Seasonal gardening tips - summer chores
By Donna Roberts - Victoria County Master GardenerEdited by Charla Borchers Leon
Aug. 15, 2015 at midnight
Updated Aug. 15, 2015 at 10 a.m.
We are now into one of the hottest months of the year in South Texas. Gardening chores are just that - chores. Not many of us care to be outside doing any kind of yard maintenance. It seems the heat and humidity cannot be avoided - even in early morning or late afternoon. The only relief is after dark, and most people sure don't want to be "in the weeds" where they cannot easily spot a lurking snake.
Unfortunately, if we want to reap some attractive benefits in the fall, there are some chores we must tend to now. In addition to keeping weeds at bay and watering, there must also be some light pruning if you have roses and other perennial plants. Thankfully, we received much-needed rain in our area in late spring and early summer, which really gave our landscapes a great start for this time of year.
Care for rose bushes
Rose bushes are now probably looking less vivid in color and are restricting growth to help fight off drought stress. The time to prune them back is now. Don't prune as heavily as in late winter.
For modern hybrid and old-fashioned roses, prune the bushes back about 25 percent. For example, a 4-foot bush becomes a 3-foot bush. Prune back each major cane, and make sure you have removed all old blooms. Continue to deadhead after the roses begin blooming again. If you see any diseased leaves, remove them also.
Fertilize the rosebushes with straight-nitrogen products (ammonium sulfate, blood meal, etc.) Apply about one-fourth of a pound of ammonium sulfate or one-fourth of a pound of blood meal to each plant in mid-August.
Fertilize in a circle at the "drip line" (tips of the branches and straight down to the ground). If new growth is not seen by the first or second week in September - depending on when you perform the chore - then make a second application of the fertilization. A third application might also be necessary in our area in some instances.
Water thoroughly after pruning and fertilizing, avoiding wetting the foliage and blossoms. Add 2-4 inches of mulch around the bush. Keep an eye out for diseases and/or pests.
For your other blooming plants, prune the spent blooms and water. Always check with your local nurseries or AgriLife Extension agent if you have questions regarding specific plant care.
Ready for fall vegetable garden
Now is the time to ready your fall vegetable garden for planting. July normally would have been the ideal time to have planted tomatoes, but it's not too late if you can get it done ASAP.
Plant pumpkin seeds
Now is also the time to plant pumpkin seeds if you want them for Halloween. Some moderate-sized pumpkin varieties are Appalachin, Connecticut Field and Triple Treat. Your local garden centers and nurseries can guide you in your selection.
Evaluate what's doing well, what's not
Evaluate your landscape to see what is doing well and what is not. To take a break from the heat, drive around neighborhoods and take note of what is looking healthy in other landscapes that you may want to try.
Only the toughest plants are looking good. Some plants that might be blooming would probably be knockout roses, lantana, mandevilla, Turk's cap, salvias, oleander, plumbago, bougainvillea and others that thrive in humidity and heat. Also fire bush, esperanza and crepe myrtles are abundantly blooming in landscapes now.
Other plants that I've observed looking great are ginger, river fern (in shaded areas) and Mexican heather. All of these require little to no maintenance to look their best. Some may need pruning back if they become too overwhelming. No fertilizing is necessary for these tough reliables. Continue to water them as needed.
Evaluate your shade trees. If you have a spot that needs a shade tree, fall is the time to plant them. Trees that were recommended for our area by Joe Janak, former Victoria County extension agent, are cedar elm, live oak, Monterrey or Mexican live oak, pecan and Shumard oak. Consider one or more of these in coming months.
Choreless labor of love
Other things to look for later in August - but requiring no labor - are the monarch butterfly migration and the departure of our purple martins to warmer climates. The butterflies are passing through Texas from the North on their way south for the winter - kind of like "winter Texans"!
If you want to help the monarchs on their trip south, provide them with their favorite plant - the butterfly weed - for a little rest stop with nourishment. It's a choreless labor of love for garden friends.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, email firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.