June 2011 Gardening Column
This is a once-a-month column provided to Wilson County News reader online.
We had a spell of 90°F plus temperatures in April and May so we should be ready for the hot temperatures of June. Hopefully the month will fulfill its potential as one of the two rainiest months of the year.
There is a lot to do in the landscape and garden in June but keep the heat in mind and try to do the hardest tasks in the morning. Wear a hat and loose clothing. Drink plenty of water.
If you treated for sand burs with a pre-emergent this Spring, it is time to retreat. Sand burs will germinate over a long period in the summer. If the burs are already up and you recognize the plants, they are easy to pop out of the soil with a shovel tip or hoe. You can also spot treat sand bur plants with Image or other labeled contact herbicide. For a detailed description of other sand bur options, visit plantanswers.com and search for sand burs.
Keep the lawn mowed weekly and irrigate as needed. Some communities are in drought restrictions, most area drought management rules allow once per week irrigation which is plenty to keep your lawn relatively attractive and healthy. If you have zoysia, Bermuda or buffalo grass it can be allowed to go dormant and will green up again when the rains resume. A dormant lawn is not lush and green but your water bill is more manageable and the lawn will not suffer long-term damage.
If your lawn is St. Augustine grass, it does require irrigation at least every two weeks to keep the roots alive. Watering every week is better.
Snapdragons and the other cool weather flowers have declined to the point in most gardens that they should be replaced with zinnias, cosmos, moss roses, vinca, begonias, purslane, caladium, coleus or other hot weather annuals. Use “Cora” vinca if it is available at your favorite nursery. It is resistant to aerial phytophthora, a disease that plagues vinca. Cosmos can be planted in the raised bed or even grown in vacant lots as a replacement for wildflowers as they set their seed and decline.
In the vegetable garden, harvest the onions as soon as the tops flop over. I store my onions on a picnic table in the shade. They often last well until Thanksgiving. Potatoes can also be harvested. Once the tops die, the potatoes are susceptible to rotting if the soil becomes wet.
Peppers, okra, eggplant and southern peas can still be planted. To prevent bird damage, harvest tomatoes as soon as the color changes from dark green to light green. Spider mites are widespread this Spring because of the dry, hot weather. Seaweed extract spray will slow down the rate of reproduction but there is nothing to spray to reverse an infestation. Pull plants that are heavily infested with spider mites. Put them in the garbage unless your compost pile is active and far away from the garden.
If Bermuda grass invades your groundcover, flower garden or perennial bed, consider one of the grass specific contact herbicides such as Over the Top, Grass be Gone, Fusilade or Vantage.
Keep the hummingbird feeder clean and full. Rinse it weekly and scrub with a brush every month. If fire ants invade the feeder, move it to another location and spray the fire ant trail with an insecticide such as Bayer Inside/Outside spray or acephate.
If you have problems with rodents, now is a good time to discontinue feeding bird seed for the summer.
For hot weather perennials esperanza, lantanas, duranta and poinciana are good choices. They are in bloom at the nursery and transplant well in the heat. For containers consider penta for the shade and fire bush, oriental hibiscus and bougainvillea for the sun.
Calvin R. Finch, PhD, is a SAWS Director and Horticulturist.