The spring garden rush is behind us, but there’s still so much to do in the summer garden. During this time of year our Austin-Dallas-Houston triangle (zones 8a, 8b and 9a) is typically very hot and muggy, with very little rain. This can be frustrating for Texas gardeners, but don’t give up — take some time to prepare your garden beds and properly care for them, and you can have gardens that thrive, no matter what the thermometer says.
Add Patio Lighting For the Perfect Ambience
Plant annuals and perennials. Our hot and muggy June days are not the most plant-friendly environments, but you can still add annual and perennial color to your garden. Choose plants that are fairly bulletproof and designed to take the heat in stride, like native and adapted plants. Try salvia (Salvia greggii), Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) and purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) for perennials, plus heatproof annuals like vinca, portulaca, begonias and impatiens. And be sure to plant in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid immediately stressing new plants with the midday sun. Stay on top of watering, and you’re good to go.
Give your garden a drink. Most areas of Texas were hit by a historic drought and record-breaking heat last year, so let’s learn some lessons to keep our gardens hydrated. Be sure your irrigation system is functioning properly, and check to see that it’s set to go off early in the morning as opposed to in the middle of the day, when water will evaporate. Always follow your area’s recommended water days or any restrictions that are in place, and choose plants that need a bit less water in order to have the healthiest garden. Agaves and yuccas will be happy with very little water, but also try drought-tolerant plants like lantana, salvia, penstemon and coneflower.
Add some potted plants. Anybody, anywhere, can add container plants to a garden. This is a great option for people with balconies, patios and courtyards, but containers are also perfect for nestling into garden beds for a colorful accent.
Choose pots that are large enough to make an impact — bright colors don’t hurt, either — and add plants that complement the container as well as the surrounding garden area. Choose colorful and textural succulents like sedums, euphorbias, aeoniums and kalanchoes for easy-care color, or a mix of annuals like petunias, sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) and creeping jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) for seasonal impact.
Add ambience. You’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors this summer with family and friends, so be sure to create an environment that’s warm and inviting. A backyard fire pit is a great addition to any landscape — but remember to observe any burn bans in your area, since parts of Texas are still in a drought. Add patio lights or candles for instant ambience, and consider installing outdoor speakers to pipe in your favorite party or beach music.
Manage weeds. During the summer months, weeds can quickly get out of control and ruin your beautiful landscape beds. Stay on top of them before they get to be an issue — pull them out by hand (be sure to get the roots) and keep a good 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch in your beds at all times. Well-mulched beds will maintain soil moisture and suppress weeds — exactly what we need in our sweltering summers.
Prune trees and shrubs. Lightly prune summer-flowering trees and shrubs, like oleander and crape myrtle, for shape. This is not the time to do a “hard” pruning to remove a lot of growth — your goal is to remove anything that is dead or diseased, plus growth that is at an odd angle or towering above the rest of the plant. Never “top” trees and shrubs by giving them a crew cut — this ruins the plant’s form and ability to grow properly.
Eat your veggies. But first, plant them. Consult your local nursery or extension office for the best times to plant vegetables in your area. There is still time to plant warm-season veggies like squash as well as harvest favorites like pumpkins. Plant them in the sunniest spot in your garden — at least 6 hours of sunlight is required for best results — and consider raised beds to have deep, healthy soil for your edible garden.
Keep your lawn healthy. If you live in an area of Texas that is still experiencing drought and low rainfall, you may want to consider decreasing the size of your lawn. Remember to water less frequently, but more deeply, to encourage healthy grass roots — they’ll come in handy during periods of drought. Always follow local recommendations for water schedules or restrictions, and keep your lawn mowed to a height that is recommended for your grass type. Keep an eye out for pests like grubs and chinch bugs. If you suspect you have a problem because you’re seeing brown areas in your lawn, contact your local extension office for ideas on how to identify and treat the problem.
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