Don’t let summer be a garden bummer with these helpful tips

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

LLANO — The hot summer days can wreak havoc on your garden, especially on those vegetables you planted in the spring. But with little touches here and there, those plants can thrive through the heat.

“The summer is tough on vegetables,” said Martha Rowlett, a Llano County Master Gardener. “It’s been rather mild, but when the temperatures start hitting 97 to 102 degrees, it’s just tough.”

But it’s not insurmountable, she added.

One option, especially for vegetables, is to offer them a bit of reprieve from the summer sun. This can be accomplished by setting up shade cloth over the plants. This allows some sunlight on the plants without scorching them.

Most vegetable seed packs recommend full sun, but Rowlett said gardeners might want to rethink that strategy a bit considering the Texas sun and heat. She planted her tomatoes in full sun, and they’re looking a big haggard already. But when she noticed her friends’ tomato plants were still thriving, she found out the difference was where they had planted them.

“They were in filtered light,” Rowlett said.

One thought for giving tomato plants a boost through the summer and into fall is to cut off about a third of the plant, which should trigger some rejuvenation. If the tomatoes don’t look good, however, it might just be time to pull them.

For vegetables that are still looking healthy and productive, keeping them mulched will keep the roots cool and help soil retain moisture.

Moisture is critical during the hot summer, but Rowlett said people shouldn’t panic if their plants — flowering and vegetables — look a bit droopy in the afternoon.

“That’s going to happen,” she explained. “They should look good in the morning, however. If they don’t, then you need to give them some water.”

But don’t over water, she added.

With summer in full swing, it is also a good time to begin planning for fall gardens. Along with prepping the site, there are some vegetables you can start getting in the ground including (seeds) pumpkins, summer squash (yeah, it’s actually a fall vegetable despite its name), corn and winter squash. Other plants include eggplant, peppers and fall tomatoes.

As for flowers and other annuals, Rowlett recommended sticking with native varieties since they are used to the heat and climate.

Go to www.llanocountymastergardener.org or agrilifeextension.tamu.edu to learn more about gardening or to get involved with the Llano County Master Gardeners.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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