SUMMER Newsletter

Diggin’ in the Dirt 


         Signature Gardens 
                         The signature of God is written in flowers


It is time for the second fertilization of the year, between June 1st and 15th.  Put organic fertilizer down at the rate of 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet on lawns and all flower/shrub beds.  I use a broadcast spreader to fertilize my lawn.  To fertilize my beds, I just grab a handful of organic granular fertilizer and fling it into the beds, repeating the "grab and fling" method until I've covered all of the bed areas.  Easy, easy. 

PLEASE do NOT use chemical weed-and-feed products.  
(Read the fine print – it can kill trees!)
Organic fertilizer brands that I recommend:

  • Good Natured "Make it Green" 4-1-2
  • Good Natured Texas 2-Step
  • Nature's Creation Premium Lawn & Garden Fertilizer 6-1-2
  • Texas Tee 6-2-4
  • Bradfield Luscious Lawn & Garden 3-1-5
  • Redenta’s
  • Medina Growin’ Green Organic Granular Fertilizer
  • Garden-Ville Soil Food, 6-2-2
  • Sustane All Natural Plant Food 8-2-4


Fall and early spring are the best times for transplanting, but if you need to transplant any shrubs or perennials now, be prepared to baby them and hand water them (possibly every day!) to get through any transplant shock.  Giving transplants some temporary shade until they root in will help, as well.  You can still plant new container-grown shrubs and perennials, but again, be prepared to baby them this summer until they are established.   Make sure the soil/root ball is very moist when planting, and keep soil moist until plant is established.  I would not transplant trees at this point; wait until they are completely dormant (winter). 

Annuals/Containers:  If you have not yet planted annual color for summer, please click here for suggestions. 

Wildflowers  (Larkspur, poppies, bluebonnets, etc.):  If you planted wildflowers last fall and they bloomed this spring, they are probably going to seed right now.   Let the seed pods completely dry on the plant.  Then you can pull up the plants and shake the seeds back into your beds, or you can collect the seeds and plant them in new areas or share with others.   Pull the old wildflowers completely out; they will not regrow from the plant root; only from seed. 
Somniferum poppy seedhead


Shrubs:  If you need to prune now, prune selectively and lightly.  It is fine to prune away any erratic growth to keep shrubs tidy.  Stems damaged from February's freeze will be very obvious now and can be pruned away.   
Trees:  Do not prune oak trees now; to avoid the spread of oak wilt disease, wait until the hottest part of the summer (July/August) or the coldest part of winter (December/January).

PERENNIALS:    The key to growing perennials is to deadhead them regularly to encourage new blooms all summer.  "Deadheading" is just cutting off the old blooms.  The more you deadhead, the more blooms you will have.  Here are a few tips on specific perennials:

Salvia greggii or Salvia microphylla (Hot Lips) – give it a 2- or 3-inch “haircut” as needed to cut off old blooms and encourage a new flush of growth and blooms.  In July or August, cut back by 1/3 to 1/2 to encourage thicker growth and fall blooms.
Salvia farinacea (mealycup sage, 'Henry Duelberg' Salvia) – if it has gotten tall and leggy, cut it down to just a few inches above the ground (really!).  It will put on new growth and a new flush of blooms within just a few weeks.
'Walker's Low' Catmint - cut back to about 3-6 inches tall if it looks untidy after spring blooms fade.  It will fill back out and form a pretty mound. Might rebloom.
Salvia nemerosa or superba (May Night Salvia) - when most of the blooms have faded, cut the whole plant down to the ground where new leaves are emerging; it will rebloom.
          Four-Nerve Daisy and Scabiosa - deadhead spent flower spikes often to encourage summer-long blooms. 
           'Autumn Joy' Sedum - when plant is about 8 inches tall, cut it back by half to produce fuller, stronger growth for fall blooms.
Salvia leucantha (Mexican Bush Sage) – cut it back by about 1/2 to 1/3 before July 4.  This is a fall bloomer, so cutting it back in early summer encourages more compact growth to support the fall blooms.
Mexican Mint Marigold – same instructions as Mexican Bush Sage.
Aster oblongifolius (Fall Aster) – same instructions as Mexican Bush Sage.
Chrysanthemums – same instructions as Mexican Bush Sage.
'Indigo Spires'  or 'Mystic Spires' Salvia – If it gets tall and leggy, cut by 1/2 or 1/3 to encourage thicker growth.
Turk’s Cap - If you want to encourage thicker growth, cut by 1/2 or 1/3 before July 4.
Ox-eye Daisy - This is a spring bloomer.  As the blooms fade and the foliage starts to look bad, cut it all the way down until you see growth of new foliage.
Columbine - Cut away any browned leaves and old blooms.  Columbines go somewhat dormant in the summer.  They will send up new growth when the weather cools in the fall.
Purple Coneflower and Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ – Cut spent flower stalks to the ground.  
          Summer Phlox -  If ravaged by powdery mildew, consider cutting to the ground; they will regrow and bloom later than usual.   If no powdery mildew, only cut spent blooms and it may rebloom lightly.
Shasta Daisy - Keep deadheading spent flowers for longer bloom
‘Bath’s Pink’ or ‘Firewitch’ Dianthus – Cut away all spent bloom stems down to the gray foliage of the plant; will rebloom next spring.
Jerusalem Sage -  If plant is small, just deadhead.  If plant is large and has outgrown space, cut back by 1/2 to 1/3 to encourage fall blooms.                  Daylilies -  Break off spent blooms as they fade (daily), and when entire scape (stalk) has finished blooming, cut entire scape to the ground.  Pull any yellowed or damaged leaves.
Oxalis – If your purple oxalis has reddish/oranges blotches on the back of the leaves, it is Rust fungus.  If the leaves look pale, they probably have spider mites.    Just pull or cut off the oxalis stems and leaves (throw them away!), leaving the corms (tubers) in the ground.  Remulch the area, and oxalis will regrow clean.  
Cannas - If you see a tiny silk strand sticking your rolled canna leaves shut, or if you see holes in a line across your unrolled leaves, the culprit is a worm called a canna leaf roller.  Cut the whole damaged stalk to the ground and throw it away.  New growth will emerge shortly and should be okay.  You can also treat with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis),  if necessary.
          Lamb's Ear - Pull off any browned or damaged leaves to keep tidy. 
          Hellebores -  Cut off any browned or damaged leaves; trim spent flower stalks to ground if they have faded past the point of pretty.
          Rosemary - Trim back in May and September by 1/3 to stimulate new growth and blooms (also keeps it from getting a thick woody trunk).
          Ornamental grasses - Do nothing.  Just enjoy!  That’s why they’re so great :-)
Roses - Be on the lookout for Rose Rosette Disease (see link below).   If roses are disease free, then prune shrub roses by one-third in early August to promote new growth and blooms for fall. 

Tomatoes - Questions, problems with your tomatoes?  Click here


Loropetalum stem canker/bacterial gall
  •  Loropetalum stem canker or bacterial gall:   Be on the lookout for bacterial gall or stem canker on Loropetalum shrubs (a/k/a fringe flower).   You will see dark clumpy tissue on the main stem and lateral shoots.    See this article from LSU Ag Center.   Be sure to disinfect pruning tools when pruning Loropetalum shrubs.    Shrubs severely infected with stem canker will need to be removed and discarded.   
Powdery Mildew on Summer Phlox

  • Powdery Mildew:   If you are noticing white blotches or patches or a grayish cast over leaves that should be green, it is most likely powdery mildew.   Summer Phlox can be susceptible to powdery mildew in a wet spring like we've had this year.  Spray with Neem Oil in the evening (do not spray in the heat of the day!).  It will not help the leaves already infected, but will stop the spread to new leaves.   Another option is to cut the plants to the ground, remove all infected leaves and mulch the area, and then wait for them to regrow and bloom later in the season.       
  • bagworm
  • Bagworms:  Treat with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) or Spinosad late May or early June when the worms are still small and are not encased in bags.  The worms in this stage are only the size of a pencil lead tip, very small.  Once they are in the bags, it is too late to treat; hand pick the bags and discard.  
  • Webworms:  You may notice webs forming in some of your trees, especially pecan and mulberry trees.  Those webs are formed by webworms.  There are two to four generations of webworms each year.  They will usually just do cosmetic damage to a tree but will not kill it.   If the branches are small enough, they can be pruned off and discarded (worms and all).   If the branches are large, just take a long-handled pole or rake and break the webs open.  The birds and wasps will take care of the worms.  

You can also spray with a product called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), but you will need to break the webs open first so that the Bt can penetrate the web.  Bt will kill all caterpillars, whether webworm caterpillars or monarch butterfly caterpillars, so use it selectively.  Bt can be obtained from any garden center.  Use as directed by the label.

  • Fire Ants:    For advice on the Two-Step Method from Texas A&M, click here

For organic fire ant control, I use 2 ounces of Orange Oil and 1 ounce of liquid molasses mixed with 1 gallon of water to drench the mound.    
Click here for more information 

Planthopper/Leafhopper nymph
Leafhopper/planthopper adult
  • Leafhoppers/Planthoppers:  Spray with a strong blast of water or spray with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil for heavy infestation.
  •  Spider MitesSpray with liquid seaweed or Neem Oil; spray in the evening (not in the heat of the day).
  •  AphidsJust blast them with a strong spray of water.
  • Snails:  Treat with Sluggo or Bonide Bug & Slug Killer
    Snail damage on Purple Heart

    Spittlebug:  Ever wonder if someone has spit on your plant?   This foamy white substance is just the protective covering of the (appropriately named) spittlebug.  Spraying with a strong blast of water will usually eliminate them. 
    Scale on Crape Myrtles: Crape Myrtle scales are aggressive, sap-feeding insects that appear as white, waxy encrustations most likely to occur near pruning wounds or in branch crotches.  Larger female scales "bleed" a pink liquid when crushed. 

    Scale on Crape Myrtle
For severe scale infestations (as pictured above), you may have to resort to treating with Imidacloprid.  One brand is "Bayer Advanced Tree & Shrub Protect & Feed."   The Bayer product is a granular systemic insecticide that is sprinkled around the root zone of the tree in late May or early June and gives 12 months of protection.  Follow label directions.

If there are only a few scale insects on the tree, try spraying with horticultural oil to smother the insects.   You might also check with local garden centers to see if they can get Twice-Stabbed Lady Beetles for you. They are the lady bug that will attack this particular scale.  (They are black with two red dots on their back.)
Twice-Stabbed Lady Beetle

Chinch Bugs:   Do you have a patch of St. Augustine lawn that is starting to look like this in the middle of the summer?  (see picture below)   The culprit could be chinch bugs.  They usually show up in the hottest, driest spot in your lawn (usually next to hot, reflective areas like sidewalks or driveways).   The easiest way to detect if you have chinch bugs is to get down on your hands and knees in the green section of the lawn bordering the browned areas, pull back the blades of grass with your hands, and look for these tiny black insects with white/gray diamond markings scurrying through the grass (again, see picture below).   Treat with an insecticide labeled for chinch bugs (follow the label directions in applying).  For organic control, treat by spraying with an orange oil/liquid molasses/compost tea mixture, or topdress your lawn with compost.  Treat at the very first sign of damage; don't wait until it looks like the picture below.   Proper watering of your lawn (see watering section below) and a yearly topdressing with compost will build a healthy turf which is the best defense against pests and problems in the first place.  
Chinch bug and damaged St. Augustine

Rose Rosette Disease:  Have you noticed any strange new growth on your roses?    Symptoms of Rose Rosette Disease present as red, distorted new growth (known as "witches' broom") on long, thickened stems with excessive growth of thorns along the stem.   This disease is transmitted by a microscopic eriophyid mite and is spread to other roses as the mite travels on wind currents.  At this point in time there is no effective control of the disease, and it is recommended that any roses with Rose Rosette Disease be completely removed and discarded.   Click here to learn more.
Excessive thorns - Rose Rosette Disease

Green Lacewings:   Green Lacewings are one of the GOOD guys!   If you see these tiny eggs on some leaves in your garden, just leave them be.   They love to feed on soft-bodied insect pests such as aphids!  
Green Lacewing eggs


Mulch, mulch, mulch!  Mulch all bare soil to conserve moisture, keep soil temperatures cooler, and keep weeds to a minimum.  Hardwood or cedar mulches are best because they won't float in heavy rains.   Please don’t skip mulching; it is very important.   Be careful that you do not pile mulch up on the trunks of trees or shrubs.

Ever see a pile of something that looks like vomit lying on your mulch?   I call it "mulch puke," because that's exactly what it looks like.    It is just a saprophytic fungus; simply organic matter breaking down.   I see it most of the time on hardwood mulch.   It is harmless unless it is completely engulfing a small plant.  If it's still wet, you can just kick it over and forget about it.  If it's dry, you can carefully pick it up and throw it away (there will be a puff of black spores released).
mulch "puke"


Mow regularly, cutting no more than one-third of the grass height per mowing.  If you are cutting down into the brown, you either need to raise your mower or mow more often.    Mowing more often will help to prevent weeds from going to seed.  Do not bag your clippings; use a mulching mower and leave the clippings on the lawn.

If you need to add new sod, water the new sod for about 10 minutes every day for a week to get it established; then resume your normal watering schedule.


City water restrictions usually limit watering to twice a week between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m.   It is best to water deeply and infrequently to encourage deeper root development.   Twice-a-week watering should be sufficient for most landscapes (and even less for true xeriscaped gardens).  Watering more frequently develops shallow root systems and just sets your landscape up for failure when water restrictions are enforced.

The best tip I can offer is to use the "cycle and soak" method.  Run all zones of your sprinkler system, wait 15 to 30 minutes, and then repeat the cycle again.  This will allow the first cycle to soak into the soil before you run the system again.   This requires either a Program A and B or multiple start times on your controller (or manually restarting the system). 

If at all possible, do not water at night.  Dark and wet = fungus!  It is best to water early morning.   Water container plantings as needed (maybe daily during the summer!)

WARNING:  Please be sure to stay hydrated when you’re out working in the heat this summer, and take breaks often.  Heat exhaustion is no fun, trust me!

Two of my favorite gardening books are...
Easy Container Gardens by Pamela Crawford
Easy Gardens for North Central Texas by Steve Huddleston and Pamela Crawford.  


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Remember... a day without dirt under your nails is like a day without sunshine!

Happy Gardening…

   Toni :-)