Concho Valley Horticulture Update July gardening newsletter

Allison Watkins
Tom Green County Texas A&M Extension Office Horticulture
Texas A&M Extension Office's Concho Valley Horticulture July gardening newsletter offers insights into vegetable gardening, horticulture, and insect/caterpillar control

The recent scattered showers sure have been a blessing to landowners and homeowners, and provided a nice soaking for plants that were starting to struggle in the heat. Now that July is here, the heat will make it more difficult to do large projects in the landscape but there are a few things to keep up with to keep the garden and lawn attractive and productive.

First, keep mowing regularly – Mowing frequently at the recommended height plays a huge role in creating a dense and weed-free lawn.

Mow common Bermuda grass 1 -2” high, and hybrid Bermuda grass 0.5 -1.5” high. St. Augustine should be mowed higher, between 2.5 -3”.

Mow often enough to not remove more than 1/3 of the height at once.

Automatic irrigation systems can be a huge help for keeping things watered and healthy, but be conscious of water use and stay in control of the watering frequency. Become comfortable changing the timer and adjust as needed for seasonal changes. The best setting to keep the timer at is ‘off’, and turn it on to run when needed. Well-established turf grass can usually do well with one inch of water applied once per week. If the timer is left on, at least have a rain/freeze sensor hooked up to prevent the system from running while it’s raining or just after a heavy rainfall.

Fertilize Bermuda grass every 6-8 weeks as long as it’s actively growing; slow down or skip fertilization during long periods of hot, dry weather.

Replenish mulch throughout landscape beds and garden plots to a thickness of 4” to conserve water and reduce weeds. Organic mulch helps plants grow better, saves water and adds a finished, attractive touch to the curb appeal. Other tips for improving curb appeal – Finish cleaning up dead shrubs and tree branches from woody plants damaged in the winter storm. Plant heat tolerant annual color such as pentas, periwinkle and moss rose.

For the vegetable garden, replant warm season crops like tomatoes and squash for a fall harvest. Purchase transplants in the largest container size possible. Larger containers mean larger root ball, and more roots mean the plant will establish more easily and suffer less transplant shock when being planted in the heat of summer.

Indoor Herb Gardens

Fresh homegrown herbs are wonderful to have handy for meal prep, craft projects and gifts. And when it comes to cooking, it doesn’t get more convenient than having the herbs right there in the kitchen, ready to snip when needed. Indoor herb gardens are very popular and can be a nice feature in the kitchen, providing beauty, fresh fragrance, and interest.

While many herbs are easy to grow outdoors in the west Texas climate, it’s important to remember that most herbs are not naturally suited to be houseplants. Many of the popular houseplants like pothos ivy and peace lily grow well indoors because they are adapted to shade, while most herbs require full sun.That’s not to say it can’t be done, with some knowledge, and practice an indoor herb garden can be successful.

Start with finding the right spot where they can get six to eight hours of direct sun, like a south facing window. If that’s not possible with natural sunlight, grow lights can be used to supplement. Keep the herbs from touching the windowpane when temperatures are extremely high or low. Plant herbs in containers with drainage holes, and use a peat-moss based potting mix instead of real soil. Most herbs need good drainage and will not grow well in overly wet conditions. The best way to water potted herbs is to take the plant to the sink and thoroughly soak the root ball, then let it completely drain

Caterpillars in Trees

While we like to welcome butterfly caterpillars to our landscapes because we enjoy seeing them turn into beneficial adult butterflies, moth caterpillars are often a major nuisance.

Pest moth caterpillars can build up into large numbers and do major damage on plants. Some common pest caterpillars to look out for this time of year include the tomato horn worm which can damage tomato plants, peppers, and others in the Solanaceae family; the sophora worm that feeds on Texas Mountain Laurel, the walnut caterpillar which affects pecans, and the fall webworm which can affect many types of trees;, though it’s named for fall it actually can get started in the late spring.

Caterpillars defoliating trees has been one of the most common issues coming into the Extension Office in recent weeks, so keep an eye out for them. They can quickly cause significant leaf loss. Often, they don’t do enough damage to warrant treatment but it’s best to watch for them just in case.

Fall Webworms are caterpillars that form webbing in tree branches to protect themselves from predators while they feed on the leaves. An easy way to get rid of webworms is to simply use a long stick to tear open the webbing to let birds take care of them. If a tree gets infested with many webworm colonies it’s a good idea to break them open so they can be eaten by predators and stop damaging the tree.

Walnut caterpillars have been out in abundance this year and can do some damage to pecan trees and cause stress if they get out of hand. They can defoliate large sections of the tree, so treatment is occasionally needed. Walnut caterpillars will congregate on the trunk at certain stages of their life cycle and this is the easiest time to treat them. If you see masses of walnut caterpillars, try a contact insecticide while they’re easily accessible. Spinosad is a great option to use for any pest caterpillars, because it’s very effective against them but is low in toxicity. Just be sure to not get the pesticide on butterfly plants because it can damage the kinds of caterpillars we do want to stick around.

Upcoming events

Thursday, July 8, 2:00pm - 4:00pm West Texas Gardening 101 - Insects in the Garden - The Good, the Bad & the Ugly; Location: People/Plant Connection Headquarters, 416 South Oaks St, San Angelo. Cost: $20.

Speaker: Linda Rowe, Hosted by the People/Plant Connection; Find out which insects are good for your garden, and which ones to watch out for.

To reserve a spot call Susan Stanfield 325-656-3104

Friday, July 16, 12:00pm, Lunch N Learn Class - Fall Vegetable Gardening.

Location: People/Plant Connection Headquarters, 416 South Oaks St, San Angelo. Cost: $5.

Speaker: Allison Watkins. Hosted by the PPC; July is the time to get started on new warm season crops for fall production. Learn about what to grow when!

To reserve a spot call Susan Stanfield at 325-656-3104

Saturday, September 11, 8:00am - 3:15pm, Fall Landscaping Symposium. Location: Texas A&M Center, 7887 N US Highway 87, San Angelo. Cost: $30

Speakers: Felder Rushing, Dr. Becky Bowling, and John R Thomas. Hosted by the Concho Valley Master Gardeners

Join us for a fun day of learning! Pre-registration required, deadline September 8th to sign up.

Visit more info and to register or call 325-659-6522