Tip of the Week – Week 22 in the Zone 9 Garden

I am getting a lot of questions about what to do about all of this rain.  I really don’t know.  According to the weather man we are experiencing “historical rain events”.  This means that nobody really knows how all of this water is going to affect our yards and gardens.  I am certain that if all of this moisture doesn’t kill our plants out right, we are going to have problems with fungus and mold and bugs once the sun comes out.  The only advice I have right now is pray that all of these “historical rain events” end soon!


Planting time is slipping away. However you can still plant southern peas like crowder and black eyes.


  • Pick cucumbers regularly. With this much rain it is not unreasonable to expect to harvest every day
  • Make pickles with all of those cucumbers
  • You can still plant basil. If you have basil ready to harvest pick often and pick early in the morning when flavors are strongest
  • We are nearing the end of planting season but you can still plant sweet potatoes, lima beans, okra and southern peas.  However, your planting window is closing.
Prune your climbing roses after they finish blooming

Prune your climbing roses after they finish blooming


  • Prune running roses after blooms fade. Train new growth onto or around structures
  • Feed roses and other blooming shrubs. Add compost monthly and blended fertilizers every six weeks
  • All of this rain is going to make fungal diseases a problem. Inspect roses regularly for black spot or powdery mildew.  Treat with a fungicides easily found at your garden center.
  • All of this rain will leach nutrients from your potted plants. Now is a great time to replant, or at a minimum, fertilize them. I like to use a slow release fertilize like Osmocote so they are feed all summer long


  • If you can stand it, do not mow until things dry out a bit, especially if you use a riding mower. The ground is so wet you can damage your lawn and your equipment.
This cool, wet weather has extended the time we have to plant small trees and shrubs.

This cool, wet weather has extended the time we have to plant small trees and shrubs.


  • Take advantage of the unusually cool temperatures and large amounts of water to plant small trees and shrubs. This extended planting season for trees and woody perennials is the only bright spot I can think of right now.
  • If you grow fruit trees in containers be sure and fertilize them regularly. Right now they have fruit so they need water and nutrients.  Feed weekly with a liquid organic solution like compost tea.  One of my favorite liquid organic applications is John’s Recipe from Lady Bug.

Tip of the Week – Week 12 in the Zone 9 Garden

Four more days to spring!  If the rain doesn’t get us this is a great weekend to be in the garden.  So much to see and do.


If the rain kept you from planting last week you still have plenty of time.  As you decide what to plant where consider doing a little crop rotation.  Tomatoes and cucumbers are heavy feeders.  As such, you should periodically change where you grow them in the garden (this will also help with several pest problems).  When moving some of these heavy feeders replant their old rows with beans or southern peas.  These plants are legumes and they have the ability to trap airborne nitrogen and convert it to a readily available soil born nitrogen.  Just FYI, do not plant tomatoes in the same location for more than three years.  If you do you greatly increase your chance of contracting all of those diseases listed on the seed packets – V, F, FF, N, T, A, St.

This is a very good weekend to plant tomato and eggplant transplants.  Side dress your plants with blood meal or fish meal for a quick shot of nitrogen that will help stimulate leaf production. The recommended rate is one cup per five feet of row.


Grow legumes (like pink eyed purple hulls) in beds where tomatoes and cucucmbers were grown in the past


Right now I have more larkspur and poppies coming up than I know what to do with.  Thin these plants to about a foot apart.  They will bloom quicker, get bigger, last longer and be resistant to several pests.

Except for my luecojum, all of the blooms have now faded from my spring blooming bulbs.  Allow the clumps of foliage that are left after the bloom to stay intact until it begins to naturally brown.  This foliage is what feeds the bulbs so they will be full of the carbs needed to bloom again next spring.

Speaking of bulbs, now is a great time to divide your spider lilies and oxbloods.  Once you dig them you can divide and immediately replant or you can let them dry out and keep them in the garage until later in the year.

One of my favorite color plants is Shell Ginger.  This is a good time to plant it and all other gingers in the Zone 9 garden.

Besides my luecojum, most of my spring blooming bulbs have played out.  Leave their foliage intact until it dies naturally

Besides my luecojum, most of my spring blooming bulbs have played out. Leave their foliage intact until it dies naturally

Trees and Shrubs

Now is a great time to plant many ornamental trees and shrubs.  Some of my favorites are Vitex, Eve’s Necklace, Texas Mountain Laurel, Southern Wax Myrtle, Loropetalum, yaupon and dwarf yaupon.  Plant these perinnials in a hole that is no deeper than the soil in the pot and about one and a half times as wide.  Do not fertilize.  Water consistently until fully established.


Now is a great time to plant ornamental trees and shrubs like Vitex


****Be sure to check out my friend Bart’s blog (Our Garden View) for more great tips for the Central and South Central garden!


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!

Vitex-TheTexas Lilac (Vitex agnus-castus)

It has now been a whole month since I finished my horticulture degree at A&M.  In that time I have had three people approach me to do landscapes for them (it is interesting to me that people think all horticulturists are landscapers).  One horseman wants me to landscape his two entry gates, my family cemetery wants me to landscape their entrance and another person wants an “LSU Garden” in their yard.  While all three of these projects are very different, all three will feature a very lovely and durable plant – Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus).


The 12″ flower spike of the Vitex are beautiful and irresistible to butterflies and hummingbirds

Vitex is a small flowering tree that is, in my opinion, one of the best ornamental trees you can own. Its long, curvy, purple-blue flower spikes have earned the vitex the nickname of “The Texas Lilac”.    In addition to its beautiful flower spikes, this little tree can take the heat, endure the drought and is resistant to most pests.  It attracts butterflies and hummingbirds and deer do not like it.  With all it has going for it, this drought resistant tree really is a perfect choice for the Texas homeowner.

Vitex are typically grown as a multi trunked tree.  The multi-trunk look is achieved through pruning.  When grown as a tree they  grow to about 15 feet.  However, some varieties can get as tall as 35 feet.   If left alone from seed, the Vitex will grow into a lovely shrub that makes a stunning hedge that can, with regular deadheading, produce those long, lovely flower spikes throughout the summer.


My Hyperion daylilies pair nicely with a Vitex I have left in a shrub form

You can find Vitex with pink flowers, mauve flowers and white flowers.  However, most of the Vitex sold in the trade have a purple-blue colored flower that is often called lilac.  The three most common varieties sold here in Texas include Shoal Creek, Montrose and Le Compte.  My friends at Tree Town USA are about to release a new, and as of yet unnamed, dark blue flowering variety.  Look for them this fall at all of the major nurseries or your local big box.

If you want to grow your own Vitex, plant it in the fall.  Like most trees, the cooler weather of fall will allow the plant to establish itself with much less water.  You can also plant it in the winter when it is dormant.  If you miss both of those opportunities you can still plant it in early spring.  Just remember though, the longer you wait, the more effort and water it will take to fully root.


Since all of these lovely little flowers produce seeds, Vitex can be a bit invasive

While I do love this tree, it does have a couple of small problems.  First, each of those little flowers on those 12” flower stalks will produce a little seed.  Because of this it can be a bit invasive.  This is not a huge problem for the homeowner.  The weed eater and mower can easily control all of the volunteers that sprout in the yard.  However, if planted near a creek or tank, the plant can easily escape and create enough of a problem that it is currently listed as an invasive species on the Texas Invasives website (http://www.texasinvasives.org/plant_database/detail.php?symbol=VIAG).  You can control the spread of this plant by diligently deadheading each spent flower spike before the seeds develop.   The other little problem is allergies.  If you have a sensitivity to tree pollen you may want to avoid this tree.  All of those flowers produce pollen and many people claim to be allergic to it.

vitex-flowers-4 As I drive around I notice more and more Vitex in yards, commercial landscapes and along the roads and highways of our great state.  I think this is great.  Vitex is a beautiful and versatile plant that blooms throughout the summer and thrives on average annual rainfall.  It is no wonder that the Texas Highway Department has added them to their list of preferred plants.  If this plant thrives along the hot and dry roadsides and medians of our great state, imagine how well it will perform for you in your yard!

Save Money On Perennials Now!

Lovely vitex that I got for $17 at Wal-Mart's summer close out. This tree was marked $69.99. It was very root bound so I did a lot of root spreading and trimming. Also trimmed back the top. You can see, it was well worth the $17 and the extra effort.

This may sound funny, but I hate buying plants.  You see, I am cheap and plants are expensive.  Even though I love getting new plants for the garden, I just cannot bring myself to pay what most nurseries want for their plants.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know a lot about the horticultural world and I know very well how much it costs to grow, market and ship a plant.  The horticultural world has done a great job at keeping the prices for their products down.  In fact, when you adjust for inflation, there has been no real growth in the price of bedding plants in the last ten years.  However, I still hate paying full price.  So, I don’t.  I am constantly on the look-out for ways to increase my garden without depleting my checking account. 

A $5 ornamental plum. My wife got two of these at Wal-mart during their end of season.

In the last month, I have purchased a lovely 7’ foot tall, three trunked Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus), two 7’ ornamental plum trees (Prunus cerasifera), two huge Southern wax myrtles (Myrica cerifera), three one gallon pots of variegated New Zealand flax (Phormium “Rainbow Queen”), three one gallon Purple Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum “Rubrum”) and a one gallon Broom plant (Genista racemosa).  While the list may or may not be impressive to you, what I paid for it should be.  I got all of these plants from the big boxes and I paid just $56!  That is not a typo.  I got five large trees and several large bedding plants for just $56.  That averages out to just $5.10 per plant.  How can that be?

I wish I could say that I was a master negotiator and I talked the owners of Wal-Mart and Lowe’s into selling me these fabulous plants for this ridiculously low price.  However, that would be a lie.  What really happened is this: Lowe’s and Wal-Mart are closing out their overstock from their spring buying.  I just happened to be in the stores when this was happening.

Plants I bought this weekend at the Lowe's summer close out. Total cost of plants shown: $10.34

Post season close outs happen twice a year at every nursery in America.  If you want to get the good deals, then you need to pay attention to when the stores receive their new stock — and then buy at another time.  In most of Texas, spring stock usually arrives around late February or early March and the fall shipments start coming by late August.  Armed with this knowledge, you can save a lot of money by purchasing your plants off peak. 

If you buy off-season, you need to keep a few things in mind.  First, you can realistically only buy perennials off-season.  Annuals (which usually mean Spring and Fall color) are only good for a short season.  It will not do you any good to buy pansies in July or mums in January.  However, if you want a good deal on loropetalum or New Zealand flax, then you can buy and plant them anytime of the year.  With a little care, you can plant perennials after their off-peak selling season and they will become beautiful, well established plantings in next year’s garden.

Look at the size of that Southern Wax Myrtle. I got two of these for $10 each.

If you buy off-season, you will have limited availability.  If there is a particular plant that you want and it absolutely has to be that plant, then you probably shouldn’t gamble that it will still be there at the end of the season.  Go ahead and buy it.  I have done it and there is no shame in paying retail.  However, if you garden more by form and color than by specific plant, there is a good chance you will find many things left in the nursery at the end of the season that will work somewhere in your garden.

One of my beds has wound up with a lot of purples in it: fall asters, liatrus and castor bean.  So I needed some yellow to compliment and break up all of that purple.  That is why I bought the variegated New Zealand flax.  The light green and yellow foliage and the upright, grass like form will be a great contrast to the mounding asters and the spiky liatrus.  This flax was $7.99 in March.  I got it $2 in June.

Another problem with off-season plants is the fact that they have been in the pot for so long.  When you remove these plants from their pot, many will be completely root bound.  That is no problem to the experienced gardener.  If you buy a root bound plant, simply unwind what you can and trim off the rest.  The plant will actually thank you for this.  Also remember that the top of the plant should be in balance with the bottom.  If you cut many of the roots you will need to prune the top as well.

Finally, if you buy off-season you are going to have to give these plants a little extra TLC once they are planted.  Once they are in the ground, make sure they receive enough water to keep them from going into stress.  If you give them a little extra care, they will grow and thrive just like the plants that your neighbors bought in season and paid full retail for.

There are many, many beautiful things to buy in the nursery.  I wish I could afford them all.  Since I can’t, I buy what I can off-season.  If you are willing to wait, are flexible in your design and willing to give your off-season purchases a little extra TLC then you can have a very full and beautiful garden that didn’t drain your bank account!