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July Landscapes – Don't Sweat July's Heat!


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The Heat of Summer is Here, But Don't Sweat It!

 

July is here, welcome to summer in Texas. Coming into this month, we’re sitting in much better shape than we have in the past. Here just north of DFW, we’ve had only one day of 100 degrees so far and ample rainfall. We’re pretty green going into July and thats a very good thing.

 

What to do this month? July is not really a month of growing, but a month of surviving. Most plants will not look their best in high heat conditions like we’ll have this month. So the focus this month is surviving and improving our chances of better performance in the landscape.

 

If you haven’t put down your June fertilization, go ahead and do that now before its too late. However, cut your spreader ratio in half so that the amount of nitrogen is reduced. This will help keep your turf out of stress. Once applied, water for two days in a row to get it soaked into the turf good.

 

 

 

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Here are some tips to giving your lawn optimum chances are not only surviving July, but continuing the health and vibrance that began in the spring.

 

1. Raise Your Mower Blade – The shorter you keep your lawn, the more stress it will be in during July. Days are very long and very hot and with short turf, the sun is able to zap the moisture out of the soil very quickly, causing stress. Stress leads to other issues, including pests such as Chinch bugs. So raise your blades to at least 3.5 inches and preferably higher during the month of July. The taller turf can be maintained just as effectively as short turf, as far as looks go. But taller turf will help your lawn survive the hottest months because it conceals the soil surface which allows the turf to keep its moisture, longer.

 

2. Change Your Sprinkler Start Time to 11 p.m. – This will allow your turf increased time with the water you’re providing it. That increased time will result in a healthier turf. You may also want to increase the cycle times by 5 to 10 minutes (sprays, rotors, drips).

 

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3. Sharpen Your Mower Blade – If you haven’t done so in a while, sharpen your mower’s blade. Doing so means the difference in whether your blade actually cuts the grass or tears it. When your blade tears the grass, it causes stress to the turf.

 

4. Water After Mowing – If you can, try to follow up your mowing with watering your lawn. When the lawn is mowed, a wound is created more or less. If allowed to be exposed to direct sun and heat for any length of time, it will causes the tips of the blades to burn and fray. Watering the lawn immediately after mowing will prevent that from happening and cause a speedy recovery for the turf.

 

5. Adjust Zone Times – Not all sprinkler zones are created the same . . . hopefully you’ve become familiar with the layout of your sprinkler system and are generally familiar with where the zones are located in your landscape. Some of those zones will have eastern early day sun while others will have extended periods of sun most of the day. Obviously, the zone area that receives so much more sun will require more water than the zones on the east side which aren’t as exposed. Customize your settings to allow more run time in those exposed areas.

 

 

Here are some tips for how to handle your landscape beds during the hot weather:

 

1. Unless its absolutely necessary, do not trim your shrubs this month. Trimming them back puts exposure on leaves that are older, more vulnerable and have been protected to some extent by the new growth the shrubs have grown during the spring. It would be best to wait until the latter part of August before you begin trimming them again.

 

2. Landscapes are NOTORIOUS for having plants, shrubs, flowers, etc., that are not native to Texas. These are plants that are native to other places, most of which are not nearly as hot as Texas and summers are not as long. So mistake number one is to think these plants and trees are just going to thrive here without our help. July is a month where those plants need our help to get by. So in addition to what your sprinkler will do, you can find a higher rate of success if you manually water some plants that otherwise have a tough time.

 

This is especially true with a new landscape. So how do you know which plants need the extra water? Its good to research the plants you have so you can know how to treat, feed and water them. But in many cases, the plants themselves will tell you when they need water. Poking your finger into the root ball and being able to determine what kind of moisture is present is a good way to monitor these plants. Many plants will “droop†their leaves when they’re needing a good watering, such as the Hydrangea, for example.

 

3. With heat comes insects. Some plants and trees in our landscapes are vulnerable to some insects during this hot time of year. Crape Myrtles, for example, are often targets of insects such as Aphids and Scale. Both of these insects attack Crapes, feeding on the nutrients and moisture in the tree. If allowed to continue without treatment, it can damage the tree. Scale does not look like an insect. It looks like white crust on the limbs, trunks and bark of the tree. Aphids can be green or black/brown and will cluster. Both insects leave behind a sugary residue which makes the leaves look wet. Ants and other insects feed on this residue. Get rid of the Scale and Aphids, the other insects will leave. Aphids and Scale will also attack a number of shrubs in the landscape as well. Malathion, available retail, is one product that is effective in eliminating Scale and Aphids.

 

4. Replenish the mulch in the beds. Add to our existing mulch to make sure your plants are protected. Mulch helps retain moisture in the soil below, allowing your plants and trees to have moisture, longer. Its good to have two to three inches of mulch.

 

5. Check the coverage of your sprinklers in the beds. Often times, shrubs will grow to a height where they begin stopping or decreasing the spray of water to surrounding plants. If this is the case in your beds, consider either adding a head or increasing the height of the blocked head. You can increase the height by adding a “riser†to the head or replacing with a taller head. So many times a customer has come to me with “I don’t understand why THAT shrub won’t grow while the others do†and find out it was because THAT shrub just wasn’t getting enough water.

It’s also a great idea to check your entire system this month. In the heat we have in July, it won’t take long to see damage occur when a sprinkler system isn’t operating properly. It’s better to stay on top of that this month than suffer damage to parts of your lawn or beds.

 

 

And Tips on How to Deal With You:

 

1. Try to mow your lawn and perform your landscape duties during the morning or evening, during the cooler parts of the day.

 

2. If you feel faint or dizzy or abnormal in other ways while performing your duties, stop and go inside. Do not brush it off and think it will pass. Better safe than sorry.

 

3. Hydrate yourself before, during and after you mow or work in the landscape.

 

4. Wear protective clothing. Despite the heat, it's not appropriate and is dangerous to wear flip flops while mowing. In fact, I suggest you wear jeans, long sleeve t shirt (to protect against sun rays), and a hat that has a large brim that will shadow your face and neck along with a pair of work boots or at least leather sneakers.

 

Fall Tomatoes!

 

In Texas, one of the great things about gardening is that we have such a long, long growing season. In fact, we have a second season (Fall) for tomatoes. IF you intend to have Fall tomatoes this season, you need to have your plants in the ground (or in a pot) by July 15. If you wait longer, you may not get ripe fruit before the first frost/freeze.

 

When you plant them, remember to submerge 80% of the plant beneath the surface of the soil. This will provide for a stronger, more vigorous root system.

You can create your Fall tomato plants by snipping suckers off of your spring tomato plants and sticking them into small pots and keeping the soil wet for a week. The sucker will grow roots and become a new plant. If you do this now, you’ll have time to get them into the ground by July 15.

 

Tree Trimming

 

Remember when I said do not trim Oak trees in Texas between March and June? Okay, June is gone and the threat of Oak Wilt is decreased now. But there is still a decision to be made regarding trimming. If the tree in question (to be trimmed) is in an irrigated environment, then you can trim your tree without there being much of a consequence. If the tree is in a non-irrigated environment, then do not trim until Fall.

 

Trees will often try to grow more growth (particularly in Texas) on the west side. One assumes that this is done so that the tree can gather more sunlight and increase photosynthesis. And that would be right. But, they also do it to protect their root ball zone from the sun. That protection is generally needed the most during July and August when its the hottest. In an irrigated environment, a tree is at minimal risk. The tree doesn’t know this, but you do.

 

Help! My Tree’s leaves are showing burned ends!

 

I typically receive some questions each year around this time regarding the ends of leaves turning brown and curling on some trees, particularly new ones. This is normal for some trees and is a self-defense mechanism. This would be true for all Maples, including all types of Japanese Maples. The tree will sacrifice the outer leaves to protect the leaves of the inner canopy.

 

Newly or recently planted trees will also show this type of reaction in this heat. Its a form of plant shock and while the tree will likely survive, it will need your TLC to do so. Keep the tree watered, but don’t over water or allow the root ball to stay wet for long periods of time. Water them well, as in saturating the root ball. But allow them to dry out some, too, before watering again.

 

In other cases such as these symptoms striking an established, mature tree, it represents stress and can indicate the presence of insects/pests or disease. So it’s best to have a professional look your tree over good if your tree begins suffering this way.

If there are any questions, concerns or issue anyone would like to toss out here for an answer – ask away. There is no question too simple or too complicated.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey Mark, question on carpenter ants. I have a cluster of 7 live oaks in my yard which have harbored carpenter ants for quite some time. A few of the trees have dead/hollow spots where the ants live. I treat them when I see them with granules designed to kill carpenter ants and I don't see them for awhile. Internet searches said that these ants only live in the dead areas of trees and don't kill/eat the live parts. The searches recommended leaving them alone if they are away from the house. The trees are about 40 feet from my back porch. Any thoughts on whether I need to professionally eradicate these ants or to leave them alone?

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Hey Mark, question on carpenter ants. I have a cluster of 7 live oaks in my yard which have harbored carpenter ants for quite some time. A few of the trees have dead/hollow spots where the ants live. I treat them when I see them with granules designed to kill carpenter ants and I don't see them for awhile. Internet searches said that these ants only live in the dead areas of trees and don't kill/eat the live parts. The searches recommended leaving them alone if they are away from the house. The trees are about 40 feet from my back porch. Any thoughts on whether I need to professionally eradicate these ants or to leave them alone?

 

 

I would have an arborist over to treat them. At the same time, I would put a 3-inch layer/strip of Diatamaceous Earth along the entire back of your home. That way, when he treats the trees your home will not become their destination when they flee. They'll run into the DE and die.

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I would have an arborist over to treat them. At the same time, I would put a 3-inch layer/strip of Diatamaceous Earth along the entire back of your home. That way, when he treats the trees your home will not become their destination when they flee. They'll run into the DE and die.

Thanks for the reply. Is it pricey to hire an arborist? Just want to know what to expect. I am in the Austin area....do you know any good local guys?

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No, I don't know anyone down there. Arborists aren't pricey, no more so than a landscaper. You just have to remember the tree(s) being saved are worth far more than what you're paying him.

 

I had to hire one this spring to save a Live Oak in my front lawn. Stupid street construction decided they needed to come into my property by 8 ft and dig a 6 ft hole right next to my adult Live Oak. City came out and immediately agreed with me that we had a problem. The arborist I use for my clients came out and saved it. If I were to have to replace it, it would run me about $18K. The city is very glad he was able to save it for $450 in treatments.

 

 

 

 

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