What’s Going On In My Garden? – August Update

The heat is still here, and the rains haven’t been consistent for quite some time. But the good news is that fall rains and cooler weather are right around the corner. Now is the time to get your garden ready for its fall glory.

Pollinators doing their job.Flowering Plants
Your summer annuals and hot weather perennials are likely done or nearing the end of their bloom cycle. For your flowering annuals, you can let them go to seed in hopes that they reseed themselves for you next year. Zinnias and marigolds are very reliable in this fashion. Other flowering annuals, you can dead-head some species such as coleus, begonias, and impatiens as the petals fall off. This spurs them into creating more flowers instead of devoting their energy to creating seeds. The same can be done for your flowering perennials like roses. Roses should also be pruned to stimulate new growth. Climbing roses are famous for their blooms throughout the season, and don’t usually need much attention other than a good bloom fertilizer.

Fall Plantings
The most exciting part is that your fall garden is ready to be put into the soil now. Many of the cool weather perennials are now becoming available for purchase and you can place those fall asters or Mexican bush sage now. Other perennial shrubs and ground covers should be planted now, just remember to water all of these fall plants deeply until the cooler weather arrives. If you have a shade garden, you can start planting coral bells, autumn ferns, and hardy begonia.

Cool Weather Vegetables
If vegetables are your thing, those seeds are ready to be planted. Squash, beans, and cucumbers should be in the ground this week. In a few weeks we can add broccoli and cauliflower, along with kales and cabbages. Start your vegetables from seed indoors or in a greenhouse, or pick them up as small plugs from a nursery. If you want to start your vegetables outside from seed, be sure they get some protection from the hot afternoon sun.

No matter what time of year, there is always something to do in a North Texas garden. Don’t forget to refresh mulch on a regular basis, and add some compost or fertilizer from time to time. Fall doesn’t mean that your garden is done. Gardens in our area remain very active even up through December, and then we can start moving onto our winter color and activities. That means it’s a great time to start the planning process for any hardscapes or other projects you want to put in while many plants are dormant.

Happy gardening, and don’t be afraid to play in the dirt! Give us a call at 877-558-1496, or drop us a line and contact us here, to find out how Desiree can help you create a wonderful garden with a budget you can afford.

4th of July Garden Activities

Good early summer haul of tomatoes and other veggies.Independence Day is uniquely popular for outdoor activities: socializing, grilling, pool parties, and of course fireworks. Do you have fireworks going off in your garden? You should! The outdoor garden area can be one of the most popular gathering places for your friends and family. Many many summer plants are just absolutely exploding with color right now!

Crape myrtles in particular are showing off their blooms with a dizzying display of color. If you’re interested in planting one, it is the perfect time to select the exact color you want as they are all in bloom at the nursery right now. Here in North Texas almost every crape myrtle you choose will be freeze tolerant for any weather we get with few exceptions. If your crape myrtle is not blooming or even showing substantial dead branches and trunks, AND is shooting up abundant new growth from the ground it has likely suffered from freeze damage. The best action may be to cut away the dead and then cultivate new growth from the ground up. The same applies if your crape myrtles have been “topped.” Topping a crape myrtle results in ugly looking knots at the tops of the tree. There is no way to correct this, other than to cut it down to the ground (in the winter!) and then await the vigorous flush of new growth that will come out at the first hint of warmer weather.

Good early summer haul of tomatoes and other veggies.If tomatoes are your thing they should be ready for the last summer harvest now. In this intense summer heat they will likely stop producing. Most tomato varieties require temperatures at night to fall below 75° in order to set fruit, although there are exceptions. The ever popular cherry tomato can produce amazing crops of fruit throughout the summer. Other varieties include the Heatmaster tomato and the Phoenix tomato. Regardless of what you’re growing, tomatoes in the summer are water intensive. They should be deeply watered in the summer heat, but make sure the soil is well drained. As much as they like the water they don’t like roots that stay constantly wet. You can encourage them further with some shade cloth set up to block the blazing afternoon sun. Some growers even use misters to cool the air through evaporative cooling. If your dream is to cultivate hot summer tomatoes be aware that, unless you’re on well water, you’ll see a marked increase in your water bill!

Any pruning on oaks should be done this month. This is the safest time to prune oak species as the deadly oak wilt fungus is inactive. Any shade trees with low hanging branches can also be cut back. Sometimes these low hangers don’t reveal themselves in the winter dormant season when we would like to prune. They wait until they are burdened with the weight of an abundance of leaves. It won’t hurt to take down one or two of those low hanging branches right now, just don’t go overboard with the pruning. Generally speaking this is the wrong time of year to prune any trees. Now is the time these trees use all the sunlight collected by their leaves to build up reserves, and we want to avoid requiring them to divert energy to healing a wound when they should be at the peak of their growing season.

If you have hanging baskets or container gardens it’s time to add a little slow release fertilizer. Potting soil is a fantastic medium for plants, but it contains very little nutritional value. Your potted plants need those additional feedings of fertilizer that your in ground plantings get from compost and mulch. If you have flowering plants, a simple rose food fertilizer is excellent.

Good early summer haul of tomatoes and other veggies.Of course all this heat means that proper irrigation and watering is more important than ever. Don’t think that you have to water too often: it is more important to water deeply than to water frequently. Most North Texans (with a few exceptions) have a heavy clay soil that cannot absorb as much water as we would like all at once. If you’re seeing runoff onto the sidewalks, driveways, etc. then you are watering more than the soil can absorb. In these cases you will need to cycle your waterings. This means that you will water a short cycle, wait for it to be absorbed, and then water another short cycle. Lather rinse and repeat as many times as it takes for the clay soil to absorb water at least 4-6 inches down. Most modern sprinkler timers are able to be programmed in this way. If yours is older, consider upgrading the controller. Newer digital controllers are easy to program and can be controlled from your phone from anywhere. You can also add a soil moisture meter that will automatically tell your irrigation controller when the soil is too dry.

Need help with your irrigation or sprinkler system? Does your garden need an overhaul or just a general checkup? Give us a call at 877-558-1496, or drop us a line and contact us here, to find out how Desiree can help you create a wonderful garden with a budget you can afford.

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Mid June Garden Update

A newly hatched Praying MantisThe summer sun has the soil warmed up nicely for all of our heat loving plants. Peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, squash, and beans should all be in the ground now. Tomatoes are likely big enough at this point that they, and other tall plants, would benefit from a cage or stake to support them. Don’t forget to prune suckers from tomato plants, and keep an eye out for hornworms that can destroy your crop.

Speaking of hornworms, it’s time to keep an eye out for other pests, and the beneficial insects that eat them. Our praying mantises have hatched, and the ladybugs are out in force patrolling for aphids. Spiders, wasps, small snakes and toads all contribute their share to pest control in your garden. While many people dislike these creepy crawlies, they are a necessary part of a healthy ecosystem in your garden. If you do find pests, you can mix a small amount of dishwashing liquid and spray them down. Diatomaceous earth powder works too, but it does not discriminate and will harm the beneficial insects as much as the pests. For snails and slugs traps work very well, and you can make your own by setting out a shallow dish or jar top filled with cheap beer.

There are also some pests where you’ll have to make a judgement call: Swallowtail caterpillars absolutely love dill and fennel, and can denude a plant in just a few days, but if you kill the caterpillars you won’t have the beautiful butterflies they turn into. Gulf Frilly caterpillars love Passion Flower vines and their voracious appetites can reduce the number of amazing blooms you get, but again: No caterpillars, no butterflies. In our experience, simply having healthy plants is usually enough that the caterpillars can get their fill and the plant can survive just fine.

The weather lately here in North Texas has brought us an abundance of rain, but anyone who has lived in Texas very long knows that this rarely lasts. As the rains taper off and the heat continues, it will be more and more important to water appropriately. Deep soaking watering is vastly preferable to more frequent shallow watering as it will encourage the growth of strong deep roots. If you are hand watering or using a sprinkler you should water very early morning to minimize evaporation. In the same manner, drip irrigation is even better as it applies water to the soil directly where it is needed. You can cover your drip lines with mulch to further eliminate evaporation of the water.

Speaking of mulch, you can’t really go wrong applying another layer of mulch around your plants. Not only does this help to conserve soil moisture as alluded to above, but it will also suppress weed growth and help stabilize soil temperature. We use organic materials like straw, wood chips, and even shredded leaves as mulch, and place it over a layer of cardboard or newspaper (junk mail works too, just not the glossy stuff.) If you get mulch from a garden center or nursery, you should avoid dyed mulch. Red and black dyed mulch is the most common, but the chemicals in the dyes can have negative effects on your plants. A good 100% hardwood or cypress mulch is what we recommend, and it looks just as good as a fancy dyed mulch.

It’s also time to start harvesting some of your plants! Blackberries, plums, green onions, and asparagus are already starting to ripen. If you grow asparagus, this should be your last harvest of the year and the plant should be allowed to rejuvenate as an ornamental until the next harvest.

June is also the time to plant annual flowers that thrive in the warm weather. Consider colorful options such as cocks comb, marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, petunias, and sunflowers. Most of these plants appreciate full sun. Prepare your annual beds with a good mix of compost, landscapers mix, and top off with mulch.

Remember, specific gardening tasks can vary depending on the microclimate and individual garden conditions within North Texas, and readers to the north or south of Zone 8 will have slightly different timing.

Give us a call at 877-558-1496, or drop us a line and contact us here, to find out how Desiree can help you create a wonderful garden with a budget you can afford.

Memorial Day Garden Chores

The growing season is running full steam ahead here at Desiree Gardens! That means there is a LOT going on right now.

Thin your stone-fruit in May to encourage larger and more high quality fruits of what remains.If you haven’t started already, now is the time to prune your wisteria and other spring blooming vines or shrubs. Do not wait until late summer or fall! The buds for next spring’s blooms will set through out the late summer and fall, and if you wait to prune you won’t have any flowers come next spring. It’s also time to prune any shade trees you have, except for oaks. For other species, any low hanging branches should be cut back now and it is a fine time to prune sucker growth on the interior of the canopy.

Proper pruning promotes strong growth.If you have oaks that need trimming, just be patient. Mid to late summer is the best time to prune your oak trees to in order to minimize the chances of spreading oak wilt. When you do prune your oaks, all cuts should be covered with a tree wound paint, or a regular latex paint (color doesn’t matter!) you can find at your local paint or hardware store.

If you have blackberries or other fruit bearing canes, it is time to tip-prune new canes in order to keep the plant compact, as well as to encourage branching. Stone fruit trees like plums and peaches should have the fruit thinned now in order to encourage larger higher quality fruit that remains.

Give us a call at 877-558-1496, or drop us a line and contact us here, to find out how Desiree can help you create a wonderful garden with a budget you can afford.

Zone 7 & 8 May Plants

The summer heat is here, and the weather man is forecasting nothing but highs in the 90s and 100s for weeks to come. Things start to seriously heat up in May, but it’s still the perfect time to plant certain crops. There are a variety of vegetables that need warm soil and grow very quickly that are perfect to plant in warmer weather.

Beans, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes all grow very quickly and prefer warm weather. This is the perfect time to set up a trellis in your raised beds and start your seedlings. All of these prefer well drained soil and regular watering, so if you don’t get frequent summer showers you’ll need to water your crops early in the morning. Tomatoes might tend to go dormant in the searing heat of late July and August, but you can look forward to another crop as the temperatures cool into September and October.

Corn, melons, and squash can be grown in fresh tilled fertile ground and will thrive in the coming summer heat. Don’t feel that you’re planting too late into the growing season. The first frost for zones 7 and 8 doesn’t usually come until mid to late November at the earliest, giving you plenty of time to allow these crops to reach maturity.

Pepper bushes seem to capture the scorching heat of the sun and concentrate it into their tiny red and orange fruits. These bushes can be ornamental, along with sweet potatoes, and provide interest and color to a front yard bed. Sweet potatoes in particular make a fantastic ground cover.

If you’re planning on some fall and winter crops, now is also the time to start planning your seedling grow beds for kale, spinach, and lettuce. Don’t start these seedlings just yet, but go ahead and start organizing grow beds and be ready to start your fall seedlings indoors under the grow light or by a south facing window here in a few weeks.

There’s never a dull moment and there’s always something to do in an active year-round garden.