WHAT TO DO IN MAY
These are just a few of our suggestions for Central Texas gardeners. Please come visit us at The Natural Gardener for the best, most comprehensive advice, plants and organic gardening supplies, all appropriate to our area and the current season.
Vegetables: Lima Beans, Snap Beans, Chard, Cucumber, Okra, Black-Eyed Peas, Peppers, Pumpkin, Malabar Spinach, New Zealand Spinach, Summer Squash, Winter Squash, Tomatillo.
Fruits: Cantaloupe, Honeydew, Watermelon.
Herbs: Anise, Basil, Bay, Catnip, Comfrey, Cumin, Fennel, Germander, Horehound, Lamb’s Ear, Lavender, Oregano, Perilla, Rosemary, Sage, Summer Savory, Winter Savory, Sorrel, Southernwood, Tansy, Tarragon, Thyme.
Annuals: Castor Bean, Celosia, Coleus, Cypress Vine, Four O’clocks, Gomphrena, Gourds, Hyacinth Bean Vine, Impatiens, Marigold, Moonflower Vine, Morning Glory Vine, Periwinkle, Sunflower, Tithonia, Zinnia and many others.
Vegetables: Chard, Cucumber, Eggplant, Malabar Spinach, New Zealand Spinach, Okra, Peppers, Summer Squash, Winter Squash, Sweet Potato slips, Tomatillo.
Fruits: Cantaloupe, Honeydew, Watermelon.
Herbs: Artemesias (Mugwort, Southernwood, Wormwood), Basil, Bay Laurel, Beebalm, Catnip, Catmint, Comfrey, Echinacea, Epazote, Lamb’s Ear, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Mexican Mint Marigold, Mints, Oregano, Pennyroyal, Rosemary, Sage, Winter Savory, Tansy, Thyme, Yarrow.
Annuals: Ageratum, Amaranthus (Joseph’s Coat), Balsam, Begonia, Blue Daze, Celosia, Coleus, Copper Plant, Dusty Miller, Gazania, Geranium, Gomphrena, Impatiens, Marigold, Mexican Heather, Nierembergia, Penta, Periwinkle, Portulaca, Purslane, Torenia, Zinnia and many more.
Perennials: Black-Eyed Susan,Butterfly Weed, Copper Canyon Daisy, Cupheas, Coreopsis, Shasta Daisy, Ox-Eye Daisy, Four-Nerve Daisy, Daylily, Echinacea/Coneflower, Eupatoriums (including Gregg’s Mistflower), Frog Fruit, Gayfeather, Goldenrod, Horse Herb, Kniphofia, Lamb’s Ears, Lantana, Plumbago, Ruellias, Salvias, Sedum.
Grasses: Maiden Grass, Bamboo Muhly, Gulf Coast Muhly, Big Muhly, Weeping Muhly, Mexican Feather Grass, Switchgrass, Inland Sea Oats (likes the shade!), Purple Fountain Grass.
FEED AND CULTIVATE
Continue spraying entire landscape with seaweed solution to strengthen them and help them deal with the heat of the summer. Regularity is important; spray at least once a month, but no more than once a week.
Topdress lawn and landscape with compost, if you haven’t done so already. No more than a half-inch over the lawn, and a half-inch to one inch in flower beds and around shrubs and trees. This gives plants the nutrients, organic matter, and microorganisms they need, and helps soil to hold water this summer. Water afterwards to settle in the compost and prevent potential burning in the heat, especially on the lawn.
Apply Lady Bug Terra Tonic or Medina Soil Activator to your lawn, landscape and vegetable garden. These products stimulate microbial activity, which in turn improves the health of your plants. They also improve soil texture and permeability.
PRUNE, SPRAY, MAINTAIN
Watering is the single most important activity in the garden! It is better to water established plants deeper and less often, rather than shallowly and frequently. The exception is newly seeded areas and seedlings, which may need daily watering. Water only as needed; turn off automatic sprinkler systems when we get good rainfall. A landscape’s watering needs vary depending on weather, and hot and/or windy conditions warrant more water. Your finger is your best moisture meter. For most landscape plants and trees, it’s good to feel the soil about 5” down before watering. The best time to water is in the morning: daytime watering wastes too much precious water to evaporation.
Mulch all bare soil areas. Use three inches of mulch wherever possible to get the benefits of weed suppression, moisture retention, and cooler soil. In areas where there are stubborn weeds, get control first by pulling them or spraying Green Go natural weed killer. Then layer at least 10 sheets of newspaper on top of the soil, and wet them down. Be sure to overlap the edges by several inches to prevent those more sneaky weeds from creeping through. (Use black and white newsprint as colored inks can be toxic.) Then cover with mulch. The newspaper stays just long enough to suppress weeds, but decomposes, too. Understand that the most invasive weeds — Bermuda grass, Johnson grass, and Nutgrass– may still require even further pulling and spraying to maintain control.
If your St. Augustine lawn has developed brown, dead patches in full sun areas, check lawn for chinch bugs. Water the area first. When checking for chinch bugs, look in the green areas next to the damaged areas. (They’ve already finished feeding in those dead areas, and are moving on to greener pastures!) Chinch bugs are only about 1/6 to 1/5 long, mostly black (young ones can be reddish-tan) with a white marking across their back. They do not fly or jump up when you walk across. If you suspect you have chinch bugs, get an accurate identification before you use any insecticide – even organic. Apply either Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.) or Eco-Smart Insect Killer. Apply once a week for 2 – 3 weeks in a row. For best results, treat all of the lawn that is in full sun. As with any product, spray liquids only in early morning or late evening, and make sure there is moisture in the soil. (Water deeply a day or two beforehand). Even better yet, get rid of your St. Augustine and plant native grasses!
Check all plants for signs of pest problems. If a pest is causing damage to your plant:
1. Identify the problem/pest correctly. You’re always welcome to bring a sample to our Info Desk and we’ll do our best to give you an accurate ID. Please be sure to put your sample of leaves and/or critters in a closed container. If it’s your lawn that’s having a problem, ask us how to bring a sample to us.
2. Choose the least toxic strategy for addressing the particular pest. Sometimes the best strategy is to do nothing except to nourish the plant. Then, if you feel you have to use a pesticide, choose the least toxic solution for that specific problem. For example, it would be overkill to use anything stronger than soapy water to kill aphids, even if it is an organic product. Sometimes, even plain water is enough. The key to controlling aphids is spraying them off the plant every three to five days. Caterpillars and grasshoppers are great examples of how we can target the pest with a very specific product. Used correctly, Bacillus thuringiensis or B.t. will control caterpillars and harm nothing else. (Remember, though, all caterpillars turn into butterflies and moths, so use Bt as little as possible.) Nolo Bait will control grasshoppers and Mormon crickets exclusively, so it’s very safe to use against those two pests.
3.Be sure affected plants are being watered and fed appropriately. Just like us, plants tend to get “bugs” when they’re not eating right! They may need a little extra food to help them recover from their ordeal.
Watch for symptoms of disease, especially in warm, wet weather. High humidity and soggy soil can lead to emergence of diseases and splashing water can spread both fungal and bacterial spores. All plants are susceptible, so if you’re seeing discoloration or spots on your plant’s leaves, it may be a symptom of a fungal or bacterial disease. The Natural Gardener’s Aerobic Compost Tea can help by coating leaf surfaces with beneficial organisms that “crowd out” the bad guys. It’s especially good for preventing leaf spot diseases. (Our Aerobic Compost Tea is available Thursdays through Sundays, and must be used within 8 hours of purchase.) Serenade Garden Disease Control is another natural product that provides protection against a broad spectrum of fungal and bacterial diseases, and it won’t harm bees or other beneficial insects. Actinovate is another highly effective, natural fungicide that’s completely safe to use. Actinovate is 100% non-toxic to everything except fungi so it won’t hurt mammals, birds, fish or even insects. Actinovate is ideal for treating lawn problems like Take All Root Rot and Brown Patch, but it can be used to treat fungal diseases of all plants- including organic edibles!
The average daily temperature in Austin in May is 85°F, and we typically get about 4.5” of rain. Sound great, doesn’t it? If only we could have an “average year” every year!
Collect rain water! Even in a dry year, we typically get at least a little rain in May, so why not save it for later in the summer? An average home uses over 50% of its water to maintain its landscape. A rain barrel can very quickly pay for itself – and plants love rainwater!
Consider replacing poorly adapted plants which have consistent disease and/or pest problems. Native and well-adapted plants, when planted correctly and in the right place and maintained properly, will rarely ever have pest or disease problems.