Get jump on summer with garden and lawn

Published on Thursday, 29 May 2014 01:07 - Written by Keith Hansen, Keeping It Green

Even though we are several weeks away from the “official” start of summer, as every Texan knows, when June arrives so does summertime. Here are a few tips for your garden and lawn for the month of June.

Vegetables: If you’re growing any vegetables, you probably have tomatoes. One of the most common tomato disorders is blossom end rot. This is not a disease but a rather physiological problem caused by a lack of calcium and fluctuating soil moisture. BER is more severe on large, flat fruit varieties. Don’t let the soil fully dry between watering or rain, but keep the soil evenly moist. Mulching helps conserve moisture to minimize this problem. Before planting the next crop of tomatoes, lime the soil to provide calcium. BER usually only affects the first tomatoes to ripen.

Tomatoes, peppers and other garden plants benefit from a side dressing of fertilizer (mainly nitrogen) to keep them vigorous and productive throughout summer. The extra nitrogen stimulates leafy growth on peppers, which will help prevent sun scald on the fruit.

Another common vegetable problem at this time of year is with squash not setting fruit. This is due to a lack of pollination. Squash plants have separate male and female flowers. Female flowers have a swollen stem that is the unpollinated fruit. Once pollen is transferred by bees from male flowers to the female flowers, the fruit will develop normally. If the female flower is not pollinated, the swollen base can continue to swell for a day or two, but then shrivel, giving the false appearance that the fruit is growing but rotting.

Squash flowers only open for one day, mainly in the morning. If mornings are windy, cloudy or rainy, bees may not be out and about, and flowers will not get pollinated.

Lawns: Hotter weather means grass will be growing faster. Keep up with the mowing so you don’t have to bag the clippings. Keep the mower blade sharpened. Ragged ends indicate a dull blade. Mowing frequently at the correct height promotes a healthy, thick turf resistant to weeds.

The rule of thumb for watering is to apply enough to wet the soil 6 inches deep. Do not water too frequently. Shallow, frequent watering promotes a shallow root system that is more susceptible to the stress of summer heat and winter cold, and can lead to diseases such as grey leaf spot.

June’s warm soils make this an ideal time to establish or renovate the home lawn. Lawns for our area include Bermudagrass for all sun with no shade, and St. Augustine, centipede or zoysia for all sun or partial shade.


Many great landscape plants begin hitting their stride as the soil and air temperature continues to climb. Crape myrtles, the queen of summer flowering trees and shrubs, will start blooming soon, and that’s the time you can select the right color variety for your yard to complement your home. Be sure to pick one that matures to the exact height for the location. Some grow as large shrubs, while others reach up to 30 feet tall.

Summer annuals are an easy way to add color to your yard. Try sun-loving salvia, purslane, copper plant, vinca, esperanza, gomphrena, zinnia, celosia, cleome, lantana, tithonia (Mexican sunflower), angelonia, amaranthus, cosmos, trailing petunias, cockscomb, ornamental sweet potato and pentas.

Tender tropical plants with showy color throughout the summer and fall include bougainvillea, mandevilla, allamanda, brugmansia (trumpet flower), crotons, variegated tapioca and tropical hibiscus. Don’t worry about their being cold-tender. Enjoy them for all their summer glory, and replace them next year.

For reliable shade color, go with caladiums, begonias (many types), torenia, coleus, New Guinea impatiens and their hybrids.

Pay special attention to all newly planted plants, including those trees and shrubs planted last year. Sandy soil can quickly dry out, so use your finger to assess soil moisture. Check the original root ball, and the surrounding soil. Don’t rely on sprinkler systems to adequately water trees and shrubs during the first growing season. They will probably need occasional supplemental hand watering this year to thoroughly soak the original rootball.

Too much water can be just as bad as not enough. Be sure to mulch all plantings as an aid to maintain even soil moisture, and to help in the fight against weeds.



Avail yourself to some great educational opportunities this month to keep you informed and inspired.

n The Home Garden Tour sponsored by Smith Co. Master Gardeners is next Saturday, June 7. Four fabulous home gardens, each with a different size and style, will be opened for your viewing pleasure. There will be Master Gardeners on hand at every site to answer questions and point out unique features of these distinctively different garden styles. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 the day of the tour, available at each of the homes. For more information, go to and click on “Coming Events.”

n Next Tuesday, June 3, is the last of the spring series of “First Tuesday in the Garden” free lectures. This month you can learn all about “Growing Succulents.” Clayton Turner, Smith County Master Gardener, will share all the types you can grow, how to grow them and sources for more information. First Tuesday lectures begin at noon on the patio in the IDEA Garden, in the southeast corner of the Tyler Rose Garden. While there, enjoy the beautiful and inspiring demonstration gardens that the Smith County Master Gardeners maintain, including the IDEA Garden, Heritage Rose Garden, Sunshine Garden and the Shade Garden.

n Make plans to attend the Horticulture Field Day on June 26 at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton, where you will get a look at the latest plant introductions. This free event starts in the morning and showcases the extensive plant variety trials conducted at Texas A&M at Overton, including sun and shade annuals and other specialty plants. Visitors get to vote for their favorites at the North Farm, where the tour begins, and at the demonstration garden at the center.

New this year are several vegetable variety trials. After a catered lunch, Dr. Brent Pemberton, A&M AgriLife Research horticulturist at Overton responsible for the ornamental trials, Jenny Wegley of the Dallas Arboretum and Karl Steddom and Joe Masabni with Texas A&M AgriLife, who are doing the vegetable trials, will give reviews in the auditorium of new plant introductions and results of variety trials. For more details, visit


Keith Hansen is Smith County horticulturist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. His web page is His blog is




TALL PURPLE spikes of gay feather, white yarrow, red gaillardia and yellow coreopsis provide early summer color in the Heritage Rose Garden.