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Agriculture Today

Hummingbird, butterfly attractions

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South Texas Gardener
July 3, 2012 | 3,679 views | Post a comment

Q. What can we plant on our patio to attract butterflies and hummingbirds? It has both sun and shade.

A. In the shade, plant pentas as a nectar source. Firespike will also provide attractive blooms for hummingbirds this fall in the shade. Firebush in a container grown in the sun is very attractive to hummingbirds. Zinnias used in the sun will attract both butterflies and hummingbirds.

Q. How do we tell when the okra is ready to harvest?

A. It can be harvested as soon as it is large enough to use. It is too large to use when it feels hard to your finger when you press it. Every variety is a little different but 4 inches or less seems to be a good harvest size.

Q. How much space should we have between the new live oak trees we are going to plant? They are 10 feet tall.

A. The planting size should not be a factor in determining planting spacing. Consider the mature height and width. Also, consider if you want the tree to have enough space to fully develop as a specimen or if the branches can intertwine. Paul Cox and Patty Leslie’s “Texas Trees” says live oaks will grow to 50 feet tall and 100 feet wide. That means to allow full development the oaks should be 50 feet from each other. If you want them to touch, you should probably allow at least 30 feet spacing.

Q. Which crape myrtle is the large one with white flowers and the decorative bark? My neighbor has one that must be 25 feet tall.

A. You are describing the Natchez crape myrtle. It is a good choice for area landscapes. In addition to the characteristics you described, it is powdery mildew resistant.

Q. During the drought, Bermuda grass invaded our St. Augustine grass. Is there any way we can eliminate it?

A. Bermuda will be nearly impossible to eliminate in a St. Augustine lawn in full sun once it has a foothold, but you can help the St. Augustine grass dominate it. Keep the lawn well-watered and mow high (3-4 inches) to give the St. Augustine the edge. It also helps to aerate every spring for a few years. Bermuda grass has a competitive edge in compacted soil.

Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the San Antonio Water System’s director of water resources. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, email him at reader@wcn-online.com.

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