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Gardening for Birds

By Kathryn Courtney
   I was sitting in my swing yesterday evening watching the birds. There were Cardinals, Mockingbirds, Inca Doves and the ever present Sparrows. I have to admit to a fondness for the Sparrows. They are very busy birds.  They were flying from trees to shrubs to plants and back to trees. Their antics were vastly entertaining so I stayed outside for quite awhile. As I sat in my swing I realized I was slowly unwinding and relaxing from a very stressful day. Watching birds, I decided, was a huge improvement over pharmaceuticals for stress relief. Bird watching is free, easy and there is no insurance to deal with. Making your backyard bird friendly is very easy to do. Birds require 4 things to be happy: shelter and nesting space, a source of water, food and a pesticide and herbicide free yard.
     Providing nesting and shelter places are probably already done in your yard. Most gardens already have trees and shrubs that provide nesting and shelter for birds. My Cardinals love nesting in the very large yesterday, today and tomorrow bushes. A majority of our birds will always nest in trees. Dense shrubs and vines also provide nesting areas. Large climbing roses make great shelter and nesting spots.  Antique roses also have hips in the fall that provide food for birds. Many trees and shrubs serve this dual purpose. Oaks and pecans provide both shelter and nuts, cedars provide berries and thick shelter and crabapples and mulberries provide fruit. Some birds that visit our area are cavity nesters. These are the birds that will use hollow spots in trees or birdhouses for nesting. Chickadees, Finches and Wrens are all cavity nesters. If you want to provide houses for these birds there are a few things to look for. The door of the birdhouse should be no bigger than 1& 1/4 inches wide to prevent predators from entering. The door should also be facing away from high traffic areas in the garden. A good birdhouse needs easy access for cleaning at the end of breeding season. After you clean your birdhouse you can either store it or put it back out for sheltering birds in winter. We have found birds will use all kinds of things for nests here at Maas. They love empty hanging baskets with coco liners, trellises, fences, and even empty pots.
Large Shrubs or Trees
Climbing Roses with Hips
Bird Houses
     Closely related to providing shelter is providing food. As I mentioned before many plants provide both. Some sources of food are bushes and trees with berries or nuts, flowers and grasses with seed heads, or best yet, gardens and flowers with insects. These food sources will feed the birds almost year round. Make sure all the plants used for bird food are organic. It is important, really, that your whole backyard is organic. Plant an abundance of different kinds of food plants in small drifts around the garden. Let a few of your annuals go to seed every time you deadhead your flowers to provide seed for your birds. In winter, when food is scarce, put bird feeders out. For larger seeds like sunflower use a platform feeder. Tube feeders are good for smaller seed such as nyger or thistle seeds. Hummingbird feeders can provide an extra source of food for your hummers. If you use hummingbird feeders, skip the red dye in the sugar water. It’s not needed and can be bad for the birds. Make sure feeders are hung in protected areas away from predators. Keep them clean and full of organic seed. Birds prefer morning feeding, so if you can provide a southeastern exposure for your feeder that’s best.
Grasses
Let flowers go to seed.
Bird Feeders
Berries
Nectar plants for hummingbirds
Hummingbird Feeders
  The next requirement is a source of clean water for your garden. You can add anything from a shallow dish or pot saucer to a fancy fountain to make the birds happy. Birdbaths need to be safe and accessible to the birds. Placing the bath near trees or shrubs gives birds an easy getaway from predators. Keeping the water depth 2 to 3 inches deep is safe for most birds. Add a flat rock in the deepest part of the bath for small birds. Baths can often be hung in trees for safety. Refill the birdbath every other day or sometimes daily in the summer. Mosquito Bits can be used to keep the mosquitoes under control and the bits are bird safe.
Hanging birdbaths can help with predators.
     Last but not least, please keep synthetic pesticides and herbicides out of your garden. Pesticides kill insects, an important source of food for birds, and poison seeds and berries. They also poison water sources. There are many organic alternatives to these synthetic chemicals. A strong spray of water can knock a lot of bugs off of your plants or just pick bugs off with gloved fingers and dump them in a bucket of soapy water. There are also natural products that can be used on bugs, use these products as a last resort.  Just because a product is organic doesn’t mean its not harmful. Natural products such as corn gluten, agricultural vinegar and molasses can be used for weed control.Cinnamon is a good selective weed killer for crabgrass. We have many organic products to control bugs and weeds here at Maas. If you are having a problem in your garden, come see us. We can help you with organic solutions. Keep your yard organic not only for the birds but also for your pets and children. More and more pesticides and herbicides are being proven carcinogenic and harmful to people and the environment.
     Birds are a joy to have in the garden. They eat bugs off vegetable and flower plants, mockingbirds chase squirrels, and watching them provides free relaxing entertainment. Here at Maas we have feeders, houses, birdbaths and all the plants you need to make your yard a bird paradise. Come see us and we will help you find the best plants and bird accessories for your garden. Also, check out our Backyard Bird Plants list for more ideas.

My Favorite Backyard Birds

By Kathryn Courtney
We are very lucky to live here on the gulf coast. Sometimes it has it’s ups and downs as we found out last year but for growing things and watching wildlife you can’t beat it. We live in a spring and fall migration path for thousands of birds. Our spring migration is in April and May and includes many colorful birds that we don’t usually see. Buntings, Tanagers and Warblers can come through in Spring. These birds are just passing through and don’t stay long.
Our fall migration is a different story.It lasts from August through November and some of these birds stay year round. We see many water and shore birds come through at this time of year. Some are here even later in the winter. It is the fall birds that need our help with food, water, and shelter as they come through.  We also have many birds that make their homes here year round. Here are some of my favorite yard birds and some suggestions on what to do to get them to stay.
Cardinals – These are large crested finch type birds. The males are bright red andfemales are a mixture of brown, tan and red. Cardinals forage in trees, shrubs, and on the ground and have a varied diet of seeds, fruits, snails and insects. Cardinals build their nests in trees and large shrubs. Their nests are built of twigs, leaves, grass and other found natural materials and are usually no higher than 5 feet off the ground. Dense shrubs are best for their nesting. Make sure you have plenty of food and materials for nest building in your yard. Cardinals love sunflower seeds in winter when food is scarce. They have a wonderful high pitched little cheep that lets you know they are around.
Sparrows – There are many types of sparrows in our area. I know most people think ofthem as a nuisance but to me they are the most entertaining birds we have. Sparrows are mostly gray, brown and black in different combinations. I have seen these birds described as gregarious and I think this fits them perfectly. They nest and feed in groups and are very social. They eat seeds, grains and larvae of many insect species.They can nest almost anywhere including eaves, masonry, ivy and bushes. Sparrows prefer smaller seeds in winter when food is scarce. Groups of sparrows in your backyard are a joyful sight.
Carolina Chickadee and Tufted Titmouse – These birds are usually winter visitors. Chickadees are gray and white with a prominent black cap on the top of their heads. Chickadees eat insects, spiders, seeds and fruit and are very efficient foragers.These birds are cavity nesters and will use a bird house if proper nesting places can’t be found. If you do have chickadees in your bird house, keep your distance. They will hiss and attack intruders to their nest. In winter feed them smaller seed in a hanging feeder. The tufted titmouse is a small bird with gray on the upper parts and pale gray and rust brown on bottom and flanks. They are distinguished by a gray cap and crest like a cardinals. They have the same nesting habits as the chickadee and eat berries, acorns, seeds, insects and snails. They also prefer smaller seeds from a hanging feeder in winter. Titmice love to eat hanging upside down.
Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Mockingbirds – You can’t write a favorite bird article without including the state birdof Texas. Mockingbirds are gray on top with a paler gray underneath. They have a thin black eye mask and black and white wings. Mockingbirds eat insects, fruit, snails and small vertebrates. They can forage in trees, shrubs and on the ground. They can be aggressive. I have seen them attack both of my cats. One cat has a bald spot on its head from mockingbirds.They have large cup like nests built in low trees consisting of twigs and grass.  In the winter leave out dried fruit, apples or pomegranates on a platform feeder for the mockingbirds.
Doves – We have several types of doves here. Some of the most common are morning doves, Inca doves, and Eurasian collared doves. We sometimes see white wing doves passing through. Doves are ground feeding birds and primarily eat seeds. You can try platform feeders for doves, but in my experience they just throw the seed on the ground and eat from there. Doves range in color from soft browns to grays. The collared dove has a black ring around it’s neck. Doves will nest in almost anything. Trees, shrubs, buildings, flower pots, and hanging baskets are all nesting places for doves. I’ve had Inca doves nesting in a hanging planter for several years. Their soft cooing sound is so peaceful and soothing.
Mourning Dove
Inca Dove
Hummingbirds – Hummingbirds begin their migration through our area beginning in August. Some hummingbirds will over winter in our area. They sip nectar from many different kinds of plants. Plants with tubular shaped red flowers are a favorite along with pentas, zinnias, and many others. We have three types of hummingbirds in our area. Ruby- throated, Rufous and Black-chinned. I seem to have mostly Ruby-throated in my yard. To keep hummingbirds around make sure you have plenty of nectar flowers or a hummingbird feeder. Hummingbirds also need thin branches to perch on and shallow water to drink. Pound for pound hummingbirds are one of the most aggressive species on earth. This can be witnessed by the hummingbird wars at your feeders
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbird

Summer Dreaming

By: Deb Pavlosky

 

 I imagine that not very many people get to live in their dreams, even just temporarily, but that’s exactly what I got to do this summer.  A planned family reunion in Germany turned into an opportunity to take our kids on an adventure in the EU.   We took some time narrowing our destinations (over the better part of a year) and the sights we would choose to see and we ended up with an itinerary that included The Netherlands, Italy and Germany.  We had approximately one week in each locale and we took advantage of our time in each spot.
For the next few newsletters I will be sharing a little international plant-spiration from each locale.  Do with it what you wish; I came home thoroughly inspired to try some new plantings (once our weather cools) and to travel more too.
It was very hot for most of our trip and The Netherlands was no exception.  Amsterdam and surrounding areas recorded some of the hottest temperatures ever. There were no fans left on the shelves and no one has AC (including our AirBnB).  But, the nights would cool down much more than they do here at home.  The cooler night climate and generally cooler climate year round allows their plantings to flourish more than ours.  That’s my theory, anyway.
While in The Netherlands, we actually stayed outside of Amsterdam in the village of Edam.  Edam is a very picturesque place with canals lined with small boats of all kinds, charming little front yards filled to the brim with plants and wonderful little shops and cafes and cheese markets.  Just imagine sweet cobblestone homes with canals all around and cobblestone streets lined with dahlias and hydrangeas and snowball viburnum with butterfly bush and geraniums and petunias and scaevola and black-eyed susans too.  Oh! and lets not forget the water lilies in the canals.
Edam
Edam Canal
The canals, oh the canals!  What a way of life that must be – to hop on your boat to head to work or school or shop.  I am incredibly jealous.  But, what was truly special about the canals became more evident at dusk.  At dusk, the calm waters turned into magical mirrors with the reflections of clouds and nearby homes and surrounding greenery.  I know my pulse rate slowed and my eyes lit up every time I walked the streets along the canals and this was especially true at dusk.  Honestly, I can totally imagine the Dutch Masters painting at any number of spots in this little area.
Most people in The Netherlands seem to garden in some way even though most homes have very small plots.  There were window boxes and pots overflowing with some combination of geraniums, petunias, scaevola, mandevilla and more. If there was a front yard, it was chock full of blooming plants.   The most beautiful shrubs I saw in Edam were altheas that had been grafted with three different bloom colors – they were just absolutely fabulous.  I have put a bug in the ears of the powers that be here and I am hoping we can have some of those in the future.
In Amsterdam proper, even the house boats had plantings overflowing with blooms.  There are currently around 2500 houseboats in Amsterdam.  There are no more open spots for them, so that is it.  I saw so many pots with succulents, roses, mixed plantings with geraniums and small trees as well.
One thing in unending supply in Amsterdam were bicycles.  There were bikes upon bikes upon bikes everywhere.  Honestly, how do you find your bike when it’s parked among hundreds???  And, we learned that if there was ever an altercation involving bicyclists, one bike would invariably end up in the canals.  We actually saw them pulling bikes out at one area.  Our driver told us that he had sent a few bikes into the Amstel himself.
Homes in Amsterdam tend to be very narrow – property taxes used to be determined by the width of a home.  No matter how narrow, many people find space to garden in small containers and in rooftop settings.  Many homes in Amsterdam also have courtyards and shared gardening spaces that cannot be seen from the street.  Oh, I would love to secretly tour those little gardens.
So, there is no mention of tulips, because it just wasn’t the time for them.  I am most definitely going back some day while the tulips are blooming.  I can only imagine the magic that must be.
So, here I am, dreaming of going back and how to make my landscape feel a little dutch.  Check back next month to enjoy plant-spiration from Italy.

 

Let’s Talk About September 2018

By: Pat Cordray
This month might not be cooler but to me the month of September stands for “cooler temperatures ahead”.  We are almost at the end of the heat and there is hope, although small, that we could actually have a “fall”.  September also brings in a new gardening season.  This is the kind of gardening with the word “fall” in front of it.  So, we get to plant cooler weather vegetables,  fall flowers, wildflowers and other early spring flowers, and hummingbird nectar plants, yay!  We still need to talk about watering, again.  Wow!! That’s a lot of gardening. Let’s get started.
Durango Marigold

September gardening includes: watering, vegetable gardening, fall flowers, growing flowers from seed, and plants for hummingbirds.

First on our list is watering.  You know you need to water, you know the plants need water.  Sooooo, water.  Once we get cooler temperatures you can back off, a little, but as long as it is hot and dry watering

Floral Lace Dianthus

is essential.  New plantings are the most at risk.  Their roots are confined to a small area, so they are dependent on you to supply water right where the roots are.  Just enough water to keep the roots moist is enough, there should not be water running down the street. Once established, sprinklers are fine.

If your garden isn’t ready, that’s okay, it’s not too late.  Get your garden ready now, its time to add a few more cool weather vegetables. Fall vegetable gardening includes the following plants; Beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards, cucumbers, mustard greens, squash, Swiss chard, and turnips. Don’t over plant your garden. Sun, water, well draining soil and a little fertilizer are musts for success in the garden.  Plant what you love to eat.
Snapdragon

Planting fall flowers is a great way to freshen up your landscape.  Many of your summer favorites will still be blooming like crazy, so add fall flowers around these plants.  If you have lost plants replace them with fall flowers instead of summer color.   Don’t fill in all the holes right away, leave spaces for other cool weather flowers as they become available.  First up are, lobelia, marigold, dianthus, celosia, chrysanthemums, alyssum, calendula, petunia, stock, and snapdragons.  I can see great fall color is on the way!  If you love snapdragons, now is the time to plant, don’t wait until spring, do it now and you’ll have flowers until it gets too hot next year.  A little later in the month violas, ornamental kale & cabbage, phlox and bellis are usually available.  Lots of pretty options for your garden.

 If you are interested in planting flowers from seed, September is the time.  Plant seeds

Linden and her bluebonnet friends

for bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, coreopsis, larkspur, gaillardia, purple coneflower, gaura, black-eyed Susans, poppies, nasturtiums, hollyhocks, and sweet peas.   Once you make your selection of seed don’t store them in the car, it is too hot and will damage your seed.  Read the seed packet and follow the instructions on how to plant.  Inspect your seeds before you plant; broken seeds will not germinate.  I like to soak my seeds overnight in warm water (not hot)  to speed up germination.  Plant your seed in the ground or in containers.  Raised beds and well draining containers work best.   Mix a

Bluebonnet

little worm castings in the soil where you are planting your seed and sprinkle a little Wildroot Organic, a blend of mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial bacteria, this helps the seedling with getting water and nutrients.  Once the seeds are planted water gently, you don’t want to wash your seeds away,  and keep the soil moist.  Once the seedling has its true leaves it is time to fertilize.  Microlife is great for fertilizing any of your plants and it won’t burn your seedlings.

 Have you noticed all the hummingbirds in our area?  If you haven’t maybe you should plant for them.  They migrate through our area August – October and they could use our help.  Hummingbirds have to visit a ton of flowers to get the nectar they need each day.  Make it easier for them and plant flowers in drifts, they won’t have to fly too far in between flowers.  Flowers like: lantana, coneflower, zinnia, salvias/sage, milkweed, pentas, porterweed, and shrimp plant,

Fire Bush

Texas betony usually have tons of blooms this time of year.  Other plants to consider are russelia, cigar plant, flame acanthus, canna, abutilon,  cestrum, fire bush,  bird of paradise, cape honeysuckle, cypress vine (well maybe not this one), flame vine, passion vine, trumpet creeper, bottlebrush, butterfly bush, pineapple guava, hibiscus, lavender, orchid tree, pink powder puff, and Texas sage.  All of these hummingbird friendly plants are easy to grow, have tons of blooms and can easily fit in most landscapes. Before you plant check the mature size of the plants, some of these can be quite large.   Of all of these plants, milkweed adds a little more.  Milkweed is almost always covered with aphids.  Some gardeners wouldn’t want it in their garden.  But, because milkweed has aphids it attracts other insects that eat aphids and those insects provide protein for hummingbirds.  So, those aphids are a good thing.  Finally, if you want hummingbirds, or any wildlife, in your garden don’t use insecticides, herbicides, or any chemicals.  Keep your garden safe for our bird friends and it will be safe for you too.

Enjoy your garden,

Pat

 

Preparing Your Garden for Fall

 

The month of August is the doldrums of the gardening season. It’s so hot all you can do is water and hope your yard survives. Sitting in the air conditioning, looking at the garden out my window, is my favorite August garden pastime. Because it’s so hot, it is easy to forget that fall is just around the corner. Fall gardening on the Gulf Coast is a joy and there is a lot to do in the month of August to get ready. It’s time to think about garden cleanup, pruning your fall blooming perennials, preparing your soil for fall planting and planning your fall and winter gardens.

 

Admittedly, cleanup is not the most glamorous job in the garden, but it is very satisfying in its own way. Getting rid of the raggedy leftovers of your spring annuals and vegetables is the first step in cleanup. If you have your own compost pile, compost these plants. Pull the summer weeds that try to take over every garden this time of year. If you are not planning on sowing seeds in your garden put down a weed preventer. Weed preventers stop weed seeds from germinating in your soil. This small step in the cleanup process helps tremendously with weeding problems. Next, cleanup any garden debris around perennials that could be hiding garden pests. This helps tidy your garden and cuts down on summer insect pests and fungus problems.

 

Once cleanup has been accomplished, it’s time to trim your perennials. Perennials such as roses, pentas, lantana, salvia and many others benefit from a good pruning. As summer wears on these perennials can get tall and leggy and stop blooming. Pruning these plants gets them back into shape and gives them a second round of good blooms.

 

Prune Perennials

Trimming perennials in August gives them the chance to grow and put on new blooms before the weather gets too cold. Not all perennials should be pruned. Azaleas and camellias, to name a few, have already started the budding process and pruning these plants will cut off the coming spring blooms. If you are unsure about trimming a plant, ask us at the nursery. We can tell you if it’s okay or look it up for you if we don’t know. As you are trimming your perennials, check for plants that didn’t perform as expected or didn’t do well in the spot where they were planted. Think about moving these plants or pulling them out all together to make room for plants that will do better in that spot.

 

Cleanup and trimming perennials makes it much easier to do soil preparation in anticipation of fall planting. Add a layer of good compost to your garden to add back organic matter and nutrients that have been used up through the summer. Compost also adds beneficial fungi that help the plants in your garden absorb the nutrients you have added. You can add an organic fertilizer with a higher phosphate amount to speed up the blooming of your trimmed perennials.  Make sure the fertilizer is organic because chemical fertilizers can burn your plants, especially in the hot summer.  After these steps are done, put down a 2 inch layer of mulch to deter more weeds and help your soil retain

Leaf Mold Compost

moisture.

 

You now have a nice clean garden slate. Look at spaces left by old annuals and perennials and decide what fall plants you would like there.  If you have kept your garden organic, a great choice for these spaces is fall vegetables.  Our Gulf coast climate allows for a second gardening season that most of the rest of the country doesn’t have.  Grow greens, lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower and many other cool weather veggies for the winter. You can start these vegetables from seed in 4 inch pots or plant transplants directly in the garden. Remember that it is still pretty hot and protect seedlings and transplants from direct sun. There are also many beautiful fall blooming annuals to plant around your vegetables.

 

Winter Leeks with Toadflax and Marigolds

Fall is my favorite time to garden here. The weather is temperate, most of the mosquitoes are gone and even the air smells different. Get your garden ready now and you can sit back, relax and enjoy your fall garden season with no worries. It will be well worth it, I promise.

 

Fall Vegetable Gardening

It’s very hot. I just went outside for 5 minutes and that was too much. It’s not terrible in the shade though, so sitting on my porch is still doable. I miss my gardening. Watering things just to keep them alive is not very satisfying. Just when it seems like there’s no hope, along comes fall vegetable gardening season. We are very lucky here on the gulf coast. We have 2 gardening seasons and if you start early enough, planting with seeds or vegetable transplants is the way to go.

Lettuce

Swiss Chard

Plant a second crop of spring vegetables by choosing short season varieties. Bush green beans, cherry tomatoes, small cucumbers and short season summer squash are just some of the vegetables you can start now for an extra crop during early fall. Look at the seed packets to find the varieties with the shortest time to maturity. This will give you a better chance of having more to harvest before temperatures get too cold.  Early squash and bush green beans do especially well in the fall because the pests and mildew that plague the garden in spring are not as bad in late summer. Give your seedlings and transplants extra water and some shade if you can during August as the temperatures are still very hot. As your plants mature, the temperatures will slowly drop allowing for your plants to flourish and provide a good harvest. Start cherry tomato seeds in 4 inch pots with Ladybug seed germination mix and place them in a slightly shaded area such as a porch. This gives the seedlings some protection from the worst heat. Healthy Harvest fertilizer contains Actinovate which fights damping off of your seedlings. Sprinkle a little on top of your seeds before you water them.  Squash, bush beans and short season cucumbers go directly in the ground. Sprinkle a half inch layer of seed starting mix or worm castings on top of the ground where the seeds will be planted. This helps the seeds germinate and the roots can get established directly in the ground. If you have a mist setting on your watering wand use it for your seeds. The soft spray will not disturb the fragile roots that are just getting established.

Rainbow Colors Carrots

Radish

Now for the cold weather crops. Root crop seeds can be planted now. These veggies don’t transplant very well so plant them directly in the ground or container where you want them to grow. Carrots, beets, onion seeds, turnips and radishes are good root crops to start now. Radishes take no time at all to mature making them a great veggie to plant with kids. Plus there is the fun of getting to pull them out of the ground. There are many brassica vegetables to start now. Broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, and cabbage are just a few. The fun of doing this type of vegetable from seed is the variety. There are the regular varieties and then there are some with great different shapes and colors. Romanesco, purple cauliflower and kohlrabi and frilly kale are some of the different varieties to grow. Germinate these seeds in a kitchen window or on the porch away from the hot sun. If the seedlings get too hot the vegetables can turn bitter. Greens are my favorite fall veggie. Fresh spinach is very hard to beat. Heat tolerant varieties of lettuce and spinach don’t mind the cold either, so you can expect to be harvesting until spring or early summer of next year. Mustard greens, endives, arugula, Swiss chard and different greens mixes are only a few of the choices available. The diversity of the greens family is amazing. Start  greens seeds where they are going to grow. I love growing greens in containers for ease and for decoration. Greens planted in a container can be as beautiful as any flower. Try one of the chards such as bright lights on your front porch. Your neighbors will be jealous.

Romanesco

Get your fall garden seeds started now. Don’t miss the fall gardening season!

 

For a fall vegetable garden planting guide go to Galveston County Fall Vegetable Guide

 

Let’s Talk About August, 2018

By: Pat Cordray

 

Just saying the word “August” makes me think HOT and steamy, like hot asphalt, I can even smell it. This heat seems unrelenting, but we know it will eventually end. Don’t we??? August isn’t all bad. Really, it’s not. August is the beginning of our fall vegetable gardening. If you like to eat fresh veggies, now is the time to get ready. First, though, we have to talk about watering, it is still at the top of the list. Then flowers, blooming flowers to provide nectar for the hummingbirds as they migrate through our area. That’s not a bad list: a little water and food for us and hummingbirds.

 

August gardening includes watering (again), vegetables and blooming flowers:

 

Water, water, water. You know that plants need water, so water. If you are growing vegetables and or fruit, regular water is essential. Vegetables and fruits are made up of mostly water, so if you don’t water regularly it affects your produce. Irregular watering can cause you to have less fruit and poor-quality fruits (includes tomatoes cracking). Who wants that? While you are watering your vegetables and fruit, make sure your other plants have a drink too.

Let’s talk about veggies now. Pick veggies you like to eat and that do well for a fall and winter garden. Leafy greens, beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and root crops are a few of the veggies to plant this time of year. Check the chart below to help you plant at the right time.

Mustard Greens

Cherry Tomatoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     When to Plant Fall and Winter Vegetables
Vegetable
Seed/Transplant
When to Plant
Beans, Bush
Seed
September
Beans, Lima
Seed
Mid-August – September
Beets
Seed
September – Mid-October
Broccoli
Transplant
September – January
Brussels Sprouts
Transplant
September – January
Cabbage
Seed
August – November
Cabbage
Transplant
*September – November
Carrots
Seed
September – November
Cauliflower
Transplant
September – January
Collards
Seed
September – December1
Collards
Transplant
September – January
Cucumber
Transplant
September – January
Garlic
Clove
Late September –
Mid November
Kohlrabi
Transplant
Mid-September – November
Leek
Seed or Transplant
October – November
Lettuce, Leaf
Seed or Transplant
Late September – December
Mustard Green
Seed or Transplant
September – November
Onion
Transplant
*November
Peas, snap
Seed
Late September-October
January – Early February
Peas, Southern
Seed
August 1 – late August
Potatoes Irish
Seed Potatoes
mid- August – late August
*February
Radicchio
Seed
Late September – October
Spinach
Seed or Transplant
October – November
Squash, summer
Transplant
Early September
Squash, winter
Seed or Transplant
Mid-August
Swiss Chard
Seed or Transplant
September – October
Tomatoes
Transplant
mid July – mid-August
Turnips
Seed
September – November
January – February
This list was taken from Kathy Huber’s article in the Houston Chronicle, Aug. 14, 2009

 

If this is your first garden, don’t make too much work for yourself. Start small and grow the size of your garden each year. Before you build your garden. Look for a spot in your yard that drains well, has full sun, vegetables need 6 hours to full sun, and near a water source. Once you have picked a spot, you will need good soil. Get the best soil you can. Good soil makes for better vegetable plants and vegetables, with fewer problems. If you can’t afford to raise your bed to the proper height at first, about 6 – 12″, you can always add soil to your garden each season until you get the height you need. Then there is the water, read the watering paragraph above, again.

 

Don’t over plant your garden. Give your plants plenty of room for more production and air flow. Plant tall vegetable plants so that they don’t block the sun for the lower growing ones. Feed them with an organic fertilizer like Microlife, feed them so they can feed you.

 

Now, how about those blooming plants? Want to attract hummingbirds to your garden? Plant for them. Hummingbirds migrate through this area August – October. Here are a few plants that attract hummingbirds:

Flame acanthus, Perennial shrub, part sun to sun, 4-6’tall & wide, Blooms summer – fall

Turk’s Cap

Hamelia, Shrub, Part shade to sun, 3-8’+tall & wide, Blooms spring – fall
Texas betony, Perennial, Part sun to sun, 14-18″ tall & wide, Blooms late spring – early fall
Turk’s cap, Shrub, Part sun to sun, 2-9’tall & 3-6’wide, Blooms late spring – early fall
Shrimp plant, Perennial, Light shade to part sun, Blooms repeatedly
Pineapple sage, Perennial, Sun, 3-4’tall & wide, Blooms spring – early winter
Firecracker fern, Perennial, Part sun to sun, 2-6′ tall & wide, Blooms late spring – early fall
Cigar plant, Perennial, Part sun to sun, 2’+ tall & wide, Blooms repeatedly
Almond verbena, Shrub, Sun, 6-15’tall & wide, Blooms mid spring – mid fall
Bee balm, Perennial, Part sun to sun, 2-4’+ tall & 1-2’wide, Blooms summer
Bottle brush, Shrub, Sun, 6-15′ tall & wide, Blooms late spring – fall
Cardinal flower, Perennial, Part Shade to sun, 2-3’tall & 1’wide, Blooms summer – fall
Cone flower, Perennial, Part sun to sun, 2-3′ tall & wide, Blooms summer – fall
Coral vine, Perennial vine, Sun, 20′ spread, Blooms Spring – fall
Cypress vine, Annual vine, Part sun to sun, 15-20″ spread, Blooms late spring – early fall
Duranta, Shrub, Sun, 15-25’tall & 6-10’wide, Blooms summer – fall

Esperanza, Shrub, Sun, 25’tall & 10-20’wide, Blooms spring – winter

Gay Feather

Gaillardia, Perennial, Sun, 1-2’tall & wide, Blooms spring – fall
Gay feather, Perennial, Part shade to sun, 5’tall & 1.5’wide, Blooms summer – fall
Gaura, Perennial, Sun, 2-4’tall & wide, Blooms late spring – fall
Lantana, Perennial, Sun, Varies, Blooms spring – frost
Mexican bush sage, Perennial, Sun, 3-4’tall & 3-6’wide, Blooms early summer – fall
Mexican flame vine, Perennial vine, Sun, 8-10’spread, Blooms spring – fall
Milkweed, Perennial,Sun, 3-4’tall & 1.5’wide, Blooms spring – fall
Pentas, Tender perennial, Bright light to sun, .5-3’tall &, Blooms spring – frost
Pineapple sage, Perennial, Sun, 3-4’tall & wide, Blooms spring – early winter
Porterweed, Perennial, Light shade to sun, 3-6’tall & wide, Blooms spring – winter
Red yucca, Perennial, Light shade to sun, 3-5’tall & 2-4’wide, Blooms spring – mid summer
Rock rose, Shrub, Part shade to sun, 5’tall & wide, Blooms spring – fall
Salvia, Perennial,Part shade to sun, varies, Blooms summer – fall
Yarrow, Perennial, Sun, 1-5’tall & wide, Blooms spring – fall

Get these plants in your garden now to help feed the hummers while they are here. Plant the smaller plants in clumps of 3 to 5. If you use feeders, keep clean and full.  Be still and patient then watch for their visit to your garden, I know you will love it.

Enjoy your garden,
Pat

Let’s Talk About July, 2018

By: Pat Cordray

Finally, we had a little rain in June. I think I heard my plants collectively breathe a sigh of relief.  I felt the same way.  It gave me a moment of heat relief, then the humidity hit.  July can bring its own gardening problems and joys. There are the usual summer time garden necessities like watering. Then there are the bugs, all kinds of bugs.  The most exciting part of July is that the blooms of so many summer perennials and annuals will be in high gear and what is prettier than that? So, let’s get busy.

 

July gardening includes watering, bugs and planting:

 

Incense Passion Vine

Again, this month watering has to be at the top of the to do list.  Before you water check the soil around the plant.  If it is newly planted, check the soil in the area closest to the plant (the roots will not be in the surrounding soil yet).  When checking the soil, you may notice that it is damp everywhere but closest to the plant.  That means the plant has used all of the water it can get to and it’s time to water.  In the summer months you may have to water these new plantings daily.  Water slowly all around your plant.  If you are unsure about how long it takes to water to keep the root ball moist, stop and check.  Dig into the soil and see how far down the soil is moist.  If you have only watered long enough to wet the top ½ inch, you’re not done, water a little longer.

 

Once the roots become more established you won’t have to water as often.  If you notice that the plant is wilted but the soil is damp, don’t water.  The plant is

Ruby Glow Passion Vine

conserving energy and will bounce right back when the sun goes down.  If it is still wilted in the morning go ahead and water.  The ideal time to water is in the early morning hours but if a plant needs water then by all means water it.

 

Spending time in your garden is the best way to stay on top of what your plants may need.  Whether it is water or help when pests attack.  If you are out there you will catch “it” before the plant dies or a pest has spread through your whole garden.  Summer, aka bug season, is a time of added stress for plants.  Some plants would prefer morning sun and afternoon shade, so our afternoon sun is a shocker.

 

I have written before about bad bugs like: mealy bugs, scales, spider mites, lace bugs, aphids, thrips, leaf miners, squash bugs, leaf rollers and whitefly, will the list ever end? I wanted to tell you about the good bugs.  The bugs that can make your gardening so much easier.  Some pollinate your plants and others help by eating, laying eggs in or on the bad bugs, mostly on their larvae.  Before you spray, consider that the spray will kill the good and the bad.  Instead of spraying why not plant for the good bugs so they can handle the problem bugs in your garden?  What kind of plants would attract these good bugs?  Consider planting parsley, dill, fennel, anise, lovage, chervil, sunflower, dandelion (this plant is definitely not the bad guy portrayed in ads for weed killers on TV), yarrow, tansy, marigold, zinnia, milk weed, lantana, passion vine or verbena.  These plants attract lady beetles(bugs), butterflies, bees, green lacewings, hover flies, milkweed assassin bugs, mealybug destroyers, moths and parasitic wasps.  Familiarize yourself with what the good bugs and their larvae look like, so you can distinguish the good from the bad.  This website is a good place to start to learn more about beneficials. Beneficials in the Garden, Galveston County Master Gardeners

 

For summer color, you know you want some, to replace fading spring color.  Try vinca, purslane, angelonia, zinnia, pentas, scaevola, salvia, Crossandra, coleus, Mexican heather, lantana, Portulaca, mandevilla, passion vines, firecracker fern, gomphrena, milkweed, melampodium, blue daze, and echinacea; all are just beautiful.

 

 

For shadier areas you can add torenia, coleus, mona lavender, ajuga, begonia, impatiens, jacobinia, shrimp plant, and Persian shield.  Color plants add beauty to your garden.

Feed these blooming plants to keep them healthy.  Use a granular food like Microlife 8-4-6 or use a liquid food like Microlife Maximum Blooms or Fox Farm Big Blooms, any of these fertilizers will do the trick.

 

Enjoy your garden,

Pat

A Little Something About Sun Exposure

By: Deb Pavlosky
Often times, when we are trying to help our customers select plants, we ask about sun exposure.  What is the sun exposure in the area?  I hear it and say it multiple times every work-day.  And, that’s because it’s important to know.  Before you can select plants for your home landscape/garden, one of the things you have to know is how much sun exposure you get in the areas you want to plant.
It sounds like a simple question, but often times the answer is very complex.  So, I hope you find this helpful…
First things first – Telling us the direction your home faces doesn’t give us the whole answer.  Yes, the sun rises in the East and sets in the West every single day, but we need more information than that your house faces southeast.  Is there a large tree that shades your whole yard most of the day?  Is the bed narrow and along the house and therefore shaded by the house most of the day?  We need you to actually look and see how many hours of sun you get and in what part of the day you get it.  Hours of sun – yes, it matters!

Plant Requirements:

Full sun – 6 or more hours of direct sunlight per day
Full sun + drought and heat tolerant – 6 or more hours of sunlight per day and it can probably handle our mid-day/afternoon summer sun
Part Sun – Between 3 and 6 hours of direct morning sunlight per day or filtered light all day
Part Shade – Between 3 and 6 hours of direct sunlight per day or filtered light all day, but needs protection from intense mid-day sun
Full Shade – Less than 3 hours of direct sun and needs protection from intense mid-day sun.  Many plants requiring full shade do well growing in filtered light, but can not take our mid-day intense summer sun at all.
Filtered Light – aka Dappled light, just refers to sunlight that is “filtered” by a shade tree or other plant or structure from above.  The plant gets some light, but never full-on direct sunlight.
Medium to Low Bright/Indirect Light – this typically refers to houseplants being grown indoors in bright light, but not being hit by direct sunlight through a window.

So, Let’s talk a little bit more about Full Sun:

Full Sun sounds brutal, but this is actually the amount of sun needed by most flowering/fruiting plants.  If a plant is labeled heat or drought tolerant, it can even handle mid-day to afternoon summer sun here!!!  If it’s not, it may still be ok (vegetables and citrus and roses and fruit trees will be just fine), but let’s hope you have full sun in the morning hours.  Some plants (and most people) need a little protection from our afternoon sun in the middle of the summer.  If you put a plant that needs part sun, part shade or full shade in a full sun location, that plant will probably burn and it most likely will not survive long.  So, in the converse, what happens if you put a plant that requires full sun in a less than full sun location?  Well, it will probably still grow, but it may not flower or fruit and may become very leggy as it tries to reach out to get the sun it needs.
So, here in lies the rub – You look at a plant’s tag to get information about the plant.  It says full sun, but does it really mean OUR full sun?  Sometimes not and this is where having a little plant knowledge and savvy goes a long way.  Many plants will grow here that will also grow in zones well to the north of us.  A good clue is to look at the zones on the tag to see how far north it grows.  The farther north the zones are, the more likely full sun really means full sun in the morning hours only here.  The farther south the zones go, the more likely you will have to protect it from freezing in the winter.  Of course, all generalizations are just that.  Ask questions if you aren’t sure.
As a rule of thumb, it’s always a good idea to gradually move plants from one sun exposure to another even if you know they can take it.  Any plant can experience shock if moved from part sun (where you have been hoarding it along the side of your house until you have time to plant it) to full sun.  Make this move gradually, over a period days, to give your plant some time to adjust.
And here’s another thing, it does not matter whether the hours of direct sun are sequential or if the plant gets direct sun at different times throughout the day.  Many times there are structures or trees or fences or something blocking the sun at some point during the day.  But, as long as your plant gets the required hours of sun each day, it does not matter if it gets them all in a row or if the hours of sun are spaced out in some way through the day.
So can you have a single landscape bed that has different zones of sun exposure in it?  Absolutely!  Nothing is perfect in this world and often some landscape beds get more sun along one edge or more shade at one corner because of a tree or other structure.  Yes, you have to take that into account too!
And in the end, sun exposure is just one key factor affecting plant growth and performance – don’t forget about watering, drainage (different than watering), soil type, wind and salt exposure (especially important along the coast), nutrients/fertilizer and age.  Suddenly picking plants for your garden is very complicated.  Well, once again, that’s why we are here to help!

Let’s Talk About June 2018

By: Pat Cordray

Okay, the heat has made itself known this month, along with its best friends Humidity and Mosquitoes. Walking outside the door in the morning can be quite a powerful slap in the face, Ouch! It feels like a large elephant is sitting on my chest trying to “assist” in my breathing. So, take it slow when gardening in the heat and please drink plenty of water. Protect yourself from the mosquitoes as best you can with clothing and bug sprays.  As daunting as all of this sounds, gardening can still be fun this month.

Denver Daisy Rudbeckia

June gardening includes watering, watching for bugs, planting, and fertilizing:

This is the month watering moves to the top of the list. It is the most important part of gardening. Too much or too little looks the same; dead. Don’t be afraid to use your fingers to check the soil around your plant for moisture. You can wash the soil off afterwards, it’s okay.  When you are new to gardening or you are trying a new plant, watch the plant to see how much water it uses in the area of your garden it is planted in.  The more sun, wind, and/or the higher the bed, the more water it may need.  but you will have to check. Use your finger and push down into the soil close to the plant. You might find that the top layer of soil is damp but an inch or two down is dry. Water slowly, think of a soft rain not a flash flood. You want the water to soak down to where the roots are, you don’t want the roots to come to the surface looking for water or the plant to die.

Sunfinity Sunflower

While you are out watering is a good time to keep an eye on your plants.  What are you looking for?  You are looking for damage on your plants and other signs of insects.  Ever see a white cottony insect on your hibiscus or other plants?  That is probably mealy bug.  An adult mealy bug is stationary, if you see one moving, that one is the mealy bug destroyer.  It is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  It looks like a mealy bug, but it moves around and eats them.  So, don’t kill that one.  Mealy bugs suck the juices from plants that causes the leaves to turn yellow and drop off.  They also produce a honeydew that then grows mold.  They are just all kinds of fun and they love, love, love hibiscus.  Usually, that is the only plant in my garden that gets mealy bugs, (I hate to say that out loud).  To control them, I try to use as little as possible of garden insecticides.  You can wipe mealy bugs off the stems of your plants, yuck.  But tat doesn’t take care of the ones that seem to have embedded themselves in every nook and cranny of the plant causing the leaves and flowers to be deformed, I cut these areas off and throw them in the trash.  If I do use a product, Neem oil or Triple Action help control mealy bugs.  Sometimes, I get rid of the plant and try something not so attractive to mealy bugs, just saying there are other ways to win the battle besides chemicals.

Pazzaz Purslane

Scales are another common garden bug. This bug is stationary as an adult.  Scales cling to the plant even after death. Scales can be on many plants and there are different types of scales, some are soft and some are armored.  The best time to spray is when the crawlers are active (early spring), this is the easiest stage of the scales life to control.  At this stage Neem oil or Triple Action will work.

Another bug I want to talk about is the mosquito. It isn’t a problem for plants, but this bug is a problem for gardeners. To control mosquitoes, get rid of any standing water around your home. Check saucers, trash can lids, gutters, standing water in the lawn, garden art, birdbaths, fountains and ponds; try not to breed them. There are safe products for use in birdbaths, fountains and ponds to keep mosquitoes under control around your home. We carry Mosquito Beater WSP , Mosquito Bits and Mosquito Dunks to help control mosquitoes.

If you haven’t changed out your spring color yet, there is still time to add some summer color. For sun, vinca (there are a couple of new varieties of vinca, check out the pictures), blue daze, salvias, scaevola, white wing, turnera pentas, cone flower, angelonia, gomphrena, rudbeckia, gazania, sunflowers and purslane work wonders in garden or container. Just give these sun lovers well-draining soil, water and fertilizer and you will get tons of blooms with just a little care.
Soiree Kawaii Vinca
Tattoo Vinca
Soiree Double Vinca
 For shade, you can pick torenia, Persian shield, mona lavender, cat whiskers, coleus, shrimp plant, caladiums, begonias, impatiens and ajuga. Any of these plants will add color and beauty to your shadier garden or containers. Again, use well-draining soil, water and fertilizer to keep these beauties healthy.
Cat Whiskers
Yellow Shrimp Plant
Golden Glow Ajuga
Fertilizing your plants is an important step to keeping your plants full of blooms and growing healthy. Don’t skip it. Microlife will feed the soil your plants grow in. The regular 6-2-4 bag is good for garden, lawn, shrubs and trees. It is easy to use, and there is no need to worry about getting it on yourself or your pets.

 

Enjoy your garden,
Pat