By Ashley Gregory, Special to the Star
With so much extra time on our hands many of us are looking to our yards for entertainment, exercise and enjoyment. If you have found yourself at the garden center wondering what to buy here are a few tips and suggestions to help you along.
If you are planning on starting a vegetable garden keep in mind that we have moved into the end of our Spring planting season. While there will be a few things that will continue to grow, many will need shade cloth or extra water to survive as the days get hotter and hotter. If not properly protected the heat will stress the plants increasing issues with pests and diseases.
As for your landscape there is plenty you can still add. Here is some general information to keep in mind as you are shopping:
* Our plant hardiness zone is 9B. These zones are based on the average annual extreme minimum temperature during a 30-year period in the past. This helps us determine which plants will or won’t do well in our climate. In our region it also means many plants that are annuals further north can grow as perennials here because of our warmer weather.
* We have predominately clay soils, meaning that our soil pH ranges from neutral to alkaline. This may affect how a plant performs in ground. For example, gardenias prefer a slightly acidic soil and may not do well when planted in the ground here.
* On average we get about 23 inches of rain; which is often concentrated in short periods of time. Meaning that you will most likely need supplemental irrigation; especially for non-native plants.
* If possible, shop local. They will have a better selection of native and adapted plants that are well suited for our climate.
A&M has taken a lot of the guess work out of selecting plants with their Texas Superstars program. Plants designated as Texas Superstars have been put through field trials around the state and only the best looking and best performing plants make the cut. These plants will be not only be beautiful additions to your yard, but they will be easy to care for. Check out www.texassuperstar.com<http://www.texassuperstar.com> for the full list of Texas Superstars.
Here are the newest ones to make the list:
* Pentas are a long time Texas Superstar, but we have some new and improved varieties. The newest to make the cut are Lucky Star and Graffiti 20/20; these are compact varieties that are vigorous performers in the heat of the summer and produce abundant flowers.
* Purselane is a popular ornamental, but these 3 new series (Cupcake, Muffin and Rio Grande) bloom better, longer and are more heat resistant making them perfect for the Texas Superstar team. The Cupcake series includes bicolor varieties like Strawberry Banana and Yellow Chrome. The Muffin series has unusual colors like the variety Silver Rose. The Rio Grande series has more compact varieties that don’t spread out as much.
* Finally, a new addition to the Tidal Wave series of Petunias is Tidal Wave Red Velour. This variety is the most heat tolerant of the series and the deep, red flowers offer a beautiful contrast for your garden.
For more information on caring for your garden and landscape visit Aggie Horticultures Earth-Kind Landscaping page at: https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/earthkind/
Ashley Gregory is the Horticulturalist for Hidalgo County with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She can be reached at the Hidalgo County Extension Office at (956) 383-1026 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com>