Gardening This Weekend: August 4, 2016
Lesser gardeners would say there isn’t much you really need to do at this hot time of the summer, but now that we’ve both made lists of critical tasks, let’s compare them.
• New turf. Time is running short. It must be in by mid-September, but early August is far better, to get it established well by winter.
• Fall vegetables – bush beans, squash, cucumbers, corn (20- x 20-foot blocks to ensure pollination. See related story this issue.
• Fall annual color: zinnias, marigolds, celosias, pentas, angelonias, all from 4-in. potted transplants growing vigorously. First three should be in bud, not in bloom when you buy them. Plants in full flower tend to stall and not establish as well.
• Fall bulbs (not to be confused with spring bulbs that you plant in the fall, for example, tulips, daffodils, etc.) should be arriving in nurseries. Spider lilies, naked lady lilies, oxblood lilies and sternbergias (fall crocus) are all outstanding in Texas. Plant in early August for blooms this fall, but much heavier flowering in autumns to come.
• Bush roses by one-third, all cuts above buds facing away from centers of plants. This early August pruning will stimulate the October flowering. (Note: if in DFW, where rose rosette virus has become epidemic, examine your roses critically for evidence. See photos and description at my website https://neilsperry.com/notes/2015/03/rose-rosette-disease/.
• Keep mowing grass at recommended height. Raising blade does not aid in drought tolerance, nor does it help turf survive the heat. Tall grass becomes weak, weed-infested turf.
• Reshape shrubs that have grown erratically, but avoid formal shearing whenever possible. Hand shears and loppers will do a much more natural job. Prune growth away from sprinkler heads as well.
• Bermudagrass if it’s been 8 weeks or longer since last you did. Most lawns in Texas, especially those with clay soils, will need all nitrogen (no phosphorus at all, and as little potassium as possible).
• Iron-deficient plants with iron/sulfur additive while they are still growing actively. Iron chlorosis shows up as yellow leaves in which the veins remain green longest, and it’s always most prominent on the newest growth first, while older leaves remain green. Leaves will remain attached to the branches. Keep iron products off concrete, stone and brick to prevent staining.
• Protect pecans from pecan weevils (devour kernels and leave small exit holes out of the pecans); and hickory shuckworms (cause pecans not to fill out completely, also cause pecans not to fall at normal time). Spray with Malathion first and last weeks of month to control both pests.
• Nutsedge. You may know it as nutgrass, but sedges all have triangular stems, while grasses are round. You can feel that dramatically if you’ll roll their stems between your thumb and index finger. Apply the original form of Image (for nutsedge control exclusively) two times, 30 days apart and with both applications being completed by September 15. That means the first treatment must be made in the next week. Water deeply after each treatment. This herbicide works slowly and must enter through the roots. Again, be sure you have the proper form of Image. Your local independent retail garden center manager can help you. Sedgehammer is another very good option that many commercial turf managers prefer.
• Caterpillars of all sorts. These are larvae of moths and butterflies, so you may want to do research before you start applying Bacillus thuringiensis to control them. Gulf Fritillary larvae feed on passionvines almost exclusively. Many people grow passionvines specifically to feed the larvae. If at all possible, don’t spray them. Same for your parsley and dill – those voracious eaters are Black Swallowtail larvae. Left to feed they will fill your neighborhood with glorious butterflies. And everyone knows that Monarchs need milkweed. Creating a “grocery store garden” for butterflies is a great school project for kids.