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Home Gardening Chores and
May 14 Home Fruit Growers’ Tour

by Dr. William M. Johnson
Galveston County Extension Agent - Horticulture

May 5, 2005

Gardening: Okra imageOkra requires warm temperatures to do well. The unusually low temperatures during April (even near the end of the month) resulted in okra plants being stunted in already established plantings. Okra can be safely planted during the month of May. Photo credit: William M. Johnson

May welcomes the approach of summer with warming nights and longer, sunnier days–a change of seasons. Busy days of gardening are in store for the May gardener in completing spring chores and in preparing for summer. The following gardening guides may be helpful for May gardening activities:


Home Fruit Growers’ Open House:

SATURDAY, May 14: Home Fruit Growers’ Open House for three home fruit orchards in the Santa Fe area. Each site open from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 Noon. Wide variety of fruit and citrus trees. Visit website at the end of this column for more information and a printable site map.

A Home Fruit Growers’ Tour will be conducted from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon on Saturday, May 14, 2005. Three home fruit orchards in the Santa Fe area are on this year’s tour route. Each location will be open during the 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon time period. You will have the option of touring any combination of (or all three) sites, in any order you prefer.

The names and location of the home fruit orchards in the Santa Fe area are: Joe & Vivian Swain located at 3720 Avenue S; Herman and Jackie Auer located at 4915 Birch; and Sam & Ginger Powers located at 5503 Highland. Additional information will be provided in next week’s gardening column.

This year’s tour sites contain a wide variety of fruit trees ranging from a home apple orchard (at the Swains) to a peach orchard (at the Auers) to a sizable blackberry patch. Less common types of fruit trees that can be seen include jujube, pineapple guava, mayhaw, and pomegranate.

To obtain map directions, contact the County Extension Office (281-534-3413, ext. 6). Tour maps and a listing of fruit trees may also be downloaded from the Internet from my website address provided at the end of this column (click on the "Extension Educational Programs" link).


Rainfall for the month of April was in short supply for most areas of the county. It is of critical importance that landscape trees and shrubs transplanted last year and this spring be provided proper care including adequate watering.

Spring-planted trees and shrubs will be establishing their root system this year and thus are very susceptible to transplant shock during the summer if not given proper care. The first summer is a critical period for all new plantings. To reduce transplant shock, be sure to water thoroughly and deeply as needed during dry weather rather than giving more frequent, light sprinklings.

Plants should also be mulched with shredded pine bark, pine needles, compost, dried lawn clippings, etc. A 4-to-6-inch layer of mulch will also help control weeds, maintain more uniform soil moisture, and keep the soil cooler. As a result, the degree of transplant shock will be significantly minimized. Also, add to the list of benefits the fact that mulched trees and shrubs will grow much better than non-mulched transplants.


Many homeowners will level out low spots in the lawns this time of the year using sharp sand or bank sand as the only filler. While this is a common practice, it is not a good one. Use of sand to fill low areas in a lawn will very likely cause problems later on with unsatisfactory lawn growth.

Such areas will suffer more from drought stress during the summer and will likely have problems with soil nutrient uptake. For best results, use a good quality topsoil to fill in low areas of the lawn.

LEAF DROPPAGE OF EVERGREENS: Many gardeners take the description "evergreen" too literally and often are concerned when evergreens, such as magnolias, euonymus, live oak, gardenia, and some of the hollies, lose some of their old leaves during late spring and early summer. The flush of new growth on many evergreens will cause a yellowing of old leaves and leaf droppage. Nothing to be concerned about–just Mother Nature putting a new spring coat of green and discarding the old.

SUMMER ANNUALS: Remove faded blooms for more productive flowering. If beds are not mulched, then lightly cultivate the upper soil so as not to disturb shallow roots. Doing so improves water absorption, reduces soil compaction, and aids in weed control. Plant summer annual plants that take the heat such as periwinkles, purslane, portulaca, lantana, etc.

Annuals for shade may include: impatiens, coleus, caladiums (the tubers are just about out of stock, potted plants are still available), and bedding begonias. Caladiums will often produce a single flower stalk right after the first leaves are produced. Early removal of the flower stalk will encourage the plants to produce more lush leaf growth.

OKRA: Okra can be planted during the month of May. This cousin of cotton especially needs to be planted in a warm soil; in fact, some gardeners had poor stands this spring because they planted okra too early (before April 1).

Since we had some unusually low temperatures during April (even near the end of the month), okra growers have experienced more than the unusual number of problems with stunted plants. Proven varieties include Emerald, Clemson Spineless or Jade. After planting, plan to thin plants to 24 inches apart in the row, with rows 36 to 42 inches apart.

BLACKBERRIES: Blackberries are coming into production. As canes which produced fruit this season finished bearing and start to die back, they should be removed at ground level. "Tip back" new canes to encourage branching; next year's blackberries will be produced on these canes.

The Galveston County Master Gardener Association is sponsoring this educational program as a public service to our county residents.

Philosophical Musings on Weeds

Weeds in the home landscape, weeds in the home garden–virtually everyone has them but few people want them. Their notoriety and tenaciousness have inspired amusing perspectives by experienced–and determined–gardeners. Here are a few philosophical testaments on weeds:

A weed is a plant that is not only in the wrong place, but intends to stay. - Sara Stein

The philosopher who said that work well done never needs doing over never weeded a garden. - Ray D. Everson

My basic weeding rule: if they grow in rows, they're flowers; if they don't, they're weeds. - David Hobson

If I wanted an easy care garden, I would have planted weeds. -Unknown

A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows. - Doug Larson

If dandelions were hard to grow, they would be most welcome on any lawn. - Andrew V. Mason


Question: Do you recommend use of fertilizer spikes around landscape trees?

Answer: While fertilizer spikes will not harm landscape trees, I do not recommend their use. Fertilizer spikes provide a concentration of nutrients in a limited area while not providing any nutrients in the remaining area. The roots of most trees extend out as far as the limbs (known as the drip line) and in many cases, extend out much farther than the limbs.

Tree roots that absorb water and nutrients are also distributed fairly uniformly under a tree’s drip line. I recommend use of a complete fertilizer (such as 15-5-10 or 13-13-13) that is spread uniformly around the tree within the drip line.

Question: I am concerned about all the old insecticides that I have used over the years being taken off the market. The stores seemed to be filled with ones I have never heard of or read about. Are they as good as the ones before?

Answer: The only thing that is constant is change. Over the past few years many of our more popular insecticides, such as Lindane, Dursban and diazinon, have been removed from the marketplace.

They are being replaced with products from Bayer, Ortho, Fertilome, Spectracide, and other companies and are being sold as general-use or all-purpose type sprays. This new-generation of insecticides provides effective insect control at low rates. The marketplace is full of new insecticides containing active ingredients such as permethrin, cyfluthrin, esfenvalerate, and tralomethrin. They are found under various trade names. They work quite well for the pests for which they are labeled.

Dr. Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston County
Extension Office of Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas A&M University. Visit his web site at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/index.htm

Gardening: Scale insects and pampas grass - July 17, 2004 article

Gardening: Bananas - August 1, 2004 article

Gardening: August Gardening Calendar - August 16, 2004 article

Gardening: Trio Of Extension Programs Includes Pear Tasting, Master Naturalist Class & Rose Seminar - August 20, 2004 article

Gardening: Prepare Now For Fall Gardens - August 26, 2004 article

Gardening: Septemberís Garden Calendar Includes Fall Pecan Field Day - September 2, 2004 article

Gardening: Ornamental Grasses - September 8, 2004 article

Gardening: Don't Let Landscape Become A High-Maintenance Nightmare - September 22, 2004 article

Gardening: Oct. 10 Plant Sale & Seminar To Feature Butterfly Gardening - Butterflies Bring Color, Motion to Garden - October 2, 2004 article

Gardening: Plant It And They Will Come: Getting the Butterflies of Galveston County to Grace Your Yard - October 2, 2004 article

Gardening: Rose Propagation & Seasonal Decorating Workshops To Be Held - October 13, 2004 article

Gardening: Extension Office To Sponsor Open House On October 29, Seasonal Decorations and Onion and Garlic Workshops - October 20, 2004 article

Gardening: Extension Office To Sponsor Open House On October 29 and County Pecan Show - October 27, 2004 article

Gardening: November Is Pansy Time - November 6, 2004 article

Gardening: County Pecan Growers Display Their Successes - November 11, 2004 article

Gardening: Gardeners' Questions On Fall Crops - November 17, 2004 article

Gardening: Gardenersí Q&As For November - November 28, 2004 article

Gardening: Gardeners' December Checklist Includes Citrus Show On Dec. 9 - December 3, 2004 article

Gardening: Citrus Show A Huge Success With 185 Entries - December 19, 2004 article

Gardening: Trees and Shrubs - December 23, 2004 article

Gardening: Cold Weather Impact - January 4, 2005 article

Gardening: Gardeners' Checklist For January Includes Several Educational Programs - January 7, 2005 article

Gardening:Announcing the 2005 Galveston County Master Gardener Training - January 13, 2005 article

Gardening:Peach & Plum Growers' Workshop To Be Held Saturday, January 29 - January 19, 2005 article

Gardening: Gardening for Texas Wildlife - January 28, 2005 article

Gardening: Wide Variety of Citrus to Be Available at February 5 Fruit Tree Sale and Home Citrus Production - January 31, 2005 article

Gardening: Fruit Trees Of The Gods Featured In February 5 Master Gardener Plant Sale - February 2, 2005 article

Gardening: "If I Were A Tomato, I Would Want To Be Grown In Texas . . . Galveston County, That Is!" Workshop to be held February 12 - February 9, 2005 article

Gardening: February Is Rose Pruning Time...Attend Rose Care Seminar to Learn How - February 16, 2005 article

Gardening: Extension Activities At The Home & Garden Show On Feb. 26-27 - February 23, 2005 article

Gardening: March Gardening Calendar Includes Seminar On Butterfly Gardening - March 2, 2005 article

Gardening: Gardeners' Q&As From The Galveston Home & Garden Show - March 10, 2005 article

Gardening: Extension Offers Program On "Living To Be 100 . . . A Commonsense Approach." - March 16, 2005 article

Gardening: Program On Plumeria Offered On March 26- March 29, 2005 article

Gardening: Garden Checklist For April Includes Pecan Field Day - April 6, 2005 article

Gardening: Hints On Harvesting Vegetables For Peak Flavor - April 15, 2005 article

Gardening: Fresh Blueberries From Your Home Garden Seminar On Saturday, April 23 - April 22, 2005 article

Gardening: Learn About Weed Control - April 27, 2005 article

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