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Top Tips for Summer Gardening

air date: July 18, 2015

Stay on top of your to-do list with lots of how-to tips in Extension Agent Skip Richter’s new book, Texas Month-by-Month Gardening.  On tour, patrons at the Bulverde/Spring Branch library check out more than books since the Comal County Master Gardeners turned a dusty spot into a butterfly garden retreat. Fungal diseases are running rampant on our trees!  Daphne identifies what’s going on with an ash tree and what to do about it. Plant of the Week is sunflower, a cheery annual to feed bees and birds in summer doldrums. Going on vacation? Or just need a reliable way to water your houseplants? John’s got the tips with self-watering containers and Plant Nanny.



Episode Segments

On Tour

Butterfly Habitat Garden at Bulverde/Spring Branch Library

Butterflies, birds, and other wildlife greet patrons of the Bulverde/Spring Branch Library, who check out more than books these days. Thanks to the Comal County Master Gardeners and Friends of the Library, a rocky slope at the end of the parking lot is now an instructional guide to gardening and wildlife, plus an outdoor haven to read a book!


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Question of the Week

My ash tree has spots on its leaves. What is wrong?

Thanks to Johnny Twist for this week’s question!  He notes that his Mexican ash has issues that he first noticed in late spring and that continued to worsen over the next couple of months.

From his photos, we can see that the small tree is surrounded by a vigorous rosemary bush.  Johnny has been whacking away at the rosemary. He’s also treated the leave with Neem oil, without any improvement.

Well, this is, without a doubt, the year for splotchy leaves in Central Texas. After so many years of drought, with virtually no spring rains and temperatures going from 40 degrees to 90 almost overnight, microbes are definitely taking advantage of our very rainy, humid and cloudy months.

I turned to Paul Johnson, with the Texas A&M Forest Service, for advice. I noticed a bit of what appeared to be Anthracnose in one of Johnny’s photos, and Paul also pointed out some other areas where the leaf spots appeared to be a different fungus, Cylindrosporium.

In any event, fungal leaf spots such as these don’t really warrant any treatment with fungicides or other products. As Johnny noted, he’d already tried Neem oil, a natural fungicide, but hadn’t gotten any results.

The tree will eventually drop these leaves, and when it does, simply clean up the leaf litter and toss it, to remove the source of inoculum. I would also suggest continuing to prune back the rosemary surrounding the tree, or even removing it entirely. That would improve air circulation around the leaves of the tree, thus decreasing the possibility for future infection.

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Plant of the Week



Helianthus annuus

Daphne’s pick of the week is sunflower, Helianthus annuus, a lovely annual that many people may not consider planting, due to its simplicity, but a good one to consider. There are a multitude of different varieties to choose from, so pick a flower type, a size, and plant away. Or, pick several. Sunflowers are very easy to start from seed and grow very quickly once they’ve sprouted. Because of this, it’s uncommon to find them for sale as seedlings. So purchase seed packets and plant directly in the garden. Sunflowers don’t need a lot of space in width, but many get very tall. Plant the seeds close together, 9 to 12 inches apart, and in full sun. The common sunflower is bright yellow and blooms from mid-summer through early fall. You can plant the seeds anytime and they’ll sprout, but if planted too late in the summer, the plants will die before they have a chance to produce blooms. Sunflowers are annuals, so you’ll need to plant again each year, normally in late spring or early summer, once temperatures have reliably warmed into the 70’s and days are bright and sunny. Not only do bees and butterflies love sunflowers, but songbirds do as well, as the seed heads are very nutritious, and yummy. Sunflowers require very little water and reseeds easily, so if you want to control where it grows in your garden, remove the flowers before seeds can drop off. Occasionally, sunflowers will form a double head, as this one did in viewer Nancy Donner’s garden. Our Viewer Picture comes from Rich Hartsell of his gorgeous bottlebrush tree in Cibolo. Although it’s not a native plant, Rich has never provided extra water after they were established. Not only are they evergreen for him, they bloom from spring through fall, attracting lots of hummingbirds and bees.

Backyard Basics

Watering Tips on Vacation

Going away for a bit, or need an effective way to water your plants? John Dromgoole shows how to make self-watering containers, so that your flora can (almost) fend for itself!

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