Gardening in El Lago

Trowels & Tribulations in a Suburban Garden - April Issue

By: Donna J. Ward, Certified Texas Master Gardener (Note: This is a reprint of Donna’s article that appears in the La Ventana del Lago.

My fingers are crossed in hope that the cedar waxwings visit our BBB garden again this spring. The Savannah holly, centerpoint of the Birds/Butterflies/Bee garden is chock full of red berries much loved by the cedar waxwing. The tree is currently in a state of flux as it is dropping some yellow leaves, sporting red berries and clusters of tiny blossom buds getting ready to open. Although classified as an ‘evergreen’ – every leaf on every plant has a lifespan, and eventually succumbs to old age. This holly has been in the garden for close to 20 years and has performed similarly each spring.

The winter that made our landscapes suffer is finally over, and green sprouts that we thought were never going to arrive are out in full force. It’s time to plant – if you haven’t already done so. Seeds of heat tolerant annuals are looking for a spot in your flower beds. Marigolds, periwinkle, torenia and zinnia are just a few to consider. I recently checked with a local nursery, and if you ae looking for color, they are overflowing with potted penta, salvia, coleus, lantana, bougainvillea, dianthus and a gazillion more.

The soil should be sufficiently warmed by now to put in a few caladium bulbs. Our neighborhood has plenty of shady areas, and the whites and greens do best in the shade. The red and pink varieties can take some sun. In fact they need a little sun, but not too much. On the subject of bulbs, aren’t you just fascinated by rain lilies? They just sit there; seemingly doing nothing and suddenly after a brief shower a long-stemmed delicate bloom appears as if by magic. Plant some rain lilies this month.

Did you by chance purchase or did someone gift you with a shamrock in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day? If it’s not happy living on the windowsill; find a semi-shady spot in the yard and give it a new lease on life. Don’t be disappointed when it vanishes this summer, it will reappear when cooler weather returns and perform into spring. The green oxalis produce delicate white blossoms and the purple variety produce pink blossoms. Also known as a false shamrock, it is a rhizomatous herbaceous garden plant in our locale. The trifoliate leaves resemble a shamrock and can be green to variegated to deep maroon in color. The leaves close up at night or when disturbed. The 5-petaled flowers bloom in clusters in spring on stems held above the plant and also close at night.

If your azaleas have finished their spring performance, help them to recuperate their strength by feeding them now and every 30 days through the month of June. If they need a haircut, do it shortly after the blossoms have faded. If you wait too long to prune you’ll remove the ‘bloom wood,’ and next spring when your neighbor’s plants are showing off, yours will be sulking.

Give the St. Augustine a feeding now. If you fertilize before it has been mowed twice you’re feeding cold weather weeds and they don’t need any help from anyone. Because of my affiliation with the Galveston County AgriLife Extension Agency, I can’t promote a particular product, but for the past few years I have been having good luck with an organic brand whose NPK numbers are 6.2.4. and comes in a green bag. I’ve had good results using this product not only on the St. Augustine, but also on shrubbery, trees, flower beds and potted plants.

Any new trees you planted this past fall or winter should be showing new growth. Don’t forget to apply a generous layer of mulch over the root area. They will grow considerably faster and will experience less stress than those who are not mulched. Mulch controls weeds; moderates soil temperature and helps to retain moisture – an important function especially in the hot and dry months of the year.

We’re just about down to the wire in the vegetable planting department, but beans, cucumbers, squash, and southern peas can still go in the garden. Okra won’t even germinate until the soil is warm, so it’s ready now for seeds of this gumbo essential veggie. Eggplant and pepper transplants need to go in ASAP. It’s too late for tomato transplants unless you can find some really large specimens.

I don’t think we will be looking for something to do this month – there’s plenty to get done in the garden. First thing we need to dig up is motivation!

Did you know that Trowels & Tribulations is published on the city site on the first of the month? Under Our Community you will find Trowels & Tribulations listed.

Savannah Holly Berries