Summer in the Oklahoma garden can be a challenge while battling summer heat and drought. You can overcome these challenges with good watering and mulching habits. This is a great time for garden bargain hunters, because many growers and garden centers are running specials on some of their remaining crops of annuals and perennials.
If you are willing to commit a little extra time to watering and mulching, you can plant container-grown plants right through the hot summer weather. These summer specials can be your opportunity to add new flower beds or container garden plantings or to spice up your existing landscape.
Just remember that new plantings will need extra watering in the summer heat as they have not had the chance to root deeper into their new “home” or soil, where more moisture is available. You can reduce the soil surface moisture loss and reduce watering needs by adding a 1- to 3-inch layer of bark mulch or some type of natural straw or hulls to the top of the soil surface.
Many plants thrive in the summer heat, and some put on their best show of the year in the heat. Crape myrtle shrubs deserve consideration as the state shrub for Oklahoma for the tremendous show of red, white, pink and purple colors that brings our yards to life. Lantana, periwinkle, penta, marigold, zinnia and celosia all are in full color. As long as you provide the water, they will provide the show of color.
Pressure from insects
Summer also is the time of year we face the most pressure from insects. We face everything from fleas and ticks in the yard and on our pets to grasshoppers, squash beetles, aphids, mealy bugs, red spider mites and many other insects on our plants and in our yards.
Just as our plants grow best in the warmer weather, so do the insects, beetles and bugs. Most insects produce eggs much quicker in warmer weather and have bigger batches of young insects at that time. Grasshoppers are an example of pests whose numbers have exploded this summer. Some areas in Oklahoma City and particularly western Oklahoma have felt like they are facing armies of grasshoppers.
Take a sample of any pest or disease problem to your local nursery or garden center so it can be identified and you can get help in selecting the best solution or prescription to get the challenge under control.
Most problems can be addressed in several ways. Let your nurseryman know if you want an organic solution or are comfortable with an often quicker chemical solution. Another choice is to tolerate some crop losses and share your bounty with the insects.
This is also the time of year we battle weed presence in our flower beds and vegetable gardens. Your nurseryman can help you select the best product depending on whether you are trying to control broadleaf weeds or grasses and in what crop. You may use glyphosate or Poast or go organic with a vinegar solution. You can always pull the weeds by hand or mulch to reduce weed pressure.
Go shop for some plant bargains, get them planted and enjoy.
Rodd Moesel serves on the Oklahoma Horticulture Industrial Council and the Oklahoma State University agriculture dean's advisory committee. He is a former president of the Oklahoma Greenhouse Growers Association. Email garden and landscape questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.