"Gardening Tips in the Texas Coastal Bend for May" by Kitty Angell

We simply cannot ignore it. We are in a terrible drought. Our water-sheds are running dry and everyone needs to become pro-active. All of us received a bulletin in our city utility invoice. It was very clear that we are now in Stage II of water rationing and if we do not follow the guidelines, we will be fined.

Actually, we are lucky. San Antonio is in Stage III and homeowners are only allowed to water once every other week! This is serious business, folks.

Besides addressing bathroom, kitchen, laundry, appliance, and plumbing issues, the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) Conservation site offers tips for saving water outdoors. Since this city is in worse shape than ours, it is easy to follow their suggestions. 

We are allowed to irrigate two (2) days a week. If you have an odd-number address, your days are Wednesdays and Saturdays. For even-numbered homes, the days are Thursday and Sunday. Irrigation is allowed in early morning before 10:00 a.m. and after 7:00 p.m. 

It is better to water lawns early in the morning; otherwise most of the water will evaporate. Watering late in the evening can cause fungus on turf grass. Do not over-water. St. Augustine and Zoysia grasses need three-fourths of an inch a week. The same grasses growing in the shade require only one-half inch a week. Bermuda and buffalo grasses only grow in full sun and need one-half inch per week. However, water only when needed. Your footprint on the grass is the best test. If you leave a footprint, water the grass. 

The best irrigation system for shrubs, trees, flower, and vegetable gardens is the drip-irrigation method. If you are unable to install drip irrigation, buy a green soaking hose and turn upside down so the holes are on the bottom. This will prevent evaporation. We are also allowed to water the above anytime using a handheld hose, root feeder with automatic shutoff, or handheld bucket or watering can.

Vegetables to plant now include okra, southern peas, sweet potatoes, eggplant, pumpkin, cantaloupe and watermelon. Summer and winter squash, as well as peppers can be planted, but get them in as soon as possible. It’s time to side-dress tomato plants with a slow release fertilizer. Continue to foliar feed them weekly. When tomato fruit is marble size, apply a light application of nitrogen. Pick tomatoes when the first blush of pink appears. They will ripen indoors and be safe from birds and animals.

Set out summer blooming transplants of annual flowers such as vinca (periwinkle), portulaca, angelonia (summer snapdragon), and cosmos. For shady areas use impatiens, coleus, begonias and pentas. Cut off the flowers of the transplants when you plant them so that the energy goes into root development first. Direct seed zinnia and sunflower this month.

It is best to plant daylilies in the fall so they have time to become well-established before the heat of summer arrives. Unfortunately, to do this you will probably need to order them by mail. May is a good month to choose daylilies in bloom. Look for varieties that are resistant to daylily rust. Puccinia hemerocallidis is a fungus that was introduced to our country in the year 2000. This fungus causes the foliage to become ugly and display visible red-brown spores on the plant. Foliage from a diseased daylily should be discarded in the trash.

Lastly, if you are planting a garden to attract butterflies, remember to plant host plants for the larva or caterpillar stage of the butterfly. These caterpillars are voracious eaters and will consume the leaves of the host plant, but most plants recover. Some common host plants for butterflies include milkweed for Monarch and Queen Butterflies; carrot, dill, parsley, and Queen Anne’s lace for Black Swallowtail; citrus for Giant Swallowtail; red bay and sassafras for Palamedes Swallowtail; passionflower species for Gulf Fritillary and Julia, and Dutchman’s Pipe for Pipevine Swallowtail.

Be sure to keep water out for the butterflies and birds. They will certainly need it this summer.

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