Tips 2012

May 2012

by Barbara Lancaster, Somervell County Master Gardener


May is a busy time in the garden.  According to Neil Sperry’s E-Gardens Newsletter, May is a great time to be planting, pruning and fertilizing.

May is the time to start planting summer vegetables, such as southern peas and melons.  It is also a good time to be planting hot weather color from tropical plants, including firebush, croton, mandevilla, hibiscus, pentas, cuphea, and bougainvillea.  Summertime color plants, such as Moss rose, purslane, gomphrena, copper plant, zinnias, marigolds, lantana, cosmos, amaranthus  can also be planted.  Shade loving plants like coleus, begonias, and caladiums should be planted now too.  Warm season lawn grasses should be planted.  These include St. Augustine, Bermuda, zoysia and buffalograss.

May is also a good time to prune spring flowering shrubs, vines and climbing roses early in May which will allow maximum regrowth.  Prune branch by branch which will maintain plants natural shapes.  Be sure to “pinch” mums and copper plants to keep the plants shorter and bushier.

Fertilizing should also be started in May.  Fertilize turf with an all nitrogen or high nitrogen plant food every 8 to 10 weeks.  Ground cover beds, shade trees, evergreen shrubs, spring flowering shrubs and vines can be fertilized with the same fertilizer.  Don’t forget your container plants.  Fertilize them with a diluted complete and balanced analysis plant food with each watering.  Time release plants foods are also good for patio pots and hanging baskets.

Also be on the lookout for garden pests, such as cabbage lopers on cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower; lace bugs on sycamores, pyracanthas, azaleas, Boston ivy and others.  Control these with a systemic insecticide before the leaves turn tan.  A general purpose insecticide offers the best control for spider mites in junipers and other plants.  Use a broad leafed weed killer which contains 2, 4-D for non-grassy weeds.  Be sure to follow the directions carefully.  Webworms in pecan and other trees need to be pruned as soon as you see the webs as sprays are not especially prudent.

SOURCE:  Neil Sperry’s E-Gardens newsletter, dated April 27, 2012.

April 2012

By Bonnah Boyd, Somervell County Master Gardener

ANNUALS & PERENNIALS:  Plant bedding plants such as portulaca, zinnia, marigold, copper leaf, princess feather, cockscomb, coleus, periwinkle and lantana.  Set out transplants of  Mexican mint marigold, Mexican sage and Texas aster. Plant warm season native bunchgrasses such as Indiangrass, little bluestem, upland switchgrass, Gulf muhly, Lindheimer muhly, and Mexican feathergrass.

FRUITS &VEGETABLES:  Thin peaches 1 to 6 inches apart and apples and pears to two fruits per cluster. Wait until fruit are marble size before thinning. Mound soil around potato plants until only about 2 inches of each plant remains visible.

SHRUBS:  Spring and winter blooming plants can be pruned following their once-a-year spring bloom season as needed. This includes spirea, flowering quince, wisteria andonce-blooming roses.  Adding some fertilizer to rose bushes will help stimulate more growth and blooms.  Apply a heaping tablespoon per plant of a complete fertilizer such as 6-10-4 or 8-8-8, work it into the soil  and water it in well.

LAWNS: Apply a slow-release fertilizer with a 3-1-2 ratio. Wait until you have mowed your lawn twice to fertilize.  After you spread the fertilizer, apply a half inch of irrigation to wash the nutrients down into the soil.

March 2012

March 2012 Garden Tips
By Julie Conner, Somervell County Master Gardener

pooh-piglet-planting-pea-seedsLet’s do it, let’s get our seeds in the ground. March and April is the spring planting time in our zone. Texas Gardener Magazine gives a list of garden veggies which can be planted in March and April: beans, corn, cucumber, eggplant, mustard, okra, peas, pepper, pumpkin, squash, tomato and watermelon. Pick your favorite veggie, grab your hoe, your gloves and the ever popular knee pad and head for your garden.

You have prepared the soil haven’t you? NO, well then first things first. Improved soil by adding organic matter is one of the prime steps to a successful growing season. Having your soil tested will give you a ph gage as well as what nutrients you are lacking, to help decide what kind and amount of organic matter to use. Aged manures, compost, fresh grass clipping or mulch can add nutrients and air to your soil.

Start the garden bed free of weeds, which can crowded your small seedlings taking sunlight, nutrients and water. Mulch will also slow weed growth and help retain moisture. Mulch can be well-rotted compost, dried grass clippings, newspaper or shredded leaves or bark. Keep the garden well mulched all season long.

HandPlantingSeeds I always make a slight hill in my garden row so water can drain and the seed is not subject to water damage due to sitting in a puddle. A good plan of delivering water will also be needed for a successful growing season. Drip systems are especially efficient, but with my tomatoes and peppers last year I placed a 10 or 12 inch pot between the plants and delivered water and fertilizer to them by hand.

Another important step is record keeping, relying on memory may be fine for some, but I find I may remember what I did in the garden last year but 2 – 3 years back start to become a blur. Write it down, because crop rotation is a good garden practice.

Happy Planting!

February 2012

Gardening Tips
By Shirley D. Smith, Somervell County Master Gardener

Okay, so we have not really had a winter, but thank goodness we have recently had some good soaking rain.  Now, is the time to begin to “put it into high gear” and get your mind to thinking about your garden.  Here are a few tips to get you started:

  •    Don’t have room for a compost pile or want to speed up the process, then use your household blender to puree your scraps before placing them in your pile.
  •    This spring, try a veggie or flower that you have been reluctant to plant.  Just be certain that it will grow in your soil and is not an invasive.
  •    Remember, if you are a resident of Somervell County you can get free mulch and compost at our local dump.  If you live in another county, check and see if that service is available to you.  Might be a good idea to go ahead and get a pickup load now to have on hand when you need it later.
  •    If you go to garage sales or thrift/junque stores, be on the lookout for kitchen utensils that you can add to your collection of useful tools.
  •    Since we live in Texas where you can garden almost year round, your tools are always in use.  Keep a used lotion or hand soap dispenser nearby filled with mineral oil.  You can squirt a bit of oil onto your metal tools every time you use them or any time you need to remove something sticky like sap, grime or sawdust.
  •    Got a problem with salt residue?  Take those crusty pots or dirty tools and scrub with a mixture of 1/3 white vinegar, 1/3 rubbing alcohol and 1/3 water.  Use an old toothbrush for this task or other used brush.
  •    Don’t like to wear gloves when gardening?  You can still keep your fingernails fairly clean by attaching a soap dish with bar soap in it near your work area.  Just dig your fingernails into the soap before setting out to your garden.
  •    Did you get more calendars this year than you can use?  How about taking it apart and laminate the page for each month.  Hang the current monthly page near your outdoor work area along with a Magic Marker.  Now, every time you do something in your garden that needs recording there is your calendar for that purpose!  Save for later reference.
  •    Buy a roll of Velcro tape and either hang on a nail or put in your gardening tool container.  Use the Velcro whenever you need a quick and easily adjustable tie-up of vines, shrubs and veggies.
  •   How about those old miniblinds that you were about to throw out?  Cut them into short lengths and use them for plant labels.  Be sure to use either acrylic paints or a waterproof pen.

Happy gardening!

January 2012

January Garden Tips
by Donna Hagar, Somervell County Master Gardener

With a few 70 degree days recently, going outside and getting our hands dirty becomes a big priority! We all know these warm days are here only occasionally this time of year and taking advantage of them is a must. So when we get those wonderful temperatures in the middle of winter, here are some things you can do to keep you busy and prepare for even better days to come. And a couple of other tidbits, too!

  • Add compost to established asparagus, strawberries and roses
  • Plant bare root roses, trees and shrubs.
  • Plant onion sets – attend our monthly Community Horticulture Education Series on Monday night, Jan. 9 at 6:30 at the Somervell County Citizens Center to learn how to maximize your yield!
  • Continue to plant lettuces and salad greens. These do well all during the winter as long as they are protected from freezes with blankets, row covers, etc.
  • Shopping! Yes, shopping! Seed shopping that is. On those days when being outside just doesn’t call, nothing is more inspiring that browsing those wonderful seed catalogs. See Wally Worm’s article for a list of some favorite resources.
  • Late this month, start your tomato seeds indoors.
  • Don’t forget to water, particularly if a freeze is expected and we have had no appreciable rain.
  • Clean and sharpen garden tools.
  • Do not be tempted to trim perennials just yet. Trimming now could potentially encourage new growth during these warmer days only to be frozen back when temperatures fall, thus weakening the plants. The winter die back acts as a mulch. Wait to trim until early March.

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