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

"Portulaca, Margarita Rosa"
First posted in June of 2013
"Even though we’ve had some rain in May, we haven’t had enough to fill our watersheds. It’s becoming increasingly clear that we must plan to incorporate water conservation into our daily lives. The AgriLife Extension Service of Texas A&M University has issued a “40 Gallon Challenge” to Texans trying to conserve millions of gallons of water as well as saving money on monthly water bills.

The 40 Gallon Challenge is aimed not only at residents, but also at businesses, to reduce their average water use by 40 gallons per day. Dr. Diane Boellstorf, an AgriLife Extension water resources specialist became involved with the voluntary national program in 2011. This program uses a checklist for water use both inside the house and outdoors as well. 

Boellstorf stated that “currently, the top water savers in Texas are: “reduce irrigation run times by 2 minutes,” “use a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks,” and “fix a leaky toilet.” If you are interested in finding out more about the challenge and would like to sign up, go to www.40gallonchallenge.org, and type in your state. Then press GO.

Another way to save water and still have a lovely garden is to install a drip irrigation system. Drip irrigation slowly distributes water and reduces evaporation and run-off, allowing your soil to absorb the maximum amount of water. 

Instead of our showy hybrid summer flowers that require a large amount of water, it may be time to replace them with plants that are more heat and drought tolerant. Sometimes it is better to return to old favorites that we always found in Grandma’s garden. Celosia (Cockscomb) is available in spike and crested forms. Dwarf varieties are now available. Other underused plants for dry areas include: Dianthus (Pinks), Gaillardia (Blanket Flower) and Gaura. Texas SuperStar ™ plants Like Burgundy Sun Coleus, Plum Parfait Coleus, and Rio Series Mandevillas should make it through a long, dry summer. Purslane and Portulaca are old standbys for heat and drought tolerant sunny areas.
Succulents, both in pots and in the ground are always good to bring plant diversity to our area. Speaking of pots, beautiful pottery in unusual shapes adds to the color of a summer garden or patio. Talavera pots are very popular in the coastal bend and are great with succulents, cactus, and other low water varieties. 

Make sure your flower and vegetable beds are mulched properly during hot summer months. A well-mulched bed requires less irrigation and has cooler soil to protect the plants. First apply 2-4 inches of compost before adding another layer of mulch. 

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.

Plants and lawns should be watered early in the morning, but avoid the time when people are likely preparing for work, as this puts too much stress on any water provider. 

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 with 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. 

Fall blooming perennials such as Mexican Marigold mint, Chrysanthemums, and Salvia 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 to form at that time. The same holds true for Knockout Roses. They will almost bloom year-round (and abundantly) if this method is used."

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