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August Landscapes! Don't be a sucker!


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The end of summer is in sight, but there's still much to be considered and done in the landscape during the month of August. Let's get right to them!

 

 

Keeping suckers off of Crapes

 

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Ever see this and think to yourself “that just doesn’t look right� Well, you’re right.

 

Crape Myrtles, as shown in the picture, are trees that have a habit of constantly growing “suckers†at the base of the tree and up and down the trunks. Crapes are supposed to have graceful, bare trunks when properly maintained. The growth at the bottom is commonly called “sucker growth†because its unwanted growth that sucks the minerals and nutrients away from the tree instead of those being sent further up the tree’s canopy.

 

The result is a tree that looks like a bush. So in essence, trimming off the sucker growth at the base helps make a healthier canopy above because the limbs above will receive those nutrients instead of being intercepted at the base.

 

Sucker growth will happen quite often during the summer months. That growth should be trimmed off as soon as it appears.

 

The tree does this as a self-protection instinct. With its lower growth, it can protect it’s root base (soil) from drying out so fast. However, we defy those instincts by keeping them properly trimmed and watered.

 

Below is an example of a properly maintained Crape Myrtle.

 

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There are other trees in that landscape that will also try to throw up sucker growth. One such offender, the Yaupon Holly, will send it’s growth up through the surrounding soil as well as its trunk base. These should be removed as soon as they appear.

 

 

Live Oaks in the Austin area in particular, will send up sucker growth through its root system, sprouting new saplings on an almost constant basis in some cases. Why does this happen and why does it happen in Austin so much more frequently?

 

Live Oaks feeder roots are constantly searching out nutrients. When soil is nutrient-challenged, new saplings sprout up as a reproductive instinct. In Austin, however, the issue is compounded by the fact that the soil there is shallow and below it is often solid limestone rock. There’s nowhere else for them to go.

 

You cannot combat this chemically without adverse effects on the mother trees. Keeping the soil replenished with compost on an annual basis will help this as well as supplements such as Ironite and fertilizer.

 

 

Air Conditioner Units

 

Those twigs you might think are weeds around and near your outside air conditioner unit(s)? Those are likely small trees or saplings. In North Texas, odds are that they’ll be Hackberry saplings. The unsuspecting homeowner dismisses them as weeds and since they’re near an AC unit, they’re not a concern.

 

However, those saplings are a menace. For starters, they will end up as trees. Trees located in the wrong place – at your foundation line and near an AC unit.

 

As most know, tree roots can be highly problematic for home foundations if the tree is located too close to the home. Additionally, home air conditioner units need to breath to operate properly. Any growth or structures used to hide these unsightly machines need to be at least three feet away from the unit in any direction.

 

You can hide the AC units using foliage/shrubs or you can use a “partition†style that looks much like a fence. If you do use the partition option, make sure you leave a side unfenced so that repairs can be done and units can be removed/replaced when needed. Also, again, stay three feet away and leaves gaps in the pickets so the units can breath.

 

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Summer Solstice

 

As most of you know, the Summer Solstice marks the longest day of the year. This year, that day fell on Sunday, June 21st. Each day leading up to that date became longer than the day before. Each day now that passes after that date will be shorter than the day before.

 

This summer Solstice occurs when the tilt of the earth’s semi-axis is most inclined towards the sun. 

 

I bring this up as it relates to our watering habits that we become used to during the intense heat of summer. On LABOR DAY, you will want to change your water sprinkler start times to 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. start times. As nights become longer/cooler and days become shorter/milder, the conditions that enable turf fungus to appear and thrive. So we combat this by watering in the morning so that the water does not sit on the turf as long.

 

If you’ll remember, we set these start times earlier this summer for late night starts so that the water spent more time on the turf. On Labor Day, we want to reverse that strategy.

 

Pre-emergent time

 

Now is the time to be applying your second of three rounds of pre-emergent to your lawn. Apply in the next week for best results!

 

As hot as it is, hold off on fertilizing the lawn until the heat breaks and we begin to get rainfall again. Putting down fertilizer in this heat would surely damage a lawn.

 

 

The Chinch

 

Do not forget that August is the month when Chinch bugs commonly make their strongest appearance of the year. You will be able to recognize their presence by the damage they leave behind. Their damage will likely be found near a concrete, stone or other hot surface that is located near turf. The Chinch bugs enjoy the heat so they gravitate to hot surfaces.

 

Their damage can be extensive. They will feed on practically any lawn but seem to hit hardest on St Augustine turf.

 

If you observe this type of damage, contact a landscaper for treatment remedy as soon as possible. A product called Talstar is highly effective on Chinch bugs.

 

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The August Q&A

 

The following are some questions I’ve fielded recently. Maybe you have a question of your own? If so, fire away.

 

Question – I have a Burr Oak that is now becoming mature size. I’ve noticed a disfiguration on the side of the tree. I’m scared this might be hurting the tree. It’s funny because it looks like a big tumor.

 

Answer – That is nothing to worry about. Oak trees are known to grow a “burl†which is where one or more twig buds whose cells continue to multiply but never differentiate so that the twig can elongate and grow into a limb. Burls do not normally cause any harm to the tree and are valued for their grain in furniture making.

 

 

Question – I planted several rows of Cherry Laurels. I’ve seen my dogs eating them. Should I be concerned?

 

Answer – Do not let the dogs eat the Cherry Laurels. The leaves, fruit and seed are known to cause severe discomfort to humans if eaten. I would imagine the same would happen with a dog. The seeds contained within the cherries are poisonous.

 

 

Question – I assume it’s too hot to plant right now. When can I plant new plants in my landscape?

 

Answer – It would be wise to wait until the heat breaks before you plant. You could plant right now but there’s some risk involved because of the intense heat and also because you’ll need to dedicate time each day to providing water to new plants. Most folks either don’t want to dedicate that time or don’t have the time available. In those cases, yes, it’s best to wait until end of August or thereabouts.

 

 

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Plant of the Month – Croton

 

Crotons are beautiful plants which are native to Southeast Asia. They are used in landscape beds where seasonal flowers are planted. They make great accent anchors against succulent flowers.

 

Crotons do not bloom, but instead are favored because their leaves turn from green to red to orange and yellow during the course of their leaf cycle. Unfortunately, they do not make it through our North Texas winters so they do need to be replanted each year.

 

 

 

 

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Looking at the forecast, seems next week might be the hottest week of the summer. Expected highs from 104-108 every day.

 

If you have to be out in the day, you know the routine. Lots of hydration, protect the skin, take frequent breaks. Do Not Push It.

 

Green Thumb will be cutting work days back next week, perhaps doing some split shifts to try to get around the hottest part of the day. We've not done this before despite similar conditions. But the workload we've had combined with those conditions make this year a bit different, I think.

 

 

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Great August post SHA. My problem seems to be keeping grass green in this heat.

 

And I finally had my crape myrtles cut back. They were beastly. No suckers on mine, thank goodness.

 

And all the plants you planted in my back yard have grown tremendously.

 

The dog days of summer are here.

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Great August post SHA. My problem seems to be keeping grass green in this heat.

 

And I finally had my crape myrtles cut back. They were beastly. No suckers on mine, thank goodness.

 

And all the plants you planted in my back yard have grown tremendously.

 

The dog days of summer are here.

 

 

Aaron,

 

Keeping the grass green . . . 

 

1. Water at around 11 p.m. each night. Allows more time for water and turf together.

 

2. Cut your grass HIGH, as in 3.5 inches or taller. This will allow the turf to keep moisture, longer, during the day. 

 

3. Make sure you're setting your controls for enough time. Higher temps require more time on the clock for watering. If you're doing 10 min cycles, go to 15-20 instead.

 

4. Water after mowing. Mowing essentially causes a wound. Combined with hot sun/temps, the wound becomes worse. Water is a cure/prescription for the wound. The sooner you get it on the turf after mowing, the sooner the wound heals.

 

5. Make sure your blade is sharp. Dull blades cause a tearing of the grass instead of a cutting of the grass. Examine the tips of the blades of your turf after mowing. If it's a straight edge cut, you're good. If its jagged, time to sharpen the blade. Tearing the grass causes stress in the turf.

 

 

So glad to hear the plants we put in are doing well. I got your message about timing/heat. It would be best to wait to put those Cypress in the ground when this heat breaks. You'd be fine if temps could just stay in the 90s during the day. We're about to see our hottest week of the year this week though.

 

Let me know what you want to do on that. I could go ahead and get them to you. You'd just need to water them daily until you put them in the ground. Plants in containers do have to be watered daily. Saturated.

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My wife had 10 Canyon Creek Abelias planted at my ranch house.  They are watered 10 minutes daily, but appear to be dying.  The worst are the ones in pots around the pool.  What's up with these suckers?

 

 

First, don't think in terms of time spent watering. Think in terms of saturation. Particularly with the pots.

 

Pots absolutely must be watered daily in this heat. I recommend an evening watering when the sun is not directly hitting them. This gives the plant all evening, night and morning with the moisture. Again, saturate them.

 

This is a drought tolerant plant so I'm assuming you just recently planted them.

 

Did you locate them in full sun? They need a lot of sun, but can take a partial day of shade.

 

Regarding the ones around the pool . . . are they being splashed on? High chlorine water will have negatives effects on plants. Also, are they located in full sun? If so, perhaps you should move them to where they get less sun until they are "feeling better."

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First, don't think in terms of time spent watering. Think in terms of saturation. Particularly with the pots.

 

Pots absolutely must be watered daily in this heat. I recommend an evening watering when the sun is not directly hitting them. This gives the plant all evening, night and morning with the moisture. Again, saturate them.

 

This is a drought tolerant plant so I'm assuming you just recently planted them.

 

Did you locate them in full sun? They need a lot of sun, but can take a partial day of shade.

 

Regarding the ones around the pool . . . are they being splashed on? High chlorine water will have negatives effects on plants. Also, are they located in full sun? If so, perhaps you should move them to where they get less sun until they are "feeling better."

 

The ones around the pool are far enough away to avoid pool water (it is a salt water pool).  The plants are a year old and had been doing fine until recently.  My ranch (this is what we call it, even though we only have a few Longhorns, goats, horses and it's only 1,100 acres - it's a ranch by God!  :P ) is just outside Brenham and we have had some 100+ plus days - like everyone else.  My yard guys fertilized them with Osmocote about two months ago.  But they did the same last year and the plants did fine.  And, no, the deer haven't been peeing in them.  Our yard is fenced to prevent deer and pigs.

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The ones around the pool are far enough away to avoid pool water (it is a salt water pool).  The plants are a year old and had been doing fine until recently.  My ranch (this is what we call it, even though we only have a few Longhorns, goats, horses and it's only 1,100 acres - it's a ranch by God!  :P ) is just outside Brenham and we have had some 100+ plus days - like everyone else.  My yard guys fertilized them with Osmocote about two months ago.  But they did the same last year and the plants did fine.  And, no, the deer haven't been peeing in them.  Our yard is fenced to prevent deer and pigs.

 

 

Osmocote wouldn't hurt them anyway.

 

Salt water would be even worse if it got into the pots. Hopefully, you haven't had any helpful guests who thought they'd water your plants from the pool water. lol

 

Have you inspected them for insects? Spider Mites thrive in dry weather conditions as do Scale, Aphids and in the lawn - Chinch bugs. Spider Mites are tiny, but I've seen them take an entire tree out.

 

Get me a close up pic of the leaves, the backside of the leaves, too. And one of the plant itself. Email them to me at greenthumbtx@verizon.net

 

Pots will heat up during extreme temps and long days. This is detrimental to the root zone and is why plants in pots always look worse than plants in the ground this time of year.

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