Master Gardener: Summer Garden Tips | House and garden

Summer reminds me of my mother’s love for planting zinnias. She liked all flowers, but brightly colored zinnias in the summer were her favorites.

As it gets hotter and drier, we gardeners can adopt practices that not only benefit ourselves, but our plants, gardens, and yards as well. Some important things to consider are watering, mulching, weeding, and choosing plants that can survive brutal summer temperatures.

First, try gardening in the early morning or late evening hours. Take frequent breaks, wear a hat or visor, drink plenty of water, and apply sunscreen and mosquito repellent when needed.

Water in the morning or late evening when the plants can absorb the moisture. Watering at midday will result in moisture loss through evaporation. Water deeply and infrequently to stimulate healthy root growth and discourage fungal growth. Consider drip irrigation to reduce your water consumption.

Doug Welsh in the Texas Garden Almanac advises gardeners to use drip irrigation to reduce water use. He encourages everyone to commit to putting up drip hoses in at least one flower bed this summer. Welsh promotes “drip irrigation as the standard for all landscape and garden planting”.

Plants in containers, pots and hanging baskets need to be watered more frequently to keep them from drying out. One tip I’ve found useful while on vacation is to group my smaller flower pots and hanging baskets in a plastic paddling pool. Simply place the pots/baskets in the pool and fill with enough water to cover the bottoms of the containers. This practice allows the plants to suck up water from the soil and helps them survive for a few days. Place the pool in a shady spot so the sun doesn’t dry out the foliage.

As for lawns, one inch per week is a general rule. Keep your eyes peeled and water at the first sign of weed stress. If it rains half an inch, that’s usually enough for the week. Try not to water every day. One hour of watering per week is better than watering 20 minutes a day for three or more days.

Grasses grow fast in the summer heat. Increase the mowing height and mow frequently depending on how fast your lawn is growing. Follow the 1/3 rule and remove no more than 1/3 of the blade each time you mow. This style of mowing promotes a healthy, thick lawn that resists weeds.

Use mulch whenever possible to conserve water, reduce evaporation, and deter weeds. Apply three inches of mulch around flower beds, shrubs, vegetable gardens, and small trees. Also, use mulch in your containers to help them retain moisture and resist drying out. Destroy your flowers and plants to encourage new growth.

Speaking of weeds, getting rid of them will help save water and improve the appearance of your garden. Weeds draw moisture from the soil and deprive your plants of moisture.

Look for plants that can withstand the summer heat. According to Welsh, choose plants that are heat tolerant and have adapted to Texas. Some of the recommended annuals include sun-tolerant species of caladia and coleus, as well as marigolds, periwinkles, purslanes or moss roses, purslane, and zinnias. Most of these plants come in many shapes and sizes.

Some perennials that Welsh recommends are firebush, goldstar esperanza or yellow bells, hibiscus, lantana, petunia, plumbago, sage and verbena. Many of these plants have been dubbed Texas Superstars. For a complete list of Texas Superstars, visit www.texassuperstar.com.

By applying some of these tips we will have a successful, colorful and happy summer growing season.

The Gardeners’ Dirt was written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational initiative of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Victoria County. Submit your questions to Advocate, PO Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column on VictoriaAdvocate.com.

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