Second Week of August
Watching the “Gardening by the remember that more is not better. Use only
Yard” show on HGTV the other day, I was the recommended rate specified on the label. reminded that you might want to know Starting in about mid-August you about making your own potting soil. I’ve can plant broccoli plants, Brussel sprouts, been making my own for years and have cabbage plants, Chinese cabbage, carrots, found that the formula that I use works just cauliflower plants, Swiss chard, collards, fine for almost anything I plant in it. In kale, English peas, Irish potatoes, and addition, it’s lightweight, holds water well, summer squash. If you have any peppers provides some nutrients and keeps for left over from spring, they will probably months in a closed container. The formula produce again if you can keep them alive is fairly simple to remember. Here it is. I until the temperature stays below 90 during call it Tom’s Mix: One part peat moss, the day. Water them as needed and give
them about a half cup of slow-release lawn one part perlite, and two parts
compost…sifted if you want a finer mix. fertilizer per plant to pep them up. You could substitute vermiculite for perlite By the way,
if you wish. They both have the same eggplant is ready to
qualities; i.e., inert material which holds lots harvest when the
of water and air. fruit is fully colored
I usually make up about 20 gallons and has achieved the
when I do it; that way I can use one 5-gallon mature size for the
bucket of perlite, one of peat moss and two variety you planted. of compost. I rarely sift the compost if it The seeds should be white, and the tissue has decomposed well, besides that, I shred firm. If the seeds are brown and hard, or all the stuff before it goes into the compost the skin has become dull rather than shiny, bin anyway. After mixing it thoroughly in it’s probably not good to eat.
the wheelbarrow, I store the mix in a 20- Go ahead and order your spring-gallon tub bought just for that purpose. flowering bulbs now. A good guideline to
use is 'bigger is better' in regard to bulb size. The tub has a good lid which keeps the mix
from drying out too quickly. Don't put any Be wary of so-called "bargain" bulbs as they fertilizer in the potting mix. I did it for may be small or of inferior quality and be several years before I found out that you're very disappointing in the spring.
A late-summer pruning of not supposed to do that.
Over the years, I’ve planted seeds in rosebushes can be beneficial. Prune out dead this mix, potted up tomatoes in it, replaced canes and any weak, brushy growth. Cut planting medium in pots annually and back tall, vigorous bushes to about 30 generally used it anywhere one would use a inches. After pruning, apply fertilizer, and store-bought potting mix. The one I make water thoroughly.
up is about as neutral as they get and the pH Frequently picking flowers from the of it is just about 7.0. annuals and perennials encourages them to
For whatever reasons, bugs seem to flower again. Sometimes the second be getting worse this month…probably the flowering is the better one—showier, etc.
rain and cooler weather last month. If you Hibiscus, if they get at least a half-use pesticides, use them with caution and day of sunshine, will bloom profusely in the only as needed. Remember that you don’t fall. They do, however, require regular want to kill ALL the bugs, only the ones watering, especially in the afternoon heat. really bothering you or your plants. Be Add both a time-release fertilizer (such as sure to follow the directions on the label and
Osmocote or Slo-cote) and a water-soluble than almost anything else organic I’ve seen. fertilizer (such as 20-20-20 or Miracle Gro) Evidently, bat guano goes back in history all from April through October. The time the way to the Incas in South America and release should be applied about every 6 to 8 was once so highly prized that it was not to weeks as a top dressing and the water-be used by anyone but the high muckity-soluble once a week. This process feeds mucks. If you harmed or accidentally killed the plants constantly; i.e., the time-release a bat, the penalty was death. Scheesch! feeds the roots all the time as long as the soil
is moist and the water-soluble is a good
The poinciana, also commonly
known as Pride of Barbados, has an electric-
orange flower that almost glows in the dark
and is in full bloom now. Mine are about
5-6 feet tall and you can see them for a
couple of blocks.
Last Saturday I attended a class at
GardenVille and learned how Malcolm Beck (local, but internationally known, organic Bat guano that you buy is no longer gardening guru) plants his fall tomatoes—bat poop, but rather a highly refined, non-some aspects of his method were a little toxic, not bad-smelling, fine powder different than what I’ve been doing in the processed by nature into the choicest plant past. Malcolm mixes up about a cupful of food. The NPK ratio turns out to be about soft rock phosphate with about a gallon of 10-3-1 which means that it has lotsa water, adds about a tablespoon of a product nitrogen for green growth, phosphorus for called Actinovate to help keep nematodes at roots and flowering, and potassium for bay, and adds just a dash of brewer’s yeast strong stems PLUS it has all the trace to the mixture (I keep using the word elements for the overall health of plants. It “about” because he didn’t measure any of it can be used indoors or outdoors on basically as he was brewing the concoction). After any plant in any medium. You just need 1-2 taking the tomato plant out of the 4-inch pot, teaspoons per 6-inch pot and it lasts for 4-5 he stirs the mixture, dips the root ball in it, weeks. It is a slow-release, organic fertilizer, and then plants it. The brewer’s yeast was a so if you use more, it’s not gonna harm the new twist for me. Malcolm says that it plants. contains all the B vitamins plus some other Xeriscape or Zero-scape? organic ingredients and that the plants really Many people get these two terms react to it. In the past, I’ve used a product mixed up. Zero-scape (which is probably not called Superthrive which has all kinds of even a word to start with) would mean zero vitamins and hormones in it; it’s so highly landscaping which would be something like concentrated that you only use 2-3 drops per rocks or concrete painted green. Xeriscape, gallon. I asked Malcolm about it and he said on the other hand, derives from the Greek that the brewer’s yeast has almost the same word "xeri" meaning "dry" and "scape", of stuff in it and it’s a whole lot cheaper than course, meaning "to look or see the lay of Superthrive ($6+ for 4 ounces). the land." In other words, While I was in the Gardenville store, xeriscape means the use of I picked up a buncha free printed materials low-water-use plants to to add to my growing library of gardening make a beautiful information. One of the first articles I read landscape scene or lawn. was about bat guano (poop). It is relatively Thus endeth the lesson. high in the basic NPK chemicals—higher
landscape techniques like water harvesting, The following information comes
mulching root zones, watering at the drip line, from the Cochise County, Arizona, Master
watering deeply and infrequently, and adding Gardener Newsletter of August, 2005.
organic material to garden soil." "By now you’ve probably heard of the
All these things apply right here just as word Xeriscape (pronounced zeer'- uh-
much as Sierra Vista, Arizona, and there is scape). It is a type of low water use
lots of helpful advice available if you want or landscaping installed all over the United
need it. Contact me and I'll put you in touch States. People who live in areas you wouldn’t
with the right folks. I've been telling you about normally think would need low water use
these things for a few years now, but, for landscaping do in fact need to observe
instance, I still see people running their conserving water practices.
sprinkler systems during the rain. When I ask But why bother? Because landscapes
them why, they say something like, "That's the can be very thirsty and landscape water is one
way it was set when I bought it. I don't know of the first things that get restricted in times of
how to change it." My next question usually drought. The traditional residential yard with
is, "Do you have the manual that came with large turf areas, shade trees, ornamental flower
it?" If they answer in the positive, the next beds, and a vegetable garden can account for
question is, "Can you read?" Then it's usually up to 50% of a home’s water bill. Xeriscaped
something like, "Lemme show you where the yards can cut that water usage by 20% to 80%
'off' switch is." without sacrificing aesthetics and landscape
If you have an in-ground sprinkler usage. The need to conserve water in our
system, the best way to use it is to turn it off (part) of the state is clear as we continue to
and only use it when you need it. It's NOT mine our water resources. While we look for
about the money you're wasting; it's about the other ways to supply water, we can easily be a
water you're wasting. There's only so much to part of the solution.
go around and there's no justifiable reason to In your yard, water conservation takes
run a sprinkler system on a regular basis. a little effort at first. In the xeriscape
Mother Nature doesn't do it that way and her landscape design the immediate area around
system has been working for a long time. Only your home can be landscaped with shade
water your St. Augustine grass when you can producing plants and plants that take moderate
see your footprints in it. Otherwise, it's doing amounts of water, keeping your home cool
just fine. and saving you cooling costs. The outer areas
Recently in a newsletter that I become progressively less water intensive.
subscribe to, I saw an article about What is appealing with this design is its lazy
approach to maintenance! mosquitoes. It was kinda interesting, so I
Reduction or elimination of turf areas wrote to Molly Keck, the entomologist for
is the greatest water saving technique. Ask Bexar County Cooperative Extension
yourself, “Do I really need all that lawn? Does Service, and asked her about mosquitoes in
my family use it all? Do we want to spend our our area. Here's what she had to say.
weekends mowing and fertilizing?” You may "Last summer the Texas Department
soon find that your turf area is more work than of Health Services reported a total of 90 pleasure. Appropriately sized turfed areas may species in Texas. There may be more, but be very useful for families with children and that is what they sampled and collected. As pets. we move new plants, exotic species, and Placing turf on the hottest side of the cargo from one country to another, we home (south and west) can help cool the home inevitably move insects with it. In (the)San by absorbing direct and reflected heat. Antonio (area), we probably have close to Replacing turfed areas with low water use all 90 of those species, but I do not know if vegetation can contribute greatly to a anyone has ever done a really good reduction of water use, increase wildlife for extensive sample. restful enjoyment, and add year-round color to Of all the other species, only the your home. Don’t forget other xeriscape
females feed on blood because they need the the seeds are mature, the pods burst open to blood to produce their eggs. Both males scatter the seeds around. Then the pods and females feed on nectar, but males feed drop off the mother plant and it dies. If only on nectar. you wanna collect bluebonnet seeds, you
Mosquitoes are always found around need to pull the pods off the bush as soon as standing water. Even just a little bottle cap they turn brown. If you don't, they'll that has collected water can breed hundreds scatter and you'll never find them. If you of mosquitoes. The females emerge, mate, want to, you can pull up the whole plant take a blood meal, and then lay their eggs in when most of the pods turn brown, hang it water. The eggs hatch, the larvae and upside down in the garage or someplace like pupae live in the water, and the cycle starts that and let the seeds finish there. Also, all over again. You find adults in areas you might consider putting the plant inside a with dense foliage. They like to rest in a paper bag before you hang it up. If the place with lots of plants; ivy, trees, etc. pods pop open, the seeds will be all over the They are most active around dusk and place.
dawn. There may be a few species that are Personally, I collect seeds from all active during the day, but the main ones are kinds of plants and have some going back to active at dawn and dusk." the mid-90s. Granted, the germination rate
There ya have it. If you have water goes down as the seeds age, but I'll betcha standing anywhere around your place, lots of them will still sprout. I keep the there's a good chance you're a breeding seeds in small zip-loc bags in a big plastic ground. One of the most effective ways cookie jar (along with a few beers for Ron I've found to rid yourself of this problem and me) in a fridge in the shop...not the (especially if you can't remove the standing freezer. If you put them in the freezer, water) is to add a product known as you'll kill them (same with the beers). Mosquito Dunks. It's a BT product made I've been collecting a few poinciana especially for water and mosquito larvae. (Pride of Barbados) seeds in the last couple If your water is a small amount, just break of days, so if you want some, lemme know off a piece of a Dunk and put it in the water. and I'll tell you how to come out to my They say it's effective for several weeks. It house and pick some up.
worked for me when I had a fountain to take
care of, but nowadays, I don't even have NOTES:
saucers under any of my pots any more;
ergo, no mosquito problem.
If you're thinking that this might be
the year to start collecting seeds from some
of your plants, you need to be aware of a
couple things. First, the seeds need to be
ripe before you collect them. Second, you
need to store them in an airtight container in
a frig to keep them until next year.
For example, bluebonnets just
finished their life cycle a couple of weeks
ago. The seed pods start out green and,
over a period of time, turn brown. When