Gardening in El Lago

Trowels & Tribulations in a Suburban Garden - June Issue

By: Donna J. Ward, Certified Texas Master Gardener (Note: This is a reprint of Donna’s article that appears in the La Ventana del Lago.

My calendar says that June 21st is the Summer Solstice or the first day of summer. But I disagree; it began in May with our 90 degree temps. Fortunately the last week of May gave us a couple of downpours much to the delight of our drought stricken landscape plants. I usually invite my Midwest relatives to visit during May telling them that it’s probably the most comfortable month of the year weather-wise. I’m now telling them to plan for October!

But it’s June and most of us would like to cut down on the time we spend outdoors maintaining the landscape we have carefully created. I know we would all like to design our lawn to make mowing as quick and fast as possible. Well, O.K. – at the time we didn’t give much thought to the eventual size of those oak trees we planted on that postage stamp of a lawn. Lots of shade – very little sun, and it looks kind of bare underneath doesn’t it? Maneuvering that mower between the trees takes time and kicks up a lot of dust. Give up on the St. Augustine; it’s a lost cause in heavy shade. Consider planting some ground covers such as ajuga, ivy, euonymus, ardisia, variegated acuba or ferns in those bare spots. If you’d like a bit of color in those shady areas plant some hydrangeas, peacock gingers, begonias, caladiums and impatiens. If the shade is not too dense, plant daylilies. Or – don’t plant anything at all. Lay some weed block down in those sparse areas and cover it with a few inches of mulch.

We need to keep in mind that our azaleas and camellias are very shallow rooted. Water slowly, preferably with soil soakers in hot dry weather once or twice a week. You have probably noticed that during the day plants will wilt to reduce the amount of leaf surface exposed in the air. Reducing leaf surface means less evaporation. By evening or early morning they should be perked up, if not there’s definitely a problem.

Due to some horrendous home maintenance problems I didn’t get around to pruning my azaleas by the first of June – it’s too late now. Oh well, a much more impressive display next season, but we do want to keep them restrained. Mother Nature is always in control unless we challenge her. I’ll try to do better next year.

Keep the St. Augustine well-watered. Chinch bugs love hot and dry weather, and they especially proliferate in that area between the sidewalk and street. I’m guilty of ignoring that area when I turn on the lawn sprinkler – you too? Be sure to set your mower to Hi – leave some top growth to shade the stolons and conserve some moisture in the soil.

All those spring blooming shrubs are finished showing off, so prune them now so they will be ready to perform again next spring. Mother Nature never intended for shrubs to have a flat, level top. Bottom branches should be longer than the middle and the top branches even shorter. Why you ask – if the lower branches are shaded and receive little sunlight, they die. How many times have you seen the shrubs in someone’s landscape with no bottom growth and much top growth? Now you know why.

If you’re still putting in some colorful annuals, be sure and pinch off any flowers and buds. They don’t need the added problem of sustaining flowers or opening buds. Once they are established you’ll get more flowers in the long run.

You’re probably harvesting those spring planted veggies, and don’t they taste better than those packed into a truck and arrive days later in your local market’s produce counter? Well there is one more veggie to plant now – okra. Okra doesn’t even think about growing until the soil is sufficiently warm enough to germinate its seeds. Come cooler days of fall – Gumbo!

Did you know that Trowels & Tribulations is published on the city site on the first of the month? Under Our Community you will find Trowels & Tribulations listed.

Azalea in Sunrise