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Linda Crum, Master GardenerMay 13, 2021Updated: May 13, 2021 5: 03 p.m.
Daylilies are a beautiful addition to any garden. Choose them in May when blooming.Photo courtesy Linda Crum
April has given us some fabulous weather but the heat is coming! To lessen heat stress on plants that the summer will bring, replenish mulch in flower and vegetable beds as needed. A thick layer of mulch will deter weeds, keep the soil moist and moderate the soil temperature. Two types of mulch that work well are native mulch and pine needles. Do not use dyed mulch!
As climbing roses finish their spring bloom, remove any dead or weak canes. By removing older canes, the rose will be encouraged to put on new growth. Train the canes horizontally so that the rose will produce more flowers. Dead head repeat blooming roses throughout the growing season. Thrips can ruin the blooms on many of the roses. Thrips tend to like many-petaled roses.
May is a good time to choose daylilies (Hemerocallis) in bloom. Choose varieties that are resistant to daylily rust caused by a fungus, Puccinia hemerocallidis, introduced to our country in the year 2000. Easily diagnosed, the foliage is unsightly and has visible red-brown spores of the fungus. According to Dr. Larry Barnes, retired plant pathologist with Texas A&M University, to control rust, cut back the foliage and spray with Neem oil. Make sure that the Neem oil gets down into the crown of the plant. He said that several applications may be necessary (once per week). Clean up the old foliage and get it out of the garden and into the trash.
Finish pruning azaleas this month. Feed them with cottonseed meal or an organic fertilizer. Keep azaleas well irrigated and mulched to lessen stress which can make them susceptible to pests. New varieties such as Encore and Deja Bloom will bloom more than once a year.
Set out transplants of summer-flowering annuals such as cosmos, portulaca, angelonia, scaevola, gomphrena, torenia, melampodium, vinca and cleome. Gomphrena fireworks is one of my favorite annuals. Give it some room. Cut off the flowers of transplants when you plant them so that energy goes into root development first. Direct seed zinnia and sunflower this month. Zinnia seed requires light for germination so cover lightly. Keep the soil moist until seeds germinate.
Vegetables to plant include eggplant, muskmelon (cantaloupe), okra, southern peas, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and watermelon. Summer and winter squash and peppers can also be planted, but get them in as early as possible. Harvest onions and potatoes as the foliage yellows. Side dress tomato plants with a slow release fertilizer. Continue to foliar feed them weekly. Pick tomatoes when the first blush of pink appears. They will ripen indoors at room temperature. Store tomatoes at room temperature to maintain flavor.
Lawn maintenance involves frequent mowing and infrequent watering. Leave St. Augustine lawns at least 3 inches long-4 inches in the shade. The longer grass blade will promote root growth deeper in the soil. Sharpen the mower blade monthly so that a clean cut of the grass blade is obtained. Most lawns are over-watered—an inch a week is enough. According to Dr. Doug Welch of Texas A&M University, the number one mistake made by gardeners is over-watering. By top-dressing lawns with ¼ to ½ inch compost, less irrigation is needed. Over-irrigation encourages fungal diseases like take-all patch.
Examine plants for insects and disease. Most pests can be washed off with a blast of water from the hose. Scale can be controlled with horticultural oil - light-weight summer oil. Neem oil, which has fungicidal as well as insecticidal properties, can be used on powdery mildew, aphids, mites, whiteflies, beetles and scale. Read and follow the directions when using any pesticide. And use pesticides only when indicated - do not use a pesticide when you do not have a problem. Most insects (97 percent) are either beneficial or cause no damage.
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