Week 43 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

As I write this I am listening to the sounds of water dripping off my roof! I am also enjoying the lightning storm that is telling me more rain is on the way!.  Thanks to a whole weekend of thunderstorms, I am hoping to do absolutely nothing in the garden!  If you get rained in this weekend I recommend reading the latest issue of Texas Gardener.  This issue is really good.  Friend and co-blogger Patty Leander has an excellent article on growing microgreens.  For those of us who need to grow something all year round, her excellent article tells you how to grow these flavorful (and pretty fancy) greens all winter long.  If it is not raining on you this weekend there is plenty to do in your fall yard and garden.

Its been a while since I saw water dripping of the roof and the trees!

Its been a while since I saw water dripping of the roof and the trees!


Sally walked out of our guest house this weekend and almost stepped on a young copperhead that was coming up the steps to meet her!  Copperheads love hunting at dusk and they love pockets of high humidity.  Right now they are breeding and trying to bulk up for winter.  Since this is one of their most active times of the year you really need to wear sturdy boots and carry a stick when you are out in your yard and garden.  Please be careful out there! Just FYI, if you get bitten by a copperhead you are probably going to be ok.  If bitten, go to the hospital ASAP but know that, even though they are the most aggressive of the poisonous snakes in Texas, they are the least venomous.


Don’t fertilize your plants until they have developed their true leaves.


  • Plant root crops from seed – Last night I put out my second planting of beets. I also put out icicle radishes and three varieties of carrots (Danvers, Danvers Shorts and Cosmic Purple).  You can still plant all root crops from seed plus chard, kale, collards and mustard greens.
  • Make Compost Tea- I do not recommend fertilizing any plant until it is past the cotyledon size. Once your brassicas, lettuces, spinach or root crops have their true leaves, feed them!  When plants are small I really like foliar applications of compost tea.  To make compost tea, add a cup of molasses to five gallons of rain water.  Add an old sock that has been filled with compost and tied at the end.  Place outside and stir twice a day for a week or ten days.  Then pour directly on your plants or strain and apply with a sprayer.
The only thing cuter than my grandson is my grandson enjoying a playdate in a pumpkin patch!!!

The only thing cuter than my grandson is my grandson enjoying a playdate in a pumpkin patch!!!


  • Water your decorations! – Right now it is hard to find a yard a porch that does not have a big bunch of mums on it. Water the mums almost daily. To extend, or encourage their bloom, feed weekly with Miracle Grow mixed to 50% of the recommended rate.
  • Plant ryegrass now! – If you can beat the rain, this weekend will be a perfect time to over seed your lawn with rye.
  • Move plants – I need to move several little crepe myrtles that have popped up from seeds. Now is the best time to move them and all other perennials.  For best results move perennials when they are small, take as many roots as possible, plant them slightly higher than they were in their original location and then water, water, water!


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Tips for Week 23 in the Zone 9 Garden

Harlequin bugs are a common pest in our area.

Harlequin bugs are a common pest in our area.

As I write this post, sun is pouring in through my window!  Now that sun is back it is time for some serious gardening.  June is always the busiest and most difficult month of the year for me.  Everything thing needs constant attention.  Each June vegetables need to be harvested almost daily and full grown weeds seem to pop up overnight.   While those jobs are normal this time of year all of our recent rains are going to cause some pretty serious, and unusual pest problems.  Patty Leander sent me several tips on how to organically control some of the more common pests in our June gardens.  This is such a big topic this time of year I am going to add a series of pest control tips each week in June.

Pest Control

  • Control mosquitos-All of this rain is going to mean swarms of mosquitoes. Drain all standing water.  Mosquitos can mature in as little as a half inch of water.  If not possible to drain the water treat it with a product that contains the israelensis strain of Bt (also known as Bti) to kill mosquito larvae.
  • Control nutgrass (Nut Sedge) with horticultural molasses-I have not tried this but I found it on Howard Garrett’s website (http://www.dirtdoctor.com/Nutgrass-Control-with-Molasses_vq3266.htm). Since I trust “The Dirt Doctor” and I have a problem with nutgrass I will be trying this in my gardens this week
  • Control slugs, snails, pillbugs and earwigs with a product containing iron phosphate and spinosad- The efficacy of many pesticides can be wiped out by heavy rain so always check the forecast before application and reapply when needed.
Small tomatoes are already for harvest.  All of our rain is going to cause cracking in many of our larger varieties.  Don't worry though.  Just cut out the bad spots and enjoy what's left!

Small tomatoes are already for harvest. All of our rain is going to cause cracking in many of our larger varieties. Don’t worry though. Just cut out the bad spots and enjoy what’s left!


  • Expect to see cracking in tomatoes, especially if rainy weather continues-This is caused by fluctuations in moisture and temperature during periods of rapid fruit growth. Salvage fruit by cutting around the affected areas.
  • Watch tomatoes for signs of early blight-Early Blight is a fungal disease that spreads by air, insects, wind and splashing water. Extension sponsored research from Ohio State University has shown that garlic oil, neem oil and seaweed extract can help reduce the severity of early blight on tomatoes; other organic options for control include potassium bicarbonate and the fungicide Serenade.
  • Start seeds for fall tomatoes in late June so you will have transplants ready to set out in early August.
Spider mites love marigolds.  Control them with strong blasts of water to the undersides of leaves every few days.  I use the Mitey Fine Mister

Spider mites love marigolds. Control them with strong blasts of water to the undersides of leaves every few days. I use the Mitey Fine Mister


  • Pull or hoe weeds before they set seed.  If you get them before seed set they can go right into the compost
  • Aphids and spider mites are becoming a problem on annual flowers and crepe myrtles.  Control with strong blasts of water to the underside of leaves or spray with horticultural oils
  • Deadhead annual flowers like marigolds to encourage blooming
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch!  Mulch controls soil temperatures, suppresses weeds and conserves moisture.  Mulch often and deeply
  • Don’t forget to feed your potted plants regularly-I use compost tea.  If you use chemical fertilizers like Miracle Grow apply weekly at half the recommended rate.

Don’t forget to fertilize your potted plants. I use compost tea. If using chemical products like Miracle Grow apply weekly at half the recommend rate


  • To avoid fungal disease, do not apply nitrogen to St. Augustine until the soil dries out
  • When soil dries apply 3 to 4 lbs of nitrogen to 1000 square feet of St. Augustine
  • Apply 4 to 5 lbs of nitrogen per 1000 square feet of Bermuda
  • Apply 2 to 3 lbs of nitrogen per 1000 sqaure feet of Zoysia

Tip of the Week – Week 13 in the Zone 9 Garden

Finally!!!!  Great gardening weather is predicted for this weekend.  If you have been able to plant you should have things sprouting.  If you haven’t you really need to get those squash, cucumbers, beans and tomatoes in the ground.


Right now aphids and other pests are beginning to hatch. While I despise them, I have a bigger, and much cuter pest problem to deal with


If you were lucky enough to get your seeds and plants in the ground you are already ahead of the game.  Once your little plants are past the cotyledon size you can begin to fertilize.  You can side dress with finished compost on a bi-weekly basis.  I love using compost in its dry form.  However, I believe in the early part of the growing season compost is most effective when used as a drench (compost tea).  There are a million different ways to make compost tea.  To me, the easiest way is add a shovel full of finished compost to a five gallon bucket and fill with water.  Also add a cup of molasses (to feed the microbes) and stir daily (or add an aerator to it) for a week to ten days.  Strain the finished mixture into your sprayer.  To apply, spray your plants weekly until the mixture begins to drip off of their leaves.


Aphids are beginning to hatch and they will attack just about every plant in your garden. Some research shows that plants treated with compost tea actually repel these pests.

Now is the time to get serious about feeding your onions.  As the temperatures rise their growth will increase rapidly.  If you are growing your onions organically, top dress your rows with a high quality, high nitrogen compost (like manures) every month.  If you are fertilizing your onions top dress the soil with ½ cup of fertilizer (ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) for alkaline soils and calcium nitrate (15.5-0-0) for acidic soils ) for every ten feet of row.  Apply every month until you see the soil beginning to be pushed back by the bulb.

If you are like me you have a tendency to over plant.  Through the years I have learned this is a bad idea.  Plants that are too close together produce less and they produce later.  Plus, plants that are too close together are a magnet for all sorts of pests.  So, if you have already planted, get out there and thin your plantings.  If you are going to plant this weekend try and follow the recommended spacing listed on the seed packets.


Control aphids with a strong blast of water or horticultural oils like neem and orange.

Now let’s talk about pests.  If you have plants that are up, then you probably have aphids that are hatching just in time to feast on them.  I got a question about aphids on my Facebook page from Melinda Stanton.  Melinda asked if aphid eggs over winter in the soil.  Well, the answer is YES!!! Aphid eggs over winter in the litter around your plants. They are horrible little pests. If you can start spraying them now with a good blast of the hose it will help prevent them from getting out of control. I use a tool called the Mitey Fine mister to spray mine. If this doesn’t work I suggest trying Neem oil. Neem is an organic horticultural oil that coats them in oil and basically suffocates them. It is more expensive than water but seems to work very well. I use it on all of my plants that have an aphid or scale problem, even my crepe myrtles. Also, my buddy Bart Brechter (curator of gardens at Bayou Bend) swears by orange oil. Exact same concept as the neem but it smells a lot better!


My wife loves fresh herbs.  She loves cooking with them and she uses them to make incredible teas. I like eating her cooking and drinking her teas but that is not why I love growing herbs.  Herbs are easy to grow and most are very ornamental.  I absolutely love walking through my garden and crushing a mint leaf or brushing up against my rosemary.  Right now is the perfect time to plant herbs.  Some of my favorites are spearmint, peppermint, lemon balm, rosemary, chives, basil,  thyme and oregano.  My ABSOLUTE fave is Mexican Mint Marigold.  This plant is almost bullet proof.  It takes heat and drought and resists pests.  Plus it makes a lovely little 18” tall rounded mound that gets covered in little yellow flowers in the fall.  It also has a great anise smell and taste.  I use this in many of my flower beds and I truly love it.


COLOR is the word for the week.  Plant tons of marigolds now.  It is still not too late for seed but you will get faster blooms from transplants.  I also love petunias and the garden centers are full of them.  Those in the garden centers are all fine but they are all hybrids.  Why not try and get a start of the good old fashioned petunia.  It is a purple-y magenta and the blooms are smaller.  However, it is a good reseeder. If you can find this variety and get it going you will have it forever.


Poppies are my favorite spring flower. Here are some of my red singles in the potager.

I share my posts on the HomeAcre Hop.  Be sure to stop by the hop.  It has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!