Calendars Reproduced by Kind Permission of:
Keith Hansen, County Extension Horticulture
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Smith County
Gardening Calendars are one of best Gardening Tools!
These East Texas gardening calendars, written by Keith Hansen of the Smith County Extension Horticulture, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, provide you with a list of all the important tasks, maintenance and projects that should be done in your garden during each given month. Simply click the month of interest below to expand that months tasks. This should allow you to plan your seasonal gardening activities well in advance and keep your plants and flowers looking their very best.
Please bookmark this page and return regularly to use these calendars as one of your favorite gardening tools!
It's a new gardening year, and hopefully, all your gardening efforts will be fruitful and enjoyable. It may be chilly outside at this time of year, but winter weather is perfect for a number of gardening tasks. Although you may not think of it this way, just consider how much better outdoor chores, like soil preparation, planting, transplanting and pruning, can be done without getting drenched in sweat while toiling in hot summer temperatures. So, here are a few items the gardener can accomplish in January.
If you are considering digging and moving a plant from one spot to another in the landscape, this is the month to accomplish this job. Most plants move best when they are fully dormant as a result of prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. Small and young plants are the easiest to move successfully since there is less shock and they recover from root loss rather quickly. Remember to selectively remove some top growth to compensate for the inevitable loss of some of the roots. Once the plant is moved, water it thoroughly and apply a few inches of mulch over the root area.
The ground doesn't freeze in East Texas, and many things can be planted at this time of year. At the top of the list are fruit trees and vines. These plants are dug by growers while they are dormant and shipped bare-root. The quicker you make your selection and get them in the ground, the faster they will establish a root system, which means better growth in the spring and summer. Don't let them dry out! Roses and other dormant, deciduous flowering plants are also available this month. Actually, most container-grown nursery stock can be planted during the winter, weather permitting. You can also be preparing the soil now for new flower, rose or shrub beds by mixing in plenty of organic material like compost and fertilizer. This way the soil is ready for immediate planting when the plants arrive.
Start seeds indoors now for planting in late winter and early spring: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, lettuce, parsley, petunias and begonias. Tomato, pepper and eggplant seed should be started in late January for transplanting in March. Late January is also the time to start transplants of marigolds, periwinkles and other summer flowers. Use a commercial peat-light soil mix in a clean flat. Place in a warm, bright spot. Cover the tray with a clear piece of glass or plastic or saran wrap until the seeds have sprouted. At that time, place in very bright light to keep the seedlings from stretching.
Plant asparagus roots as they become available at garden stores.
January and February are the months to accomplish pruning of fruit trees. Annual pruning keeps the harvest within reach, thins crowded branches, thus allowing more light to penetrate developing fruit, and stimulates new growth for next year's crop. Peaches, plums and apricots need this annual pruning. The dormant season of winter is also the time to do any needed pruning of shade trees to correct major problems such as cleaning out dead wood, removing lower limbs and crowded branches to allow more light to reach the ground, and removing hazardous branches which threaten property.
Regularly fertilize pansies to keep them actively growing. Houseplants can be fertilized with reduced rates of water-soluble fertilizer this month. Do not over-water houseplants, and make sure that water does not sit in the saucer under the pot after watering.
Birds of all kinds appreciate a constant source of seed, suet and water during the winter. You'll enjoy all the activity in your yard while providing a valuable service for our feathered friends. Just remember that once you start feeding, you should keep it up through the winter. This is a good time to get your lawn and garden soil tested for its pH level. Soils which are strongly acid stunt plant growth and result in unproductive gardens. Liming lawns and gardens now allows time for lime to react and raise the soil pH before the growing season arrives.
Compost piles should be turned at least once during the month. Leaves are abundant and should be shredded before adding to the pile. Add animal manure or clippings from winter rye for a source of nitrogen. The pile should be at least 3 cubic feet in volume to help hold in the heat generated by decomposition. Check the pile for moisture level. It should be neither too wet or too dry. Add water if it is dry; add more coarse, dry matter if it is too wet.
Check the East Texas Gardening Program Calendar for the East Texas Garden Lecture Series, held February - June and September - November. Check the Programs link or call the Smith County Extension office (903) 590-5980
The new gardening year really gets in full swing in February with many activities and options for growing and learning. Keep in mind that the average last freeze for the Northeast Texas area is not until mid-March. Even so, many plants normally begin to show signs of growth in February. Narcissus and daffodil foliage is already up and growing, and blooms are not far behind. Wild plum is beginning to bloom, along with deciduous magnolias, quince and bridal wreath spirea.
East Texas Garden Lecture Series, East Texas Turfgrass Conference, and East Texas Fruit & Vegetable Conference are some the annual programs held each spring in our area. Check the Educational Programs link for more information.
February is a good time to prune. Before buds begin to swell for spring, finish pruning summer flowering trees and shrubs. Do not prune spring-flowering plants such as spirea (bridal wreath), azalea, forsythia or quince until after they bloom. Most plants, if properly selected for their allotted space, need very little pruning. Ornamental plants should be appreciated for their natural forms and usually look better and are easier to care for if heavy pruning is avoided.
Finish pruning peach and plum trees early this month. These fruit trees are not pruned for looks but for better harvests and easier picking. Pruning regulates tree height and stimulates new growth for next year's crop.
Prune hybrid tea roses in February to induce new growth and spring blooms. Remove top growth 18 to 24 inches above ground, retaining several healthy canes. The older the plant, the more canes you should leave. Make clean, sharp cuts just above buds which point outward. Postpone pruning of climbing roses if necessary until after their major flush of spring bloom. Many antique roses should not be as drastically pruned as hybrid teas.
If those seed heads on crepe myrtles bother you, you can remove them this month. Just clip back the ends of the branches, but do not destroy the beauty of the gracefully sculptured trunks by severe pruning. Heavy pruning is not necessary for abundant blooms.
This is a great time for visiting your local nursery. New plants are arriving now for late winter and early spring planting. By planting early, plants will be off to a better start and can become adjusted before the stresses of summer arrive (remember last summer).
February is time to plant several types of plants including roses, bare-rooted fruit and nut trees, along with grape, blueberry and blackberry. Select varieties recommended for East Texas growing conditions. Many fruit trees require higher levels of pruning, fertilization and pest control. Find out the requirements of the types you are interested in because some require more work than others. Some of the fruits requiring less pest management include fig, blackberry, blueberry, Japanese persimmon, and pear.
When purchasing fruit trees, know which types require a second variety for pollination, such as plum, apple, pear, blueberries and some muscadine grapes. Always plant in full sun.
February is the month to apply fertilizer to peach and plum trees. Apply 1 pound (2 cups) of ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) per inch of trunk diameter for established peach trees at and slightly beyond the edge of the tree canopy, never against the trunk.
It's time to select and plant gladiolus bulbs for summer blooms. Cannas, daylilies, ornamental grasses and mums may be divided once new foliage appears in early spring. It's also time for planting groundcovers and planting cool season annuals such as calendula, hollyhocks and nasturtium.
Early to mid-February marks the time to apply a preemergence herbicide for lawns that had a summer weed problem last year. These products kill germinating seed. The mild weather may already be triggering weed germination. A second application may be needed in late May or early June. Remember that the best defense against lawn weeds is a healthy, thick turf resulting from good management. Don't rely on chemicals alone!
Early to mid-February is vegetable planting time for cool season crops including onions, Irish potatoes, radishes, greens, spinach, sugar snap peas, carrots, broccoli, beets and turnips. Early planting assures a good harvest prior to summer heat. But, don't be in a hurry to plant summer vegetables such as tomato, peppers, squash, etc. A late frost or freeze will result in repeated plantings. Summer vegetables require warm days and warm soils to quickly establish.
Finally, enjoy the beauty of spring bloom. If you haven't been to Mrs. Helen Lee's Garden, 5.6 miles south of Gladewater off Hwy. 271 to see the thousands of daffodils, be sure to take advantage of visiting this beautiful ranch, with free admission, to see the daffodils when the bloom peaks in February. And take your camera!
One of the busiest gardening months of the year is here. March weather can be very fickle - it could still freeze since average last freeze is around March 12, and yet it still could be very balmy and pleasant most of the month. Freezing weather mainly affects the timing of planting cold-sensitive plants, like tomatoes or begonias. If you decide to take chances with tender plants, be prepared to give them a protective covering.
March is a great month to plant almost every kind of landscape plant. The sooner you plant, the quicker the plant will start getting established. This is important if the plants are to do well through the hot, stressful summer. Nurseries are receiving weekly shipments of fresh nursery stock, and this is prime to buy and plant!
Sometimes, though, eager gardeners jump the gun on some yard and garden chores which might be better delayed to later in spring. For example, many folks will apply fertilizer in early spring to try and force the grass to green up early. However, based on latest research, turfgrass experts recommend delaying fertilizing warm season lawn grasses (St. Augustine and Bermuda) until April, and to wait to fertilize Centipede until May. Spring green-up results from nutrients that were stored by the grass last fall (hence the importance of fall fertilization). Pushing the lawn too hard in the early spring could result in a weaker root system going into the summer. Tall fescue is an exception and should be fertilized now.
Caladium bulbs require warm soil temperatures, and setting them out in early spring can cause them to rot. Go ahead and purchase them as soon as they are available, but wait until the soil temperature reaches 70 degrees F to plant them.
Periwinkles or vinca is a bedding plant which also loves hot weather. When set out before the days turn truly hot, they often get a fungal disease that can destroy a whole bed of periwinkles. Mild, wet, spring weather provides the perfect environment for this devastating disease which, unfortunately, has discouraged many gardeners from planting them altogether. Periwinkle is still a great bedding plant for summer color then just simply wait until May or early June to plant them.
Control winter weeds by starting your regular mowing regime. Get your mower blade sharpened now before the spring repair rush. If you decide to scalp your lawn, wait until all danger of freezing is over. The average last freeze for our area is mid-March. Iif you do scalp, turn that huge amount of clippings into a fine soil amendment by composting it rather than filling up the landfill with it.
If you missed applying a preemergent weed preventer in February and you had a summer weed problem in your lawn last year (such as grass burs), then go ahead and make an application now. You may have missed a portion of the weeds which germinate in early spring (like crabgrass), but will still control the many other types that can germinate anytime during the warm part of the year.
As mentioned above, wait to fertilize your St. Augustine or Bermuda lawn until April, or after you have mowed actively growing grass (not weeds) twice.
Pruning of evergreen and summer flowering trees and shrubs should be completed this month. But, prune spring flowering shrubs (forsythia, quince, azaleas, spirea, etc) only after they finish blooming, if needed. Hydrangeas also bloom on prior year's growth, so prune after they bloom.
Shear back Asiatic jasmine, if needed, just as new growth starts to encourage new growth from the base.
As the lovely blooms of daffodils and jonquils fade away, it is tempting to remove or hide the leaves. However, let them yellow naturally. Next year's flower buds are being formed at this time, and healthy, green leaves are needed to insure an even better display next year.
After camellias and azaleas finish blooming, fertilize them with 2 to 3 pounds of azalea-camellia fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed area.
This is a good time to start hanging baskets of petunias, begonias, impatiens and other annuals. Hanging baskets add another dimension to the landscape, allowing you to bring color and accents to other areas around your house.
Dig and divide summer and fall blooming perennials this month. Fall asters, chrysanthemums, salvia and other summer/fall perennials can be invigorated and increased for expanding your beds or sharing/trading with other gardeners.
The mulch underneath azalea, camellia and other shrubs may have partially decomposed, adding organic matter to the soil, but leaving areas suitable for weed invasion. Add more where needed, using organic mulches such as pine needles, pine bark or cypress bark.
Begin fertilizing roses every 4 to 6 weeks from now until September. You also need to begin a spray program for controlling blackspot on roses. Uncontrolled blackspot will defoliate most hybrid tea, grandiflora and floribunda roses, causing them to decline in vigor.
Last freeze dates guide us as to when it should be safe to plant frost-tender vegetables and annuals. Just be ready to protect frost-sensitive plants in case of a late freeze.
Planting of cool season vegetables (transplant broccoli, cabbage, and collards, and seed carrots, collards, mustard greens, lettuce, radish, turnips, Swiss chard and spinach) should be finished real soon, and summer vegetables can begin to be sown and transplanted later in March. Delay planting okra, sweet potatoes, okra and peppers until April since they don't do well in cool soil.
Fertilize vegetables about a month after growth starts with nitrogen fertilizer.
Fruit and pecan trees should be fertilized this month with nitrogen applied in the area beneath the ends of the branches, never against the trunk. Shrubs and annual flower beds can be fertilized with a complete, balanced fertilizer. Slow-release formulations, though slightly more expensive, feed your plants over a longer period of time. Often the same type of fertilizer recommended for use on the lawn can be used in the landscape.
Watch out for aphids that rapidly build up on tender new growth. They can be controlled with a sharp stream of water, insecticidal soap or other insecticides (be sure to read the product label to determine whether the infested plants are included on the label).
April brings spring gardening is to a fever pitch, and nurseries are fully stocked with all kinds of plants and products for every purpose for the itchy green thumb. Here are a few gardening tasks for the month of April that you might find helpful.
AZALEAS and More
April is an ideal time to evaluate your azalea beds and think about adding a group of azaleas which bloom later than the main "Tyler Azalea Trail" blooming season. There are many varieties which begin to bloom after the main Trail types - Southern Indicas and Kurume, have faded, with some types even waiting until late April and May to bloom. Visit your local nursery to see the many varieties of azaleas available.
A common azalea question is: "When do I prune my azaleas". Since they bloom on growth produced the previous year, you must wait until they finish blooming before pruning. The same holds true with spirea, forsythia, pearlbush, wisteria and any other early spring blooming plant. Azaleas don't have to be pruned every year, but you might find it desirable to remove long shoots sticking up above the rest of the bush to keep the growth more compact.
Climbing roses may also be pruned as soon as they complete flowering.
Camellias should be fertilized this month, and once azaleas finish blooming, fertilize them, too, to stimulate new growth. Just be careful not to fertilize too heavily, and evenly distribute the fertilizer over the root zone. Their shallow roots can be easily burned when fertilizer is applied in concentrated piles.
Roses have relatively high fertility requirements, so fertilization can begin now and continue every 4 to 6 weeks until September.
April is the month to begin fertilizing lawns. The ideal time to apply fertilizer is after you have mowed actively growing grass once or twice. Early April is a good target date for St. Augustine and common Bermuda grass. Centipede lawns are usually slower to green up and turf experts recommend that they be fertilized in early May. For best results, have your soil tested for pH and fertility before applying fertilizer. Soil test kits are available from all county Extension offices; otherwise use a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 fertilizer ratio.
Annual flowers may be seeded now, including amaranthus, celosia, cosmos, marigold, portulaca, zinnia, gomphrena, and several other warm-season annual flowers. These can be sown directly in the beds where they are to grow. Keep seeded areas moist until seeds germinate. Thin out as soon as they are large enough to transplant so the remaining plants will not be crowded. Surplus plants can be transplanted to other areas.
For faster color, purchase annuals already started. Select short, compact plants, preferably ones that have not yet begun to flower. Remove flowers and buds to give the plants an opportunity to become well established before flowering.
One of the best hot-weather, summer plants is the periwinkle (vinca). Eager gardeners setting out vinca too early may lose it to a fungal blight. By waiting until it gets hot (later in May) to plant vinca in the sunny part of the yard, you almost totally avoid this problem. Mulching can also help reduce disease problems by reducing soil splashing up onto the leaves.
Perennials for summer color include lantana, daylilies, verbena, hostas, salvia, sedums, ornamental grasses, purple coneflower, rudbeckia, ferns and summer phlox.
There's still time in early April to plant many vegetables, including bush and pole beans, cucumber, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, summer & winter squash, and watermelons from seed; and transplants of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. All these should be seeded or transplanted right away for best results. Okra and Southern peas do better with warmer soil and therefore should be planted a bit later in the month.
I often see garden plots with very crowded rows of vegetable seedlings. Without thinning these seedlings to allow room between each individual plant, the plants will be weak and spindley and the harvest will be disappointing.
Follow recommended spacing distances between plants for each crop. For example, green beans should be thinned to a 3 - 4 inch spacing, while lima beans grow larger and need 4 - 6 inches. Pole beans need about 6 inches between plants. If the plantlets are very large, and pulling would disturb their neighbors, thin by clipping the shoots off at ground level. Greens, like lettuce, collard and mustards, should be thinned several times until you get the final spacing. That way you can eat the "thinnings".
Store left over vegetable seeds in a sealed container in the refrigerator if you'd like to keep them for next season. A tablespoon of powdered milk wrapped in tissue can help absorb moisture to keep the seeds fresh.
For best growth and yield, make additions of nitrogen fertilizer (called side dressing) every couple of weeks, starting about a month after transplanting or seeding. This will keep vegetables growing vigorously so they reach their maximum yield potential.
Watch new growth for insect pests. Aphids, also sometimes called plant lice, may get on the new growth of any type of plant. While a few aphids can be tolerated, large numbers can distort growth and should be controlled. A strong jet of water to knock them off can provide temporary control, and insecticidal soap products will also help control them.
Check the East Texas Piney Woods Gardening Program Calendar for upcoming gardening events in Smith County and the area.
April showers bring May flowers and lots of gardening activities. Visits to local nurseries and public gardens will stimulate lots of new ideas and possibilities. Here are a few items that can help you with your gardening activities.
Be sure to visit the Tyler Rose Garden this month where roses are the star, but not the only thing to see. Daylilies will soon be coming into bloom, and the Heritage Rose Garden displays old garden roses and a variety of perennials - definitely worth the visit!
While at the Tyler Rose Garden, be sure to check out the I.D.E.A. Demonstration Garden - where you're sure to find an idea or two to take home and use in your own yard and landscape.
ANNUAL AND PERENNIAL FLOWERS
Although pansies are still looking great, it's about time to pull them and plant summer flowering plants. There are too many to list here, but your choices are many, and nurseries are stocked with them. It's better to go ahead and dig out the pansies even though they may still be looking quite good. Once it gets hot, they'll go down fast. Annuals give you lots of color bang for your buck.
Transplant or sow seeds of angelonia, ageratum, sunflower, zinnia, morning glory, portulaca, marigold, cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus with pastel colors and C. sulphureus with hot reds and yellows), periwinkles, gomphrena and gourds. Plant vinca (periwinkle), which prefers hot, sunny sites, later in May once the weather turns warmer.
For shady spots, grow these favorite plants: impatiens, coleus, caladium and begonias. Flowering tobacco (Nicotiana) is a great fragrant annual for partial shade.
Perennials for the sun include Shasta daisy, dusty miller, garden mums, coreopsis, mallow, salvia (many kinds), daylily and summer phlox. Shade loving perennials include hosta, columbine, phlox, ferns, violets, ajuga, and liriope. Achimenes, cannas, dahlias, caladiums and other summer bulbs can also be planted in May.
Some plants can be grown as either annuals or perennials. Lantana loves the summer heat and sun, blooming from late spring through first frost. Most years it will come back from the roots. Lantana comes in bush and trailing forms, and in many colors.
Firebush or Hamelia is another favorite summer bloomer with bright orange/red flowers that is a magnet for hummingbirds. It is usually slow to emerge after winter, and many folks simply replant it every year.
FLOWER BED MAINTENANCE
If you cut off old blossoms on early spring flowering annuals like pansies, snapdragons, stock and calendulas, you can prolong the flowering season a few more weeks.
Allow foliage of daffodils and other spring flowering bulbs to mature and yellow before removing. Do not hide or cover the their leaves.
Pinch back growth of newly planted annual and perennial plants. This results in shorter, compact plants with more flowers.
TREES AND SHRUBS
There's still plenty of time to set out container shrubs and trees. While they will need regular watering this summer, be certain you are not pouring too much water on your new plants. Folks with sandy soil may have the tendency to apply lots of water, keeping the soil where there are currently no roots saturated with water. Roots do not grow well in wet, soggy soil. Regularly check both the surrounding soil and the original soil root ball with your finger to determine the need for supplemental water during the year.
Fertilize roses every four to six weeks with small amounts of a balanced fertilizer. Control black spot on roses with triforine (Funginex) or other labeled product.
The first application of fertilizer for centipede lawns should be made soon, and if you have not yet fertilized St. Augustine or Bermuda grass, it is certainly not too late. The best way to determine what type and how much fertilizer is needed is to have a soil test done; otherwise use a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 fertilizer ratio.
As soon as tomatoes and peppers first set fruit, lightly apply nitrogen fertilizer (called side dressing) about 12 to 14 inches from the base of the plants. This supplemental feeding keeps the plants vigorous and growing, allowing them to set and mature the maximum amount of fruit without stunting the growth of the plants.
Cool season vegetables, like lettuce and spinach, will begin bolting (flowering) and quickly go down in quality once it gets hot. Harvest them soon and replant empty spots with warm-season vegetables like okra, sweet potatoes, pumpkins or watermelons.
Don't take the description "evergreen" plants too literally, expecting leaves to persist forever. Plants like magnolias, live oak, gardenia, hollies and some azaleas lose some of their old leaves in late spring and early summer. The flush of new growth on many evergreens will cause older leaves to yellow and drop, sometimes all at once. It's nothing to be concerned about; just nature putting on a new spring coat of green and discarding the old.
Unfortunately, the month of May is not be complete without a few pests messing things up. Here are a few of which you should be aware. If you know what might be showing up, you can periodically check your yard and take action before things get out of hand and more difficult to control.
Check azaleas for lace bugs. These small, slow moving, black insects with clear, lacy wings feed on the underside of the leaves. Damaged leaves look stippled or bleached and have small, shiny black specks on the undersides.
Leaf spot on Red Tip Photinia is a disease which can defoliate, weaken and potentially kill limbs. Indian Hawthorns can also get this disease which is characterized by dark, purple-colored spots on the leaves. Prevention is the best remedy to control Entomosporium leaf spot. First, rake up and remove all old, fallen leaves from underneath Photinias. The disease will be more severe if the leaves are frequently wetted, either by rainfall or by an irrigation system. If your sprinklers are hitting the plant's leaves, make adjustments to prevent this from occurring.
A preventative fungicide spray will help control Entomosporium leaf spot, particularly if the photinias were affected last year. Alternate triforine (Funginex) or bayleton with chlorothalonil (Daconil, Bravo, Multi-Purpose Fungicide) during the rainy season. This disease can be difficult to control and new growth must be protected.
Aphids, or plant lice, can be found on tender, new growth of all types of plants. Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that suck plant sap, often occurring in very large numbers. There are several naturally occurring enemies of aphids which can efficiently reduce an a small infestation. Usually beneficial insects (lady beetles, lacewings, parasitic wasps) do a good job of keeping aphid populations under control.
Look closely to see if plants with aphids have any parasitized aphids. Parasitized aphids appear fat, motionless, and salmon-colored. Very tiny wasps lay eggs in the aphid bodies. The eggs hatch and develop into small larvae which eat the aphid's insides! A close inspection of parasitized aphids might even reveal a tiny exit hole where the new adult wasp emerged to continue the cycle of destroying more aphids. Obviously, there is no need to spray there if you find insect predators or parasites working over an aphid infestation.
Cabbage worms and loopers will be on all cole crops including broccoli, cabbage, collards, kale and cauliflower. The biological insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), sold under several brand names like Biological Worm Killer, Thuricide, Dipel, etc, is a specific and very safe product to use to control these and other moth and butterfly caterpillars on vegetables and other plants. Use Bt late in the day and thoroughly cover the leaves with the spray.
Not all "critters" are pests, nor are all spots diseases - be sure to get any unknown suspect or problem correctly identified before considering treating with a pesticide.
Information given above is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by TexasAgriLife Extension Service is implied.
School's out, it's getting hotter and summer time activities are getting into full swing. June brings both the opportunity to plant summer color, and the routine garden maintenance of mowing and weeding. This spring's plentiful rainfall has hopefully helped our lawns, trees and gardens to begin to recover from last year's extreme stress. Take advantage of the longer days by doing gardening tasks in the morning or evening when it is more pleasant to be outside. To keep the lawn and garden looking great, here are a few tips for this June.
Hotter weather means grass will be growing faster. Keep up with the mowing so you don't have to bag the clippings. That may mean mowing every 5 or 6 days instead of every 7 to 10 days. Letting the clippings fall back into the lawn recycles nutrients but does not promote thatch. Keep the mower blade sharpened. Mowing frequently at the correct height will promote a healthy, thick turf that is resistant to weeds.
For St. Augustine or Bermuda lawns making poor growth thus far this year, make a second application of fertilizer. For best results, use a fertilizer with a high percentage of slow- release nitrogen so the grass won't grow quite so rapidly. Be careful to not apply too much fertilizer.
Warning! A wet, rainy June and lushly growing grass from high rates of nitrogen can lead to grey leaf spot, a fungal disease of St. Augustine grass. Symptoms include grey lesions outlined in black on the leaf blades. Severe infestations result in a "melting away" appearance, with the leaves collapsing, quickly decaying, exposing the soil underneath. Areas staying wet, in the shade, in low spots, frequently watered, infrequently mowed and recently fertilized are the most prone to grey leaf spot.
Centipede lawns fertilized earlier this year do not need to be fertilized at this time. Wait until fall for the next application.
As spring rains slack off and give way to drier days, apply supplemental water as needed. The rule of thumb is to water enough to wet the soil 5 to 6 inches deep. Do not water too frequently. Shallow, frequent watering promotes a shallow root system that is more susceptible to the stress of summer heat and winter cold.
The best way to conserve moisture in the landscape is by mulching. Pine bark, pine needles, cypress bark, composted grass clippings and shredded leaves are among the materials suitable for a mulch. A three to four inch layer over the root zone retains moisture, keeps the soil cooler and helps prevent weed seeds from germinating under your shrubs, trees and flowers.
As you check your shrubs, ground covers and flower beds, watch for seedling trees, such as oak, hickory and pecan. They are more easily pulled when young, and an old pair of pliers will help you get the grip needed close to the ground to pull up root and all. They are also more easily extracted when the soil is moist.
June is a great month for setting out colorful summer annuals. For large areas, try directly seeding zinnias, cosmos, gomphrena or portulaca. There are several others you can set out now as transplants including marigold, salvia, gaillardia, petunias, purslane, verbena, dusty miller, lantana, ageratum, amaranthus, gomphrena (globe amaranth or batchlor's buttons), celosia, Texas bluebells (or lisianthus), cockscomb, and firebush. Plant copper plants now in a sunny spot for a beautiful display this fall.
Color for shady areas include caladiums, coleus, impatiens and bedding begonias. Try nicotiana and coleus in partial shade, or for full sun the two Texas SuperStars (TM) SunColeus varieties 'Burgundy Sun' and 'Plum Parfait'.
Many nurseries now have a great supply of perennials to brighten the summer garden. Look for perennial hibiscus, canna, daylilies (select soon for the color you want), yarrow, summer phlox, salvia, perennial lantana, montbretia, Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum' and purple coneflower.
Plant mums now for fall bloom. Pinch back established mums, along with other fall bloomers like Mexican mint marigold, Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) and autumn asters to encourage compactness and more flowers.
Water transplants before you plant and then again afterwards. The soil should be well- prepared with additions of organic matter, and well-drained. Apply a diluted solution of water-soluble fertilizer at planting and then regularly once plants begin to put on new growth. Remove faded blooms to encourage new growth and repeat bloom. A layer of mulch will conserve water and prevent weeds.
Summer tropical plants, though they are not freeze hardy, are perfectly at home in our East Texas heat and humidity. Plant them in the ground for quick growth or plant in pots or tubs so you can overwinter them indoors. Some of the best include tropical hibiscus, penta, oleander (semi-hardy), bougainvillea, mandevilla vine (spectacular!), agapanthus, trailing lantanas, allamanda vine and plumbago. These sun and heat lovers will quickly brighten up your yard and give a great display all summer and fall.
Be sure to mulch your roses to conserve moisture and keep down summer weeds. Continue a routine spray program to control blackspot, and watch for insects and mites. Remove flowers as they fade and feed regularly to encourage new blooms.
Apply a four to six inch layer of pine needles or other mulch to conserve water around these shallow-rooted shrubs. Feed them very lightly with a complete fertilizer to encourage production of new growth. Watch out for spider mites and lace bugs which feed on the underside of leaves. Their piercing and sucking causes the leaves to look stippled and bleached or bronzed.
PESTS AND PROBLEMS
One of the most common tomato disorders is blossom end rot. This is not a disease but a physiological problem caused by a lack of calcium and fluctuating soil moisture. Keep the soil evenly moist, mulch to conserve moisture and lime the soil before planting the next crop to provide calcium. Blossom end rot usually only affects the first tomatoes to ripen.
Spider mites can occur on tomatoes, roses, junipers, marigolds and other ornamentals now that the weather is hot and dry. Look for stippled leaves, and under severe infestations, fine webbing. Spider mites can be detected by taking suspicious leaves and rapping them over a white sheet of paper. Any dots which move are probably mites. Light infestations can be reduced by frequently syringing leaves with a sharp stream of water or using insecticidal soap. For more severe problems, use an approved miticide.
The transition into summer brings with it a change in gardening chores for the month of July. Gardening activities usually slow way down in the summertime as the temperature continues to climb into the 90's. July is often a very dry month, and, like most years, can be very hot, too. So, we usually don't start a lot of new garden projects, but there is always maintenance chores to do. And, we should consider starting the "fall" vegetable garden right now in July.
The best time to do any kind of gardening or maintenance is in early morning when it is not so hot, or late in the day after supper. Watch the heat, dress cooly, take frequent breaks, have plenty of water on hand and drink frequently. Here are a few items for the July gardening calendar.
Whether or not the preceding months have been kind with abundant rainfall, the gardener should now be alert for summer drought conditions which could occur at any time now. A typical pattern of the last several years has been for rainfall to be shut off in early July, leaving normally well-hydrated plants lacking sufficient water.
Proper watering is essential to keep plants healthy. The main rule of thumb is to water deeply and as infrequently as possible, as opposed to frequent, light sprinklings. This will encourage a deeper root system that can take advantage of a larger volume or "bank account" of water stored in the soil. Frequent and light sprinklings tend to keep the majority of plant roots near the surface of the soil. Plants with this type of root system are more susceptible to extreme heat and water shortages and are easily stressed during the summer.
One of the best strategies for getting shrubs and young trees through summertime dry spells is to apply a thick layer of mulch over the root systems of plants. All organic mulches break down over time, so if it has been awhile since you've mulched, carefully check all plants in your yard. A three to four inch layer will prevent most evaporation from the soil and significantly lower the soil temperature in the root zone, reducing stress on the root system. Common materials used for mulch include pine needles, pine bark, cypress bark, aged grass clippings (let them thoroughly dry before using), shredded paper, sawdust (aged is best).
There is an excellent Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service internet publication called Efficient Use of Water in the Garden and Landscape which describes proper water techniques for all types of garden and landscaping, including an extensive explanation of drip irrigation.
For more information on managing your plants during a drought, visit Earth-Kind Drought Preparedness . Other irrigation information and links can be found on East TX Gardening Water Page and water links
Lawns at this time of year are rapidly growing and need frequent mowing. The best lawns will be those that are mowed regularly. If you mow often enough, you can return the clippings back to the lawn. The rule of thumb is to not remove more than 1/3 of the length of the blades per mowing. This may mean mowing every 5 or 6 days instead of once a week (or less). Removing more than 1/3 is stressful on the lawn, and will tend to leave visible clippings on top of the grass.
As rainfall becomes less regular, irrigation will be need to be more frequent. Lawns need about 1 inch of water per week. This can be supplied in one or more applications per week, depending on the soil type and how hot and dry the weather has been. Sandy soils need more frequent watering, as do newly planted lawns.
Watch out for lawn pests. Chinch bugs multiply rapidly in warm weather, and their feeding causes St. Augustine grass to look like drought stress. No treatment is needed until symptoms first appear. Look for wilting grass which does not respond to water. The grass will continue to dry, giving it a burned look. Look for tiny, 1/6 to 1/5 inch bugs scurrying quickly up and down grass blades and or scurrying to hide down in the thatch. Flooding the perimeter area with water, or soaking the edge with soapy will drive them up from the thatch onto the grass blades where they are more easily seen. Damage usually occurs first in the hottest and driest parts of the lawn.
July and August is also the time to treat for white grubs if there is a problem. Treatment is based on whether grubs are present in the turf and the way to find out is to dig a few test areas and look for the small grubs in the soil. Not all lawns will have grubs and excessive use of pesticides can lead to other turf problem and contamination of sewer discharge, so it is better to check first rather than automatically treat.
Harvest vegetables regularly from your garden to keep it productive. Letting squash turn as big as baseball bats will cause production to go down. Harvest vegetables at their peak of maturity for maximum nutrition and quality.
Begin preparing for the fall garden in July. That's right! It may seem odd to start a fall garden in the summertime, but you need to get plants started in time for harvests before first freeze.
Examine existing plants you might consider carrying through to fall. Tomatoes often are not replanted, but if they are covered up with spider mites (they're often bad by this time of year), seriously consider replanting this month. You'll need to pamper new transplants a little to get them started, but they'll be ready for a great harvest in October when quality will be high!
Do not plant the same vegetable type in the same spot year after year. Soil-borne diseases will build up and eventually cause major problems. Add compost or other organic matter, and composted manure, cotton seed meal or other fertilizers to the garden spot before tilling. Also, if you thought plant growth was poor this spring, check the pH of your garden soil before adding nutrients, and add lime if needed.
Besides transplanting tomatoes in July, other vegetables that can or should be transplanted this month include eggplant (7/15 - 8/1) and peppers (7/1-8/1). Other crops that can be started from seed this month include Lima beans (7/15 - 8/15), cantaloupes (7/15 - 8/1), southern peas (7/1 - 8/1), pumpkin (7/1 - 8/1), summer squash (7/15 - 8/15), winter squash (7/1 - 7/15), and watermelon (7/1 - 8/1) [(dates in parenthesis indicate optimum planting window for best results].
Here's a tip for getting seeds up in the heat. Make your rows and open up a furrow. Soak the bottom of the furrow with water and then sow the seed, covering it with dry soil to the proper depth. This will help prevent crusting. Finally, lay boards or wet burlap down the row to give some more protection from the intense heat. Check every day; once germination begins, remove the covers.
Drip irrigation combined with mulch is an excellent way to maintain high quality vegetable plants throughout the summer. Drip systems are easy to install and require less water than sprinkler or furrow irrigation. Usually drip systems need to be operated frequently (how often depends on soil type and drip system) to adequately supply water to the plant's root zone. Frequently check emitters for clogging.
If you are still looking for summer color to plant, you are not out of luck. Marigolds, cosmos, vinca (periwinkle), gomphrena, cleome (spider flower), zinnias, purslane and portulaca all do well in the summer heat. As a matter of fact, marigolds planted in late summer and carried into fall tend to have brighter colors than spring-planted marigolds. Spider mites, the number one pest of marigolds, are not as prolific during the cooler days of fall as they are in the summertime.
Plant bright, tropical color with esparanza (yellow bells), firebush (Hamelia), allamanda, mandevilla, Mexican heather, tropical and perennial hibiscus, bougainvillea, and pentas. Copper plants should be planted now so they'll have time to grow before they turn the reddish copper color in the fall.
Be sure to cut off faded flowers before they set seed (called deadheading) to promote new growth and more flowers. Once a plant's energy goes to maturing seeds, blooming will slow down or stop.
Chrysanthemums should be fertilized and pinched back this month. Pinching makes them bushier and produces more blooms for the fall. They will start setting flower buds in August.
OTHER MAINTENANCE TIPS
Prune hydrangeas right after bloom if you need to cut them back. Flower buds are formed in late summer and early fall, so late fall and winter pruning removes these buds and eliminates next year's flowers.
Blackberries need to be pruned now that harvest is ending. Remove the dying fruiting canes and tip back the vigorous, new growth two or three times to form a dense hedge for greater fruit production.
Plants in containers and hanging baskets need to be frequently watered in the summer to keep them from drying out. All this water leaches out plant nutrients from the soil. Use a water-soluble fertilizer regularly to keep your plants growing and healthy.
Now is the time to plan for next spring. Consider digging and dividing any crowded spring-blooming bulbs. Once the bulbs have matured and the foliage has turned brown, it is time to spade them up and thin out the stand. Crowded bulbs produce fewer and smaller blooms. They usually need thinning every 3 to 4 years.
August is here and gardening is far from the minds of most folks. An ice cold lemonade and deep shade to beat the heat is what most gardening calendars call for. However, fall is right around the corner and here are a few tips to get you through the scorching days of August and into the "second spring'' of the south - fall.
August is typically one of the driest months of the year in East Texas. Even if does rain, chances are it isn't enough to supply the needs of your lawn and garden. Use rain gauge to actually measure how much rain you're receiving. Lawns and shrubs need about an inch of water per week in the summer time. Often the showers may seem like they are dumping a lot of water, but they may be too brief to penetrate the ground more than an inch. Make the best use of water by giving plants a thorough soaking as infrequently as the weather and your soils will allow.
Many plants will signal their need for water: turfgrass lies flat after being walked on, and many plants loose their shine and droop a little. Unfortunately, most trees do not readily show drought stress, yet are negatively impacted by prolonged droughts, and the effects can carry over to the next few years. Weakened trees become more susceptible to other stresses and diseases, and may succumb after a series of droughts.
When watering lawns during hot weather, do it early in the morning. Otherwise, much of the water will evaporate from the grass before the plants get to use it. To further avoid excess evaporation, use a sprinkler that produces large drops of water instead of a fine mist.
Check the thickness of mulch around your shrubs, flowers and newly planted trees. Unmulched soils can reach more than 100 degrees, hot enough to kill roots. Mulched soils can be three to 10 degrees cooler even several inches deep. Besides reducing soil temperature, mulches also conserve water by reducing evaporation, often up to 65 percent. In one test, pine needles gave the greatest reduction in soil evaporation. Of course, mulch reduces weeds which also compete for water.
Here are some mulching materials and suggested depth for each: shredded bark (3-4"), wood chips (3-4"), bark chunks (4-6"), chipper debris (3-4"), sawdust, wood shavings (1-3" - use only aged, weathered materia), pine needles (2-3"), lawn clippings (1" - dry clippings before use), leaves and leaf mold (2-4"), partially decomposed compost (2-4").
Chinch bugs are a major lawn pest of St. Augustine in the summer. If patches in the lawn look dry, like it needs water, and you are certain, after testing the soil, that is getting sufficient water, then suspect Chinch bugs. Be sure your sprinkler is doing a proper job. Low water pressure may result erratic coverage or "hot spots" in the yard that need supplemental water. Check with a shovel and your fingers to determine soil moisture levels.
August is also the month to begin checking for the presence of white grubworms. Not every lawn will need grub worm control. As a matter of fact, probably only a small portion of lawns are bothered by these pests. Lawns which have been heavily damaged in the past by these root-eating, soil-dwelling white grubs are prime targets to be attacked again. White grub damage is characterized by a very loosely rooted turf which can be very easily pulled up. If grubs are suspected, check the soil under affected grass for the small, white grubs. Now through mid-August is the time to apply insecticides to control white grubs if you find them. Be sure to thoroughly water the insecticide into the soil immediately after application.
Azalea lace bugs are a major pest of azaleas, and increase rapidly in the summer time. Affected azalea leaves look like they are stipples until they are almost white. A quick look on the underside of leaves will reveal black, varnish-like spots which is a sure sign of azalea lace bugs. Spray with an insecticide, making sure the spray contacts underneath the leaves where the lace bugs are feeding.
Use pesticides with caution and only as needed. Follow all label directions and never increase the rate. Do not rinse sprayers or dispose of excess spray in the drain, storm sewer or other place where runoff can contaminate our water system.
Starting in mid August plant broccoli plants, Brussel sprouts, cabbage plants, Chinese cabbage, carrots, cauliflower plants, Swiss chard, collards, kale, English peas, Irish potatoes, and summer squash.
Set out tomato transplants (if you can find them) right away for a fall harvest. Look for an early maturing variety (65 to 75 days). Remember that our average first freeze is mid-November and that tomato maturity slows down as the days get cool and cloudy.
Peppers and tomatoes planted earlier this year will not set fruit during the heat of summer, even though they may still be flowering. If the plants remain healthy, they will set fruit again once temperatures stay below 90 degrees. Sidedress established, healthy plants with fertilizer and keep watered to encourage new growth.
An eggplant is ready to harvest when the fruit is fully colored and has achieved the mature size for the variety. Seed should be white, and the tissue firm. If the seeds are brown and hard, or the skin has become dull rather than shiny, the fruit is past eating quality, so harvest the next fruit sooner.
Remove old plants that have stopped producing to eliminate shelters for insects and disease organisms.
ODDS AND ENDS
Order your spring-flowering bulbs now. A good guideline to use is 'biggest is best' in regard to bulb size. Be careful about so- called "bargain" bulbs as they may be small or of inferior quality.
Potted plants outdoors may need watering daily to prevent wilting. Such frequent watering will leach out nutrients, so be sure to regularly fertilize potted plants with a water-soluble fertilizer.
Finish planting lawns this month to give the new grass opportunity to become established before cold weather stops growth. Wait to fertilize established lawns until September.
A late-summer pruning of rosebushes can be beneficial. Prune out dead canes and any weak, brushy growth. Cut back tall, vigorous bushes to about 30 inches. After pruning, apply fertilizer, and water thoroughly. If a preventive disease-control program has been maintained, your rose bushes should be ready to provide an excellent crop of flowers this October.
It is not too late to set out another planting of many warm-season annuals, such as marigolds, zinnias, and periwinkles. They will require extra attention for the first few weeks, but should provide you with color during late September, October, and November.
Sow seeds of snapdragons, dianthus, pansies, calendulas, and other cool-season flowers in flats, or in well-prepared areas of the garden, for planting outside during mid-to-late fall.
Plant bluebonnet and other spring wildflowers. They must germinate in late summer or early fall, develop good root systems, and be ready to grow in spring when the weather warms. Plant seed in well-prepared soil, one-half inch deep, and water thoroughly.
Picking flowers frequently encourages most annuals and perennials to flower even more abundantly.
The information given herein is for educational purposes only. References to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel is implied.
September is a swing month in the southern gardening world with the official arrival of Autumn later this month, and hopefully, a return of cooler and wetter weather. Despite the heat that lingers this month, September is still one of the better times of the year to be gardening, especially for planting landscape plants.
September is also the month for new learning opportunities. The Fall Gardening Conference & Bulb Sale , sponsored by the Smith County Master Gardeners, is always on a Saturday, in September or October. Check the East Texas Gardening Calendar for the date and details on what is always a well-designed free program for home gardeners with well-known speakers.
Folks will want to pay attention to lawn care this month. The hot, dry weather could encourage chinch bugs which can turn St. Augustine into what looks like a drought-stricken lawn.
September is also the time to apply lawn fertilizer to keep the grass healthy and growing up to first frost. Fall fertilized lawns are better equipped to make it through the winter and resume growth next spring than lawns that receive no fertilizer.
Did you have weeds last spring before the grass started growing? These would have been cool-season weeds which germinated last fall. A pre-emergence herbicide (weed preventer) applied this month will help reduce the recurrence of the same weeds next spring (unless they are perennials like dandelions). Avoid pre-emergent herbicide applications on newly planted, or weakened grass or in dense shade. Carefully follow label rates of application, since applying more than is called for can damage your lawn.
Lawns that suffered dieback from drought, chinch bugs or disease can be safely sodded in September. It's too late to try to establish Bermuda or Centipede from seed, but ryegrass and tall fescue can be sown toward the end of the month.
Fall is also a good time to test your soil, especially to determine the pH which tells you the acidity of the soil. Strongly acidic soils are corrected with an application of lime. Keep in mind that it takes a few months for the lime to react with your soil, and that you may need to reapply lime every few years.
PERENNIALS, ANNUALS AND BULBS
If you enjoy growing wild flowers, collect seed for your garden from summer bloomers for sowing next spring. Also, save seeds from favorite self-pollinating, non-hybrid garden flowers such as marigolds, cosmos, gomphrena, coneflower, coreopsis, Rudbeckia and zinnias by allowing the flower heads to mature. Lay seeds on newspaper, turning often to dry; then store in glass jars or envelopes in a cool (40 to 50 degrees F), dry, dark place.
Sow spring wildflower (like bluebonnets) seed now. For more reliable, uniform seed germination of our State flower, purchase acid-treated bluebonnet seed. This treatment pits the seed coat, allowing nearly 100% germination in one to two weeks.
Perennial phlox should be divided about every third or fourth year. Early fall and early spring are the best times to plant and transplant them. Divide big clumps into thirds.
Create new perennial flower beds, and dig, divide, and replant overcrowded beds of cannas, irises, daylilies, daisies and other perennials. Spread a liberal amount of organic matter evenly over the area and mix into the soil at least 6 to 8 inches deep. Space divisions at least 1 foot apart in all directions so root competition will not be a problem for several years.
Purchase spring blooming bulbs as soon as they become available in the garden centers, or mail order special varieties. Smith Co. Master Gardeners will hold a Fall Bulb Sale of hardy but less common bulbs in the fall. Tulips and hyacinths should be stored in a refrigerator until November.
Plant bulbs by loosening the soil and make a hole with a trowel or bulb planter. Don't mash the bulb into the soil or you may damage the basal plate (bottom of the bulb), causing it to rot.
Tip back roses the first week of September if you didn't last month to stimulate a new flush of growth for a final burst of fall color. Don't take off much, cutting back only a quarter of the growth. Make a light application of fertilizer, and watch for black spot disease which can be a problem once frequent rains return.
TREES AND SHRUBS
Frequently check the soil around first-year trees and shrubs with your fingers to make sure the root ball and soil are getting enouhg water. At the same time, take care to not keep the soil soaking wet. Just because it's hot doesn't automatically mean the soil is dry 3 or 4 inches deep. Check it out that deep to be sure.
Examine your flower, ground cover and shrub beds for seedlings of privet, sweetgum, oaks, elms, blackberry, greenbriar, sedges and other unwanted weeds. If they are already well established, wait for soaking rains to soften the ground when they'll be a little easier to pull. A pair of pliers may also help get woody plants out of the ground.
Pine needles will soon be abundant. Collect and use them as a long lasting mulch around shrubs, young trees, and in vegetable gardens and other places where weed control and water conservation is needed.
Plant beets, broccoli (plants), Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower (plants), Swiss chard, collards, kale, garlic, lettuce, mustard, parsley, English peas, radish, spinach and turnips this month. Soak seed furrows with water before sowing seed, and mulch lightly. Water the rows daily in hot weather to promote germination and growth of young seedlings. Treat cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) as needed to prevent damage from cabbage loopers.
October is a great time for gardening and landscaping. Many plants can be set out now, and this is the perfect time to be replacing plants lost due to this summers drought.
WHAT TO PLANT
October is bulb buying month. They are in fresh supply, and provide welcome late winter and early spring color for the yard. Bulbs which can be planted right after purchasing include daffodils and the smaller flowered jonquils, species tulips and grape hyacinths. The larger showy tulips and hyacinths need to be refrigerated at least 45 to 60 days to provide enough chilling to bloom properly next year. Plant them in late November or early December.
The Smith Co. Master Gardener program is having its Fall Bulb Sale at the Tyler Rose Garden Center this month where you can find uncommon, but very hardy, well-adapted, and heritage bulbs for sale.
The most popular of the cool season flowering annuals to be set out now are pansies. There are so many types and colors of pansies it might be hard to pick just one. There are pastels shades, varieties with no faces, and miniature flowers, so you should have no trouble finding one you like. One tip for flowering annuals - the brighter the color, like reds or yellows, the easier they will be seen from a distance. Blues are best viewed up close.
Besides pansies, other bedding plants that can be planted now include pinks, dianthus, flowering cabbage and kale, snapdragons, violas, and calendulas.
Wildflowers and seeded annuals like California poppy, oriental poppy, larkspur and bluebonnets should be sown early this month.
October is also a great month to divide and plant spring-blooming perennials like native columbines, daylilies, phlox, Louisiana and bearded irises, dianthus, coreopsis, coneflowers and daisies. If you have extras after dividing, give to or trade with a gardening friend or neighbor.
TREES AND SHRUBS.
The fall season is also a perfect time to establish new trees and shrubs. Plants set out now undergo less stress, and their roots have months to grow and become established before spring growth begins and summer heat and drought arrive next year.
Tall fescue and ryegrass can also be planted in early October. It is too late to sow Bermuda or centipede seed. Beware that armyworms could quickly devour newly sprouted ryegrass.
Vegetables that can be transplanted or seeded in early October include beets, Brussels sprouts (plants), Swiss chard, collards, kale, lettuce, mustard, radish, spinach and turnips.
St. Augustine, Bermuda and centipede lawns should be fertilized no later than the first week of October if you have not already made your fall application. Use a 3-1-2 or similar ratio. Lawns are not growing quite so fast now, but keep up with the mowing. Continue mowing at the same height, and do not remove more than 1/3 of the length of the grass blades to prevent stress.
If St. Augustine or Bermuda grass does not seem to growing well, it could be the pH is too low. Fall is a good time to add lime if the soil is acidic. Get a soil test done to determine the soil pH and add lime if pH is below 5.7. Centipede lawns usually do not need liming since centipede tolerates moderately acidic soils.
Perennial and annual ryegrass can be sown now to cover bare soils to protect from erosion.
Once cooler, wetter weather arrives, brown patch fungus can be a problem in St. Augustine (and sometimes centipede) lawns. This disease appears as more or less circular patches, with brown grass in the center and a halo of yellowing grass at the edge of the patch. A test for brown patch is to gently pull on individual yellowing or brown grass blades. If they pull easily from the runner, and appear rotted at the base of the blade, they have brown patch.
If your lawn has had brown patch in the past, it is a candidate to get it again under the right conditions. Conditions which favor brown patch development include mild days and nights with prolonged wetness of the grass. Do not water in the evening, and with the milder days of fall, lawn watering should be done less often, especially if it rains. Apply PCNB (Terraclor, Turfcide) or Bayleton at the first sign of symptoms to prevent this disease.
If you have planted any of the cole crops, like cabbage, collards and broccoli, watch out for cabbage loopers or cabbage worms. These are those green worms that riddle leaves like they've been blasted with a shotgun. Apply Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) to control these hungry pests. Bt controls only caterpillars and is very environmentally safe.
Pine trees, junipers and arborvitae all begin shedding needles at this time of year. This is normal. Make good use of pine needles as a mulch around shrubs and new trees.
The information given herein is for educational purposes only. References to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel is implied.
The cool, crisp days of fall are finally here, bringing pleasant outdoor gardening weather. The change from daylight savings reminds us that the first frosts and freezes of the year are not far away, and that more changes are in store. There is plenty of gardening opportunities in November, but don't let the days slip by before those important chores are done.
The shorter days and incoming cold fronts confirm the changing of seasons. The first freeze is not far away (perhaps already arrived by the time you read this) and plants must adjust to new conditions. The average first freeze is about November 15, and you should have already prepared your tender plants for that eventuality. Houseplants often are damaged below 40 degrees, and tropical plants cannot stand a frost or even light freeze.
Bring in tender houseplant that have enjoyed being outdoors during the summer, and give them a sunny location where you can keep up the humidity. Check for bugs before bringing them in. A forceful blast of water will remove most unwanted guests. Cut back on fertilizer, and water your plants after the soil slightly dries. Do not allow water to collect in saucers, or you will end up rotting the roots at the bottom of the pot.
Plants are difficult to protect, even with covers, during windy, freezing nights because the wind dissipates stored heat. On the other hand, covers offer several degrees of protection if the freezing event is the result of a still, cold, cloudless night following a sunny day and the temperature doesn't fall too far below 32 degrees. If rain is elusive in the following weeks, irrigate as the soil becomes dry. Drought-stressed plants are more easily injured by freezing temperatures. This is particularly true of evergreen plants. Also, moist soil stores more of the sun's energy and for a longer time than does dry soil. This energy is released as heat after the sun sets, and provides a degree or two of moderation.
Harvest all warm-season vegetables before a hard freeze ends production.
Later in November and on through February is the ideal time to dig and transplant trees and shrubs during their dormant, non-growth period. Right now is really an ideal time to landscape with trees and shrubs, especially those grown in containers. Roots continue to grow even though the rest of the plant is dormant, so these plants will be more ready when the stresses of summer.
If you have favorite tender plants you'd like to include in your garden next year, then carefully dig them out of the flower bed, plant them in a well-drained potting mix, and keep in a bright, humid room. They may look terrible during the winter, but if they survive, you can replant them in the garden as soon as the soil begins to warm. Or, take cuttings and root them in a well-drained potting mix.
Now that summer is over, and so are summer flowers, it's time to replace them with winter-hardy flowers for color. Pansies are the number one choice for blooming bedding plants. They're hardy, will bloom over a long season, and come in a wide array of colors. The old-fashioned face varieties have been steadily improved for better garden performance, and many new varieties with solid or bi-colors without a face are now available. You can get anything from bold orange, yellow and red, to pale pastels. Miniature pansies are also becoming popular, as well as the old fashioned viola and Johnny Jump-Ups.
Other bedding plants to chose from now include snapdragons, calendula, ornamental kale/cabbage, and pinks or dianthus.
Some spring wildflowers, can still be sown from seed in early November, including bluebonnets, Drummond phlox, rudbeckia and coreopis. Sow into a bare, prepared soil, very lightly cover and water immediately to initiate germination.
Don't forget the interest plants with berries can add to the landscape. Pyracantha, all kinds of hollies, nandina and beautyberry are just a few of the choices available for bright, winter interest. This time of the year is actually a great time to plant all kinds of trees and shrubs.
Trees are already beginning to change into their fall coloration. If you have been considering a tree for your landscape, and would like one that has brilliant fall color, make several visits to your favorite nurseries and check the tree inventories. Seedling trees may vary in their ability to turn colors - one shumard red oak may regularly have great fall color while another may never be anything but brown every fall. By selecting a tree with good color in the fall, you'll have the assurance it will be able to put on a good show in future autumns.
Don't forget tulip and hyacinth bulbs in the refrigerator. They can be planted anytime this month if they have received 60 or more days of chilling. It's not too late to plant daffodils, either.
Camellias will soon be coming into bloom. First the sasanqua and later the popular camellia japonica. Select new varieties for a winter planting while in flower. Consider time of bloom when selecting camellias. Sasanqua camellias, while not having as big and showy flowers as japonicas, bloom earlier, usually escaping late freezes that can blight open camellia japonica blooms.
As the grass slows down in growth, keep it mowed at the same height. Collect the grass clippings along with the fallen leaves for an excellent mix in the compost pile.
Check existing camellias for scale underneath the leaves and treat with horticultural oil or insecticide if found.
Don't get in a hurry to prune woody plants. Late December through February is usually the best time to prune them - even later into March for crapemyrtles.
Late fall and early winter is an ideal time to adjust highly acidic lawn and garden soils. Most grasses, except centipede, and most vegetable garden plants prefer a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH. Many locations in East Texas have soils which are strongly acidic which limits the potential of plant growth. The only way to know for certain whether your lawn or garden needs an application of agricultural lime, and how much is needed, is to have the soil tested for pH. Most soils, however, do not require yearly applications. Test to be sure.
Once leaf drop begins in earnest, do not let wet leaves stay on the lawn. Wet leaves block beneficial sunlight and keep grass wet, increasing the chances of disease. Mow the lawn regularly to shred leaves into the turf, or rake them and add them to your compost pile. Leaves and grass clippings combined make some of the best ingredients for building a hot compost.
Build a compost pile (or 2 or 3) to deal with those leaves. It is not necessary to do all the turning and other things you often read about to get those leaves to decompose. They will eventually rot and turn into rich soil amendment. It will just take longer. But if you are basically lazy or not in a hurry, then pile up the leaves in an out of the way spot, and forget about them.
On the other hand, if you are industrious, or would like a source of excellent organic matter to add to your beds in a few months, shred the leaves, and add roughly equal parts nitrogen-rich material, like grass clippings, to the leaves. Moisten the contents as you make the pile, which should be at least 3x3x3 feet. Turn it after each time the pile heats up.
As caladiums fade, dig up the tubers while you can still find them. Store them in a dry, cool place. Use dry sawdust or peat moss to help keep the tubers from rotting.
With colder weather approaching, birds will appreciate our help in supplying food, water and shelter. Make sure feeding stations are located so you can see the action, yet the birds are not threatened by neighborhood cats.
December is the month when shorter daylight hours and cold weather really begin to restrict the gardener's outdoor activities. Winter gives you a great opportunity to catch up on reading your favorite gardening magazines and books. Here are a few tips and topics to occupy the gardener's time this month.
There's still time to plant pansies. These colorful annuals will live through the winter and be spectacular next spring. They work especially well when mixed with bulbs. Chose bright and light colors if you'd like the bed to be seen from a distance.
Also, hardy trees and shrubs can be planted this month. Just take care to water them carefully, not letting them dry out, nor keeping the the soil sopping wet.
If you are planning to create a new shrub, flower or rose bed for next spring, go ahead and prepare the soil now. Dig it up, remove the weeds, and work in leaves and compost. If you discover that the soil stays wet longer than it should, add more organic matter, sand and soil and create a raised bed to facilitate better drainage.
Remember those tulips and hyacinths you have chilling in the refrigerator? After 45 to 60 days of chilling, they can be set out in the landscape.
Don't get too anxious to do major pruning. Most woody trees and shrubs can be safely pruned December through early March. But, if you can't justify the removal of each branch or limb, put up your clippers and go spade the garden instead.
Some of the right reasons for pruning include removing dead or winter-killed or diseased or insect-injured wood, as well as branches broken by wind or wild kids. Avoid severe pruning if possible. Never leave stubs, long or short, which do not heal properly and invite the entry of insects and disease.
Plants which bloom in early spring, like azaleas, forsythia and spirea, should be pruned after they flower, while those that bloom later in the spring and summer can be pruned during wintertime. Roses are pruned in mid-February except spring-only bloomers which are cut back after spring flowering.
One pruning practice that needs to be changed is how crapemyrtles are pruned. Every winter crape myrtles are severely cut back to short stubs resulting in ugly plants. Although there is disagreement among landscapers on whether or not to prune back crapemyrtles, scientific research indicates that early winter pruning of crapemyrtles can result in significant freeze damage.
In my opinion, it is better to leave crapemyrtles unpruned altogether. If you just cannot tolerate those seed capsules (which add winter interest to the landscape), then delay pruning until late February or early March, and remove no larger than pencil-sized twigs. Resist the urge to cut them back hard.
If it continues to be dry this month, occasionally water the lawn, shrubs and small trees to help prevent winter damage.
Winter is a good time to browse plant catalogs, visit nurseries and study your landscape to make improvements or additions. If you are not a do-it-yourselfer, get professional advice on landscape design. An attractive landscape around the house not only beautifies but also adds to the value of the property - an increase anywhere between 5 to 15 percent of the sales price.
Don't let fallen leaves remain on the lawn all winter. Either mow them back into the lawn, collect them to be used as a weed suppressing and water conserving mulch, or compost them for use next spring and summer to improve the soil. Leaves left on the lawn can cause disease problems if a thick layer keeps the grass too wet and dark.
What does the vegetable patch look like now? Remove dead vegetation and weeds to prevent a build up of diseases, weeds and insects. Order seeds now for spring vegetables so you will have them in plenty of time for starting early transplants or sowing directly into the garden in early spring.
Most fall-planted vegetables if you haven't experienced a really hard freeze yet. Many cool season, fall crops, like lettuce and spinach, have shallow root systems. So, be sure to frequently apply water to keep the soil slightly moist to keep the plants healthy and growing. Between the rows and around the plants in the garden is a good place to use leaves to help conserve soil moisture and control weeds.
Order seeds now for spring vegetables and flowers so you will have them in plenty of time to start early transplants or sow them in early spring.
Goldfinches, tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadees, and other birds will be showing up at feeders. Remember to provide both food and fresh water for birds this winter. You can attract just as many birds with a bird bath as with food, especially during dry spells. If you put out a variety of seeds, like sunflower, thistle, safflower, and millet, plus suet, you will draw a diversity of birds. Once you begin putting out bird food, continue feeding them through the spring time.