La Feria News

What to do with our gardens as the summer heats up

By ANN JOHNSTON
LFN

In a lot of the world, a gardener’s offseason would be the coldest months of the year. But for us in the Rio Grande Valley, our offseason is the hottest months – July, August, and September. (Unless you are one of our farmers growing cotton and grain.)

This is the time we continue to be sure everything is getting sufficient water. But no planting or pruning. Mulching should already be done to aid the watering.

So, what can be done during the heat? These projects would be much the same as for winter months in other areas.Take care of your tools, reorganize storage and plan your next garden.

Buy vegetable starts at local garden centers. Photos: Ann Johnston / LFN

Suggestions: If winter were our offseason, our mailboxes would be full of seed catalogs. Some companies might still mail a catalogue. But, also, look online for garden planning sites and apps. Burpee.com and Gardeners.com are two good examples.Plan your garden and get your seeds bought.

•. Our stores still have plants and seeds into the summer, but they will be hard to find in the fall – even seeds!

•. Remember! We have two planting seasons. Traditionally, we have flowers and bulbs that must be planted by Halloween in order to have them blooming during our mild winters and early springs.

Corn is one of the summer crops you will spot from our roads.

Hints: If we get a short cold spell in October or late November, just cover shrubs and new plants with a sheet to provide frost protection. Weight it down with bricks or a big rock because the wind usually picks up, too. If a real freeze is predicted, use a blanket or tarp for warmth as well as cover.

• Don’t cover with plastic! It creates an oven. Remove any cover before the sun heats up!

• Save your further planting until after Valentine’s Day. There is seldom much cold after Feb. 14. (Sticking dates to regular holiday dates makes them easier to remember.)

• In the heat of the summer, get any outside work done before 9-10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. Drink plenty of water. We need to take care of ourselves, too! Get outside early, then do inside work during the heat of the day.

• Flowers that need to be planted before Halloween are Bells of Ireland, nasturtiums, celosia and anemones. Scatter wild flowers then, too.

• Many more veggies can be grown in the fall than in spring/summer. There are more than 20 varieties that enjoy cooler soil and air. Fall gardens have fewer insect problems and water needs.

• For individual vegetables and their best planting dates, look up “Vegetable Crops of the Lower Rio Grande Valley” by Barbara Storz.

Come through the Garden Gate for more suggestions, hints and what to look for next week.

Cotton, another big Valley summer crop, does well with irrigation.

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