Summer is here, but mother nature has put a new twist on it for Texas. The heat and humidity are routine, but almost daily rainfall? Well, that’s different for sure. These conditions reduce the need for irrigation but require more frequent lawn mowing. So what else is there to do for yards and garden this month?
If you have lawn and landscape chores to do, here are some helpful tips.
Working wet soil can compact it, and the damaging effects will last for many years. If your vegetable garden or flower beds need attention, it is best for your garden’s long-term health to resist the urge to walk on or work the soil when it is wet and saturated. Compaction reduces the amount of air, water and space available to roots and soil organisms. While the typical clay soils of the Brazos Valley do hold huge amounts of water, when compressed they can become hard as a rock once dry and will then drain even more slowly.
Water-saturated soil affects the entire physiology of plants — reducing available oxygen, slowing photosynthesis, the decomposition of beneficial organic matter in the soil and a host of other processes. Tree loss can be significant when soils become waterlogged. It is stressful to healthy trees and could be the last straw for trees that are already in decline.
Plants that require well-drained soils, such as rosemary, and drought-tolerant plants may suffer. Shrubs like hollies that are susceptible to soil-borne fungal disease may be affected. More hours of overcast skies reduce available sunlight that is critical to photosynthesis.
Rainy weather conditions promote foliage fungal diseases that require a period of prolonged wetness to develop. Diseases such as blackspot occur on roses. Wet weather can trigger turf fungal disease such as grey leaf spot or takeall root rot.
All plants are affected one way or the other by extended periods of regular rainfall, but the good news is that most will recover.
Raised and elevated beds
You may have an advantage if your landscape beds are somewhat elevated or slightly above grade and gently slope to ground level. Those shrubs, flowering perennials and other ornamentals can better tolerate frequent rains. Raising the beds just 2 to 3 inches gives a slight advantage in that soils drain a bit better preventing roots from being drowned from standing water.
Raised vegetable beds are particularly advantageous during periods of frequent rainfall. They almost always drain better, so soil stays adequately moist and not overly wet.
Speaking of vegetables, it is time to start thinking about a fall garden. Cool-season veggies seeds such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage may be started indoors this month to produce transplants. Warm-season veggies like tomato can be planted for a fall crop. Look for varieties with the smallest number of days from planting to harvest, to ensure a crop before fall frost.
Summer is the ideal time to inspect your garden for areas where additional shade is needed. But don’t plant trees now; wait until the fall, when they have a better chance of survival.
Webworms and bagworms
Recent outbreaks of webworms have been observed in pecans and possumhaw holly. An easy remedy is to physically open the web with a long stick, allowing beneficial insects and birds to get to those pesky worms. If they are within reach, prune off webs or damaged stems.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension entomology experts advise, “If webs are too numerous or too high in a tree to deal with individually, you can use insecticides to prevent damage. Insecticides containing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) or spinosad are effective and will not harm beneficial insects.”
Also active now are bagworms that can defoliate trees and shrubs — arborvitae, cedars, cypress and junipers. The caterpillars consume foliage and carry around their silken bags. At this feeding stage you can apply pest control, but handpicking bagworms off the plants is the cheapest way to control them. Be sure to throw bags away, because eggs in bags thrown on the ground will hatch and be a problem next year. Chemical control is not as effective when the caterpillars close their bags to molt or pupate.
Charla Anthony is the former horticulturist for Brazos County at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. For local gardening information, visit brazosmg.com. Gardening question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.