May is coming on strong, and we can expect some serious heat. Now is the time to prepare for the next stage in our yard and garden.
At month’s end, spring vegetables start failing. It’s time to start thinking about whatever you’re going to put in next.
Most herbs do very well in a hot, dry climate, e.g., our summertime. Basils, oregano, mint, rosemary. A reminder: mint is a beautiful herb, great for flavoring iced tea, lemonade, and more adult drinks. But mint is not very well behaved. Unless controlled, it can take over your entire garden. Mint is better grown in containers.
If you’re planning for a late summer garden, you might want to look at the following: okra, southern peas (crowder, black-eyed, purple hull, zipper cream), watermelon, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and pumpkin. You can find detailed planting, growing, and harvesting information here:
Remember the harvest. Beans, squash, and cucumbers while they are young and tender. If you’ve got bugs eating your crops, take the action that does the least harm. Stink bugs and leaf-footed bugs can be flipped off the plant into a tin of soapy water. It kills them instantly. Spraying upwards under leaves will rid plants of aphids, spider mites, and other pets.
If your garden is like most gardens in the area, birds and squirrels are already after your tomatoes and other veggies. Plastic netting works. As does wrapping each ripening fruit with a piece of light groundcover material. However, I’ve found the best way is to pick the fruit at first blush (or even just before first blush) and let it ripen inside.
Birds don’t especially like tomatoes. They’re after the water inside the tomato. If you keep a birdbath filled with water nearby, the birds will most likely avoid attacking your tomatoes.
Be on the lookout for tomato hornworms. These fat green devils can destroy a whole plant in a day or two. And they’re hard to find because of their ideal camouflage. Take heart. They are highly visible under a black light at night. Get yourself a black light flashlight, wait until dark, and then inspect your plants with the light. The hornworms will stick our like a sore thumb. Then you can either pick them off the vine and destroy them. If you’re squeamish, use gloves.
Crepe Myrtles and other trees
About this time every year, our master gardener hotline gets calls about the black sooty substance on crepe myrtle leaves. The soot is caused by a mold growing on the surface of the leaf. The mold is growing from excretions of aphids living under the leaf above the sooty leaf. Despite being unpleasant to look at, the “soot” probably won’t harm the tree, but the aphids certainly can. Spraying a steady stream of water aimed under the leaves will dislodge the aphids. Subsequent rain or irrigation will wash the soot from the leaves.
An aside: please don’t “knuckle” your crepe myrtles. This is called “crepe murder,” it not only leaves the tree with ugly bulges, but it shortens the life of the tree. See Agrilife Extension Agent Robert “Skip” Richter’s video on pruning crepe myrtles here: https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/faqs/how-do-you-prune-a-crape-myrtle/
If you planted any type of tree last fall or winter, make sure you’re keeping them watered for at least a few more months to make sure they’re established.
Don’t bag your grass clippings. Most of the nutrients in any grass plant are in the leaves. When you clip and bag that blade of grass, you are permanently removing those nutrients. Then you need to replace the nutrients you just removed with expensive fertilizers. Use a mulching lawnmower and leave the clippings on the lawn. The nutrients will return to the soil and provide free fertilizer for the yard.