April is an exciting time for gardeners!

Late summer blooms.The warm weather is here at last, and it’s here to stay for a while. We’re completely free of any risk of frost, and if you haven’t gotten your spring planting done yet now is the time! Many of you have already seen the trees, shrubs, and other perennials begin to bud, bloom, and leaf out. Our late bloomers aren’t far behind. So, what do we need to focus on in April?

For your lawns, it’s too late now to apply a pre-emergent to prevent weeds, but you’ll have another opportunity in June. If you do have pesky weeds in your lawn you can still use a broadleaf weed killer with at least 1% 2,4-D but make sure to apply it only where needed early in the morning when there is little or no wind. Remember that it can damage or kill other plants and flowers in your garden beds. Now is also the time to apply an all-nitrogen fertilizer to your lawn to encourage growth and give it lush green leaves. When mowing, do not mow too low. If you lowered your mower to scalp your lawn last month remember to raise it up. Taller lawns create healthier grass and encourage better root growth.

This is the perfect time to plant all of your heat loving annual varieties from 4″ or 6″ pots, or from seedlings you started indoors earlier this year. Perennials should be started from quart or gallon pots. Annual varieties include purslane, lantana, pentas, purple fountain grass for your full sun gardens. In the shade you can add coleus, caladiums, and begonias. If you’re wanting to add a rose or two to your garden this is also a great time for that as well. We recommend varieties such as Earth-Kind, but other brands such as Knockout roses are also a good choice. For climbing roses it’s hard to go wrong with the stunning Joseph’s Coat or Peggy Martin, just remember that your climbers will need a trellis or some other support. Keep a close eye out for rose-rosette, also known as witches broom, which is an incurable virus that can quickly spread among rose plantings.

Late summer blooms.Once your spring flowering trees and shrubs are done for the season you can start pruning and shaping them. Wisteria, redbud, and dogwood trees should be pruned when the flowers drop. Wisteria should be pruned by hand to help it maintain a more natural look. For your trees you should remove any low hanging branches, water sprouts, hanging branches, or crossed branches. On your stone fruit trees such as peaches or plums you should keep the previous advice in mind but pay close attention to where fruit is setting. Judicious pruning will help the tree direct resources to the fruit that remains and produce larger fruits on those remaining.

As we noted earlier, weeds are returning along with the warm weather. Make sure to keep on top of weeds in any of your garden beds. Adding a layer of mulch after removing weeds helps immensely in weed suppression. Mulch also aids in moisture retention and soil temperature. This will become critically important as we move into the summer months when the hot Texas sun can dry everything while raising surface soil temperatures well above 130° in some cases. Along those same lines it is critically important to make sure your lawn and plants are receiving adequate water. New growth in the spring is heavily dependent on spring rains supplemented by your irrigation system. Modern sprinkler systems using ET (Evapotranspiration) controllers are one of the best ways to keep your plants properly hydrated. They tap into the internet and pull rainfall totals, humidity information, and more to precisely apply the amount of water needed. This not only helps your garden but can save you from a hefty water bill later this year. These modern systems can also be monitored and controlled from handy phone-based apps so that you can keep an eye on things no matter where you are.

It certainly is an exciting time of year, and Desiree Gardens is always here to help. Need help with your irrigation or sprinkler system? Does your garden need an overhaul or just a general checkup? Give us a call at 817-202-4808, 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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February is here, and it’s time to get ready for spring!

bulbsFebruary begins to herald the change to spring here in North Texas, and while we often get some of our hardest freezes in February it’s also the time when your garden will begin to wake up. Most plants use a combination of available sunlight, as the days grow longer, as well as soil temperature to decide when to come out of dormancy. Now is also the time to begin planning your spring garden. But what needs to be done now?

This is the perfect time to prune woody trees and shrubs, except for oaks, while they are still dormant. Any remaining ornamental grasses and perennials should also get a trim to be ready for spring, although there are some exceptions: plants like wisteria set their buds in the fall and should not be trimmed until later in the spring after flowering. If there are any deadfall, loose brush, or annuals that have run their course, it is time to do a deep cleaning in your garden and pull all that out. It’s not too late to plant new trees and shrubs, but it’s wise to prune by as much as 50% (depending on species) them when they are planted. Nandinas, for example, whether new or existing should be severely pruned back with the tallest canes taken back all the way to ground level. This will encourage more bushy growth and prevent them from becoming too leggy.

If you are starting anything from seed they should be planted indoors for now so that they are ready for planting when the soil temperature warms up a bit. Certain perennials should also be planted, or at least get them ready to be planted, such as mallows, gloriosas, fall asters and salvias. Cool season annuals can also be swapped out for iceland poppies, larkspur, and sweet alyssum.

Pruning and trimmingYou can begin to fertilize your trees and shrubs right now, but hold off a little bit on any cold-sensitive plants. They should wait until late March or just before Easter before being fertilized. By the same token your lawns should be scalped, fertilized (depending on the species, it’s still to early to fertilize your warm weather lawns such as St. Augustine) and possibly amend with peat moss towards the end of this month. If possible, make sure to bag the clippings and use it in your compost or as mulch. Remove any winter seeds and start looking to use a pre-emergent weed killer later this month or in early March depending on the weather. If you need to aerate your lawn to help reduce soil compaction this is a good time for that as well.

Remember that we can get hard freezes even through late March and early April, so try not to get overeager and be prepared to use frost cloth to protect your sensitive plants from early spring cold snaps. This is an exciting time of year for gardeners as the warmth of spring is just barely in sight. Consult your local nursery to see what plants are in stock and appropriate to be planted right now, and don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and give us a call for a consultation specific to your garden goals.

Need help with your irrigation or sprinkler system? Does your garden need an overhaul or just a general checkup? Maybe you just need a helping hand to protect sensitive plants from freeze and frost. Give us a call at 817-202-4808, 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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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.

Early June Plantings and Irrigation

The summer heat is definitely here, and adequate watering is more important than ever! If you haven’t already, it’s definitely time to adjust the watering schedule on your irrigation system.

Modern rotator spray heads are great at saving water.Deep waterings are one of the best ways to keep your plants happy, but if you have a clay soil you can’t just dump all that water all at once as the soil won’t absorb it. Instead you’ll have excessive runoff onto your driveway, sidewalks, and the street. All that wasted water! Instead, set up each zone to water in multiple short intervals. Instead of one long 30-minute watering session, set up your clay soil zones to do three 10-minute waterings separated by 10-minute “rest” sessions to give the soil time to absorb the water.

On the other hand, if you have sandy soil, or a sandy loam (more common on the far western side of the DFW metroples in areas like Weatherford, Springtown, Azle, etc.) your soil will readily absorb as much as a half-inch of precipitation from your irrigation system at a time. Don’t hesitate to water deeply and run your system for 30-minutes or longer, depending on your plants’ requirements. You don’t need to do this every day. Deep watering even once or twice a week is more than adequate, especially if you have more native plants or drought tolerant varieties. Deep watering like this also makes it easier to comply with any water use restrictions imposed by periods of drought and the accompanying water supply shortages.

Lantanas being pollinated. Now is also the time to start planting all of the heat loving plants in your garden. Crape Myrtles, Salvias, Lantanas, Texas Star Hibiscus, Verbena, Turk’s Cap, Phlox, Purple Fountain Grass, Purslane, and Yuccas are just some examples of these. Reseeding annuals such as Zinnias, Marigolds, and 4 O’clocks also thrive in the blistering summer heat. Other annuals such as Coleus, Pentas, and Caladiums should also be planted now.

It should be noted that this year has been a bad one for Caladium nurseries which have been hit hard and are not able to meet the normal demand for this plant. If you can find a Caladium plant, get it when and where you can.

If potted tropical plants are your thing, Bouganvillas, Tropical Hibiscus, Sago Palms, Agaves, succulents, and other cold sensitive potted plants will do well if planted now. Just remember that container gardens have very different watering requirements than in-ground gardens, but you can still have your containers hooked up to an irrigation system as long as they are on a separate zone.

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.