Gardening in El Lago

Trowels & Tribulations in a Suburban Garden - May 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.

“April Showers Bring May Flowers” – at least that’s how the old saying goes. This May, many of our blossoms have been purchased at the local nursery. The freeze in February took its toll on many of our blooming spring perennials.

I had my fingers crossed for the Meyer lemon that has lived in a rather sheltered spot for the past 25 years or so and has produced prolifically. Sometimes I had trouble finding takers for the excess. But a growing white mold has appeared on the trunk and several limbs, so a call soon to my tree guy is in order. The mandevilla that performed so beautifully on an iron trellis is now just a pattern of brittle, brown vines. From here on end, I’m giving up on snooty high-maintenance plants. The mandevilla is going to be replaced with a drought-tolerant Mexican flame vine. But there is hope. One of my favorite plants is natal plum. The glossy green leaves clustered so close together made a nice foundation planting for the mandevilla. The dead branches were cut down to about 3 or 4 inches, and lo and behold; new growth has appeared at the base.

If you have some hot dry spots in your garden, you can still have color. Hamelia, lantana, antique roses, and hardy verbena do well under those harsh conditions. Now that doesn’t mean you can forget watering, all plants need some moisture to survive. If some of your nonblooming shrubs are tending to get leggy, pinch back shrub tips to promote bushy growth. If your roses and daylilies aren’t blooming up to your expectations, they may be in less than all-day sun. They perform best with 6 – 8 hours of sun and regular fertilization. You can move them now if you hurry, but bear in mind our sizzling summer is knocking at the door and these newly moved specimens need plenty of TLC – that means water!

You may have noticed that bluebonnets, larkspur, snapdragons and other spring blooming plants are fading from the scene. It’s nothing you did or didn’t do – it’s the slowly increasing temperatures. You did prune the azaleas after blooming – right? If not, hurry, hurry, hurry. Wait too long and you will be removing next spring’s bloom wood. Check and see if they have enough mulch to help them through the summer – several inches thick is preferable. Their roots are close to the surface and dry easily so maintaining consistent moisture is necessary.

Only two lonely amaryllis managed to survive the freeze, so I’m going to treat them to some bulb food to help them recover. Close by there’s a patch of naturalized iris that managed to live through the freeze, but bloomed very poorly this spring. A little bulb food would be appreciated by them also.

Give your house plants a vacation. Move them outside to a shady bed or patio. They suffered all winter with our home’s dry heat, now they will continue to suffer with the A/C pulling all humidity out of the house. They would appreciate being outside where they can enjoy our semi-tropical humidity. Remember there is no such thing as a ‘house plant,’ - the man upstairs never made a plant to grow inside of a building!

We are close to the very end of spring planting in the veggie garden. But it’s not too late for transplants of eggplant, and seeds of okra would love to go in the ground now. Okra doesn’t even think about growing until the soil is sufficiently warmed.

Bear in mind that summer`s not only knocking on our door – its storming the gates and our landscape plants are going to suffer tremendously if we ignore them. They had a rough couple of weeks and need our help to recover. They’ll need plenty of water and light fertilization. I say ‘light’ because forcing an already stressed plant could contribute to its demise. But I know you are all responsible gardeners and committed to doing the right thing. We are ready to duke it out with summer!

Did you know that Trowels & Tribulations is published on the city site on the first of the month? Under Our Community you will find Trowels & Tribulations listed.

Meyer Lemon Stack