The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office at 9020 Airport Road in Conroe is open for normal business hours. For gardening questions call (936)539-7824.
|The mission of the Montgomery County Master Gardener Association is to educate the community through fellowship and demonstration using research-based gardening information.|
All Gardening Classes are cancelled until further notice
Plant of the Month
Photo courtesy of http://wildflower.org.
By Nita Schiro, Master Gardener
The heat is on! During the summer months in Texas, rain and a nice breeze provide just about the only relief for us and for our gardens. Rock Rose, aka Rose Pavonia (Pavonia lasiopetala) will fill your garden with cheery pink (or yellow )blooms and bring you joy year after year!
Rock rose is a perennial shrub, mostly woody at the base, but with many branches, growing upward and outward 3-6 feet. This beauty will spread from seed, so it will need some room – however, you can easily dig up any extras you wish to share.
This beautiful native plant prefers well-drained, medium loam, sandy, or caliche type soil, but will grow in dry gravelly soil too. It will do well in sun or part-shade. You can plant it just about anywhere.
The many benefits of growing Rock Rose include being drought tolerant of our Texas summers, easy to grow in many soil types, as well as providing nectar for butterflies and hummingbirds! What more could you ask for? Rock Rose is a great landscaping plant and is easily grown from cuttings or from seed. Be sure to cut it back after the growing season so it does not become leggy.
July in the Garden
by Bob Dailey, Master Gardener
With all the crazy weather we had in June, it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen this month. I must admit that tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and beans did extraordinarily well. And, despite the presence of the squash vine borer, unaffected squash produced substantially.
As for July, the Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts thunderstorms throughout the month, with the average rainfall four inches above average. The Almanac also predicts temperatures about 2 degrees below average and warns of a possible hurricane July 23-26.
Accuweather also predicts lower than average daytime temperatures, higher than average nighttime temperatures, and thunderstorms at the end of the month.
There are some options about what to plant (or not plant) during July. It’s not too late to plant okra and Southern peas (blackeyes, purple hulls, zipper cream, and crowders). Water your plants at least twice a week. The idea is to keep the soil moist, not muddy. Most herbs that we raise here originated in the Mediterranean, and therefore need less water than other crops. Take this into account when watering.
On the other hand, some gardeners prefer to let their beds go fallow during the summer, amending the soil, and preparing it for fall crops. If you plan to do this, add mulch (pine straw, straw, etc.) over the beds to keep down weeds and preserve moisture.
According to Texas AgriLife Extension Horticulturist Mike Potter, don’t bag your grass clippings. Instead, use a mulching lawnmower to return the clipped blades back into the soil, decomposing quickly. Some people worry that mulching clippings add to thatch. The fact is that well-cared-for St. Augustine does not need to be de-thatched. Thatching is caused by over-fertilizing and over-watering, not mulching.
Flowers and ornamentals
If your spring beds look a little shabby, remove the old plants, and lay in some compost. Texas Gardener magazine recommends adding some heat-loving plants like salvia, Mexican bush sage, and mountain sage. Bright-colored cannas and celosia are also attractive, as are some lovely foliage plants like caladiums, St. Joseph’s Coat, and copper plants.
Flowering plants looking down in the dumps can be reinvigorated by shearing them back about one third. You might also look at Texas Superstars (texassuperstar.com) as replacement plants. This interactive site will allow you to choose a wide variety of plants that do well in our area.
Also, while taking care of your plants, remember to take care of yourself during these warmer months. That means keeping cool, drinking plenty of fluids, and resting periodically.
Here are some websites you may want to view:
Critter of the Month
What is eating my plants
Photo courtesy of WordPress.com
by Elisabeth Castro, Master Gardener
Summer is here and with either a dry spell or an abundance of water we are seeing some of our plants succumb to sucking, piercing, and eating insects.
Why is this happening? Plants are in a constant battle to defend themselves from natural enemies. Pests and disease organisms prefer plants that are weak, do not like the spot they are planted in and may have been injured. However, plants grown in healthy soil and in conditions that closely match their natural environment will generally thrive and are more resistant to diseases and insects.
Plant problems are divided into three main categories: pests such as insects; diseases such as viruses and fungi; physiological issues such as too much or too little water and no nutrients.
The month of June has brought a plethora of insect issues with our plants. Take for example the mighty Aphid. They come in many colors; green, black, yellow, red, brown, and gray. Although tiny, 1/32”-1/8”, en masse, they can cause serious damage on a plant and may stunt plant growth. Their life cycle is somewhat complicated in that they can reproduce without fertilization. They are parthenogenic, meaning they clone themselves. All are female, however, when overcrowding occurs, the adults develop two pairs of wings and can fly to new plants. In late summer females and males are produced and after they mate the female lays eggs to survive winter. Ants protect aphids so they can harvest the honeydew secreted by the aphids.
On Milkweed they are known as Oleander Aphids, Aphis nerii. A strong blast of water or squashing them with your fingers will usually take care of the aphids. Planting nectar and pollen carrying plants will bring natural enemies of aphids; lady beetles, lacewing, syrphid fly larvae, and parasitic wasps. These will ultimately take care of the aphid population.
Sawflies. There are over 700 North American species. The common sawfly is not a fly but a primitive wasp with two pairs of wings. It gets its name from the saw-like egg laying appendage on adult females. The larvae may resemble a caterpillar but upon closer inspection reveals the extra prolegs and missing crochet hooks found only on caterpillars. In addition, they often have a slimy, translucent greenish to black color.
The sawfly we are probably most familiar with attacks our Mallow Hibiscus. The Hibiscus Sawfly, Atomacerca deceptra can defoliate a plant in a matter of days. The female sawfly carves a small slit in the leaf surface in which she deposits her eggs. The tiny larvae at first make small holes in the leaves and continue to remove all the soft tissue until only the veins remain. Once this task is completed, they move to the soil where they form pupae. Keeping an eye on your hibiscus and removing the larvae as soon as possible will probably keep them in check. Insecticidal sprays will probably kill the larvae but other beneficial insects and pollinators as well.
By Pat Sheridan, Master Gardener
A garden organized around a unifying theme is a theme garden. Ideas for theme gardens are limitless. There are Japanese gardens, butterfly gardens, rose gardens, and vegetable gardens, to name just a few. Here at the AgriLife Extension, we have several examples of theme gardens: the children’s discovery garden, the square foot garden, the fairy garden, and the culinary herb garden, and more.
Checkout the Shakespeare Garden…
Within the Herb Area lies the Shakespeare Garden:
“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows…” A Midsummer Night’s Dream
“Rosemary, that’s for remembrance…” Ophelia
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose…” Romeo and Juliet
Did you know that herbs and other plants were frequently mentioned in the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare? It seems that he was very knowledgeable of the characteristics and uses of many plants. In his day (the 1600s), plants had symbolic significance. Every mention is thought to be important to the story. His writings speak about more than 30 different herbs and flowers and the settings were sometimes in gardens.
Our Shakespeare garden features bronze fennel, creeping thyme, chamomile, yarrow, rosemary, bay laurel, tansy, rue, the red rose, but plants may vary with the season and weather conditions. We even have a bust of old Will himself to watch over the plants in his garden.
Some well- known public gardens in America that contain areas dedicated to Shakespeare are located in Central Park in New York City, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, and on the Folger Shakespeare Library grounds, Washington, D.C. Closer to home, Festival Hill and Mercer Botanical Gardens are worth a visit.