Gardening in El Lago

Trowels & Tribulations in a Suburban Garden - June Issue

By: Donna J. Ward, Certified Texas Master Gardener (Note: This is a reprint of Donna’s article that appears in the La Ventana del Lago.

Gardeners attempting to follow timelines stated in this column are aware that this publication through no fault of the publisher is not distributed in conjunction with those timelines. Please note that Trowels & Tribulations is published on the El Lago city web site ( on the first day of each month of publication. From ‘Our Community’ the drop-down menu will take you to ‘Gardening in El Lago.’

It’s June, and summer officially arrives on the 21st of this month. It’s time to put away the spade and put on the spandex. No need to be spading up a veggie garden, flower bed or planting trees and shrubs. Put on your spandex bathing suit, pop the top on a cold brew and dangle your feet in the pool!

Well - there may be a few things to do this month. Watering is our biggest project in summer. Remember to water deeply as that light sprinkle just causes problems. Get a soil soaker hose to take care of those elevated beds and hard to reach places. Root feeders are ideal to deep water trees and shrubs, but bear in mind that it takes a lot of muscle to insert the spike into our clay soil. Deep watering forces roots to grow downward instead of sideways. Pay special attention to your azaleas and camellias – never let them dry out. During hot summer days they will need a good soaking at least once and maybe twice a week. If their unopened buds drop this coming fall or winter, it’s probably because they dried out during the summer. This time of year is when they appreciate a good cover of mulch over their roots which are close to the surface. Of course there are always exceptions. Some plants are drought tolerant and don’t care for a lot of water. Bougainvillea comes to mind, along with portulaca, purslane, lantana, buddleia and various other Xeriscape plants. Too much water makes then sulk and stop blooming.

Like many gardeners you can’t control yourself in a plant nursery. You only went in for a bag of fertilizer and out of the corner of your eye you spot a few small pots of colorful blossoms and they are calling your name. When you get them home remove the blossoms. “What”? you say. They will have a tough time setting roots in our sizzling heat and trying to support the added burden of flowers may be more than they can handle. Not to worry - they will quickly establish a sufficient root system and reward you with plenty of color.

Are you getting any tomatoes? I gave up on them this year, didn’t plant any. For some reason squirrels are more profuse this year than ever or maybe it’s just my imagination. I refuse to go through the trouble of planting, feeding, watering only to have a squirrel pick a green one, and take one bite before leaving it on the patio table where I’m sure to see it! If you did plant tomatoes, pick them when still green and you see a ‘star’ on the blossom end and take them inside. The color red attracts birds. Watch for blossom end rot on tomatoes; remove the infected fruit. To prevent a reoccurrence keep them mulched and maintain even soil moisture. Many of us have been busy trying to recover from that last cold snap that destroyed much of our landscapes. We spent much time replacing what was lost, and that didn’t give us much time to plant a veggie garden. But my little container grown green beans did very well. There’s only so many dinners in a row that I can eat green beans, so did manage to freeze some. But if you just feel the need to plant a veggie or two, it’s still time to put in some sweet potatoes and okra which adores hot weather. Now where did you leave that trowel?

If you haven’t already, move your houseplants outdoors. Mother Nature never intended for a plant to grow in a house but we plant lovers have been doing so for generations. My grandmother grew the most beautiful geraniums inside and out - and no matter how hard I try I can’t seem to get them to survive our summers outdoors. Of course when you move your plants outdoors, they will enjoy our humidity, but the heat will dry their soil quickly. Watering plants in a well-draining container eventually depletes the soil’s nutrients, so a regular feeding schedule will keep them looking good.

You’re probably harvesting your spring planted veggies, and don’t they far outshine any trucked across country, stacked in a warehouse and then trucked to your local grocer? Okra, according to those in the know, tell me it’s the only veggie to be planted this month. But it can be done along with other summer gardening chores, while modeling your spandex bathing suit. (^o~)

Goodbye until September. Stay cool, have a safe and enjoyable summer………….