Timely Tips: May 2014
May can start out rather cool (depending on where you are in our state), but it will end up almost summer-like in all parts of the state. That means that your gardening activities are going to be sequential, each needing to be done at the best possible time.
Plant: Nurseries have their finest supplies of the gardening season, and with the past five months of weird Texas weather, most of us are up to our elbows in our spring plantings. Trees, shrubs and groundcovers planted now will quickly grow and establish. Hand-water them regularly and deeply through their first summer. Summer- and fall-flowering perennials from 6-inch and 1-gallon pots. Heat-tolerant annual color such as trailing lantana, copper plant, firebush, fanflower, purple fountaingrass, cleome, pentas, cosmos, gomphrena, moss rose, purslane, amaranthus. For shade, caladiums, coleus, impatiens and wax begonias. Tropical color in pots, baskets and even into beds. Warm-season turfgrasses establish more quickly in May than in any other month of the year.
Prune: Remove all winter-killed stubble that hasn’t yet offered to put out new growth. Plants like oleanders and crape myrtles, if hurt by cold, will almost always spring back with vigorous new shoots from the ground. (See related story this issue.) Spring-flowering shrubs, vines, climbing roses to reshape before late spring, summer growth spurts. Remove erratic new spring growth from shrubs, especially abelias, elaeagnus and Lady Banksia roses. Mow turf regularly at recommended height to keep it short and dense.
Fertilize: Lawngrasses every 8 to 10 weeks with a good-quality all-nitrogen fertilizer for all plants growing in clay soils, high-nitrogen for all plants growing in sandy clay loams. Patio pots, hanging baskets with complete (all nutrients) water-soluble plant food, preferably each time that you water them. Watch for early iron deficiency symptoms on new growth (yellowed leaves with dark green veins). Apply iron/sulfur material to soil, foliar iron spray to leaves. Keep all iron products off masonry and painted surfaces to prevent staining.
On the Lookout: Apply broadleafed weedkiller spray (containing 2,4-D) to any non-grassy weeds. Cabbage loopers on cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower (use Bacillus thuringiensis). Spider mites turning leaves tan and finely mottled from bottom of plant upward (general-purpose insecticide will help). Bagworms in evergreens (Sevin dust or spray, other general-purpose insecticides, Bacillus thuringiensis). Left for two or three extra weeks, bagworms can kill junipers, cypress and arborvitae. Treat when their tiny bags are pencil-point-sized, and when the larvae begin to feed actively.