinching off buds and growing tips to encourage new growth. Getting herbs to withstand our Texas summers is almost impossible. Some “warm-weather herbs” are basil, lemon grass, lemon verbena, Mexican mint marigold (Texas tarragon), and Mexican oregano. Rosemary is a perennial herb that will grow year-round providing you are growing it in a well-drained bed. Actually, well-drained beds are a must for herbs as they don’t like “wet-feet”. Compost and mulch are also essentials for herbs. When our air temperature is 95 degrees the soil near the roots of the plant can be 120 degrees, thus the need for plenty of mulch for protection.
We are entering the time of year when many people in the coastal bend are preparing for the arrival of their beloved hummingbirds. All the birds require of us are three things: a source of food, water, and some protected perches.
Feeders can be used, but because I’m lazy, I prefer plants. In our hot weather, feeders sour in a few days and have to be cleaned and refilled. Flowers draw these little flying jewels and are also an attractive addition to the landscape around our yard. Here are some of the flowers, trees and shrubs that provide food, cover and/or nesting for hummingbirds: Oak trees, Yaupon holly, Bottlebrush tree/shrub, Cape Honeysuckle, Coral Vine, native Hibiscus, Mexican Fire Bush, Pentas, Pride of Barbados, Turks Cap, Verbena, Cross vine, Texas lantana, any native sage, and Esperanza. Even though the red flowers attract the hummingbirds first, they eventually get to orange and yellow flowers.
Water dripping on a large flat leaf provides a bathtub for a hummingbird. They also love to fly through the fine spray from a garden hose sprayer. Some kind of moving water is always more attractive than still water. Birdbaths are usually too deep for hummingbirds.
As the weather gets hotter and plants are stressed, black ants and aphids arrive. There are many treatments from the nursery, but dishwater works just as well. Once the aphids leave, so will the ants. Lastly, when going on vacation, ask a neighbor to do minimal maintenance on your garden. Even if you have a sprinkler system, someone should make sure it’s working properly so your yard and garden stay neat. An unkempt garden with mail in the mailbox and newspapers laying around shows nobody’s at home…a big temptation for thieves!