Gardening Tips for July in the Texas Coastal Bend | By Kitty Angell

Many people feel that by July 1st, summer is half over. In South Texas it is only getting started. Since September can be one of our hottest months, we are not even halfway through the summer! People who love to garden are exposed to extreme heat and must be prepared to take care of themselves before leaving the house.

First, don’t go outside, even for a few minutes, without first applying a broad spectrum sunscreen, preferably one that is water resistant.

Next, a broad-rim hat (yes, even for men) is advisable to keep the ears protected. While we would love to be working in shorts and a tank top or muscle shirt, it is safer to wear loose-fitting long sleeves and long pants. Wearing 100% cotton will let more air through to your body. Also, there is a long-sleeved fishing shirt made for men and women that is perfect for gardening called the “Iconic Columbia PTP Fishing Shirt” (PTP: Pure Tech Performance). It is built to combat fatigue, heat, sweat and the sun’s UV rays using a lightweight microfiber fabric that wicks away moisture from the skin. It is definitely worth researching.

Staying hydrated is all-important. Drink water at least every hour. Make a personal mister by filling a spray bottle with cool water to spray your neck and face. You can also purchase neck cooling wraps, bandanas, and headbands online that will keep your body temperature down as you garden.
Use some kind of insect protection. If you take medications that interfere with your ability to perspire, be aware that you are more susceptible to heat injury.

Because of drought conditions, many gardeners have opted not to install plants and flowers that require a lot of water. Hummingbird enthusiasts are suggesting that we put out more feeders to make up for the loss of natural nectar. Clean water is still necessary and hummingbirds love to fly through the fine spray from a garden hose sprayer. Again, we can only water on certain days, so consider adding a slow dripper positioned where it will splash on rocks or leaves. The birds rub against the rocks or leaves to bathe. The noise from the dripper will also attract the little guys. Regular bird baths are the least suitable for Hummingbirds as they are too deep. 

I’ve installed a drip irrigation system in my garden. I already notice there’s no spray going into my driveway, only to evaporate. It will be interesting to see how much this affects my water bill. Of course, turf grass requires sprinklers or an irrigation system. I had the sprinkler heads in my garden capped off, leaving one open from which to run the drip system.

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, Mexican mint marigold (Texas tarragon), Mexican oregano, and lemon verbena. 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 rise to 120 degrees, thus the need for plenty of mulch for protection.

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. 

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. 

If you are hearing strange “clicks” coming from your garden, don’t be alarmed. This is a beneficial insect called an “Eyed Click Beetle”, Eyed Elates, or alaus oculatus. Beneficial insects are predators of “bad” insects. They tend to be more prevalent as the weather becomes hotter. 

Plants become stressed as the weather warms up and black-ants and aphids take up residence. There are many treatments available from the nursery to treat these pests, but dishwater works just as well. Once the aphids leave, so will the ants.

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