MASTER GARDENER — Try these gardening tips when in the heat of August in Texas
Published 12:30 am Saturday, August 5, 2023
These past few weeks have been difficult for trees, plants, lawns and people. Summer’s blistering grip means most of us are experiencing drought conditions.
The extreme heat is forcing many gardeners to water our plants, and if you’re like me, twice daily. We have received insignificant rainfall amounts over the past couple of weeks and, unfortunately, much-needed rain doesn’t appear to be on the horizon anytime soon, according to recent weather reports.
So, what should gardeners be doing to help trees, plants and gardens during the sweltering days of summer?
If possible, stay inside where it’s cool during the heat of the day (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). This time of year, the sun is brutal, so plan your gardening activity accordingly. Wear loose fitting (light-colored) clothes, stay hydrated (drink plenty of fluids-not coffee) and break from garden chores frequently (shady areas).
Plan to work (which is what I do), during the cool hours of the early morning or early evening once the sun goes down. Use the time outdoors wisely and effectively, note what remains in bloom, as you may want to add the same plants to the landscape next year.
Continue watering, while upping the frequency, it’s needed! Watering plants in the early morning, it is OK to wet the entire plant but when watering in the evening it’s best to water plants at soil level, to help prevent fungus and disease from forming on leaves. Potted plants require watering more often than plants in the ground, often twice daily.
If using end-of-hose sprinklers, allow at least one hour running time for water to permeate the ground deeply, before moving the sprinklers to another position. Moving the sprinklers hourly also avoids runoff.
Irrigation systems require quarterly checks to validate efficient operation. Check the emitters to make certain they are all working correctly. Replace emitters which are not functioning well.
Verify sprinkler heads are positioned correctly and sending water where needed, not on the neighbor’s lawn (sorry neighbors no longer watering your lawn for free), driveway, ditch or roadway. Gardeners note water is Texas’ most precious resource, don’t waste it, conserve it!
Keep in mind trees require water during intense heat and dry periods, so keep your trees and fruit trees watered to maintain healthy foliage. Water deeply and provide 1 to 2-inches of water weekly. Remember next year’s fruit crop depends on this year’s energy produced by photosynthesis of the leaves.
Always have fresh water available for wildlife in your garden areas. Birds, bees, pollinators and other animals are searching for clean water sources and need our assistance by providing them easy access to water.
Watch for the Monarch butterfly migration coming through our area, heading toward Mexico and Central America for over wintering. Sometimes they lay eggs on their way, and once developed those Monarchs will head south. Provide food sources, such as milkweed for their caterpillars.
Remember mulch is a gardener’s best friend and your plants will love you for adding it! If your garden needs mulch then add a 3 to 4-inch layer, without disturbing the existing layer of mulch. Mulch retains moisture while reducing soil temperature during summer months.
PRUNE & DIVIDE
Help roses to continue blooming by removing spent blooms from heirloom and perennial roses. Remove dead and diseased canes to allow for unimpeded air circulation.
Divide spring blooming bulbs: daylilies, irises, and Shasta Daisies. The best way to know if dividing is necessary; they are not blooming in the spring. Dividing is necessary every 3 to 5 years, share them with your friends & neighbors, they will love you for it!
Apply nitrogen fertilizer to the lawn now. There are two fertilizer categories: chemical or organic. Remember chemical fertilizers require water immediately after application otherwise, they will burn the lawn. Organic fertilizers (my preferred choice) do not require water after application and will not burn the lawn.
Bothered by winter weeds, apply a pre-emergent herbicide to kill sprouting weed seed, but remember not to use in the vegetable garden, as it will kill those seeds too!
WILDFLOWERS & SPRING BULBS
Now is the time to order and purchase spring-flowering bulbs and if you’re lucky the bulbs might be ‘on sale’. It’s a great time to buy them but wait to plant them, it’s too soon!
Wildflower seeds need to be planted now. Prepare the area by removing grass and weeds, lightly turning the soil under in the area to be planted. Follow the instructions that come with the seeds.
So long for now fellow gardeners, let’s go out and grow ourselves a greener, more sustainable world, one plant at a time.
John Green is a Texas Certified Master Gardener. For comments and questions, continue sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org.