MASTER GARDENER — Managing a summer garden in the summertime

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Gardeners, by the time you read this the official start of summer will be three days away, beginning June 21.

During the past week our daily high temperatures have been greater than 95 F with only a very slight chance of rain in the weather forecast. Let me be clear, as this is an indication of what we can expect over the course of the next several months.

OK, OK, I’m getting to the point, which is if you haven’t already done so, it’s time to prepare each planting area, flower bed, and vegetable garden for an arduous summer-plant livelihood depends on this!

Naturally, some of you have waited to begin preparing the gardening areas, but I understand, our lives are busy, just know this it’s not too late to prepare but make the time to do it soon … or your plants are going to suffer from our Texas summers’ intensity!

Preparing each garden area is a simple, and straightforward process that doesn’t require a lot of time, nor does it need to be completed in one day, especially if the garden area is large or heavily planted.

It’s already ‘hot’ outside (even early in the morning), and your safety is important! Before beginning any task outside wear loose-fitting (light colored) clothing, have water available for hydration, and take frequent breaks (in shady areas), especially as the outside temperature increases.

The best time for gardening in SETX during the summer months is early morning, before the sun rises (humidity is lowest) or late in the evening, once the sun has set.

This gardener prefers to work early mornings’ for the most strenuous gardening tasks, such as adding mulch, manure, compost (or other soil amendments), fertilizing, or watering plants.

The evenings are usually reserved for planting, transplanting, lawn maintenance and watering porch and container grown plants.

SO, gardeners remember this: preparation is key! Just remember a small amount of effort goes a long way to ensuring your plants withstand or even thrive during our blistering summer months.

Spending a few minutes daily in your personal paradise is one way to maintain a beautiful garden. Most spring perennial flowers are fading, and it’s time to interplant flower beds with annuals, creating new focal points with bursts of color.

Weeds are the bane of gardening but removing them is an absolute necessity to maintain garden interest and decorum. Weeding garden spaces is never an enjoyable task, made even less so when temperatures soar, so get an early morning start!

For most of us, lawn maintenance (which is one of my favorite gardening chores) is the largest portion of our garden areas and is normally a weekly chore. Below are garden tasks detailed for ensuring plant resilience during our Texas summer!

Annuals: let’s face it our spring blooming annuals and some perennials are faded, and annuals need to be removed and replaced with vivid bursts of color from annuals that enjoy Texas’ heat, such as: zinnias, lantana, gazania, pentas, salvia, to name a few.

Lawns: ensure the mower blades are sharp and raise the mower deck height allowing the lawn to grow taller (more leaf surface) which will allow the lawn to remain healthier during summers’ heat and retain moisture better.

Weeds: remove weeds before they become a big issue. Summer brings an abundance of weeds which ‘appear’ overnight without warning. They rob vital moisture, and nutrients from preferred plants. The idea is to remove weeds when the soil is moist and the weeds are small, before they flower.

Mulch: gardeners who want to reduce the time spent weeding, watering, and fertilizing garden areas (note I have mentioned mulching numerous times in the recent past) protects plants by insulating plant roots’ (lowering soil temperature), retains soil moisture, and as the mulch decomposes, naturally fertilizes plants. This gardener prefers organic mulch, such as grass, clipping, pine straw or bark, or leaves.

Water: to adequately maintain garden areas, an ample supply of water is needed. Plants require about an inch of water weekly, which needs to be applied to the plants’ base rather than foliage, minimizing evaporation while encouraging root development, penetrating deeply into the soil. Excessive heat and ‘dry’ summers require more frequent watering or when daily temperatures exceed 95 F for many days (daily watering or every other day may be necessary). This gardener waters his lawn, flower beds and vegetable gardens at night during periods of drastic heat to allow water to percolate deeply into the soil, which is contrary to most gardening ‘experts.’

Planters (Baskets): hanging baskets, patio and porch planters suffer and succumb quickly to summers’ intense heat. They require increased watering frequency from once every couple of days in spring to twice daily during the summer months. Note: it’s a good idea to top-dress hanging baskets with composted manure or worm casting to provide them an additional layer of protection, and nutrients which further aids moisture retention, while supplying much needed organic fertilizer.

So long for now fellow gardeners, let’s go out and grow ourselves a greener, more sustainable world, one plant at a time!

Are you interested in becoming a Master Gardner?

Orange County Master Gardeners next training class begins in August, with classes held Thursdays 6 to 8:30 pm (Orange County Expo Center) at 11475-A FM 1442. The cost is $150, and includes the manual, background check and speaker fees.

John Green is Texas Certified Master Gardener with Orange County Master Gardeners. If you have gardening questions, email jongreene57@gmail.com or phone the Orange County Master Gardeners Helpline at 409-882-7010.