May: Gardening Tips

May is here and so is the heat! Read Candice’s tips on preparing your garden and lawn for the upcoming Texas heat!


  • · In May, plant St. Augustine and Hybrid Bermuda sod. St. Augustine can handle some shade, but Bermuda needs full sun. To make good seed-to-soil contact, use a roller and keep sod moist until new roots are established. Common Bermuda can be started from seed, but it is best to hydro mulch. In either case, keep the area moist for several weeks.
  •  Establish warm-season annuals from transplants. For sunny areas consider zinnias, firebush, pentas, petunias, blue daze, moss rose, purslane, butterfly weed, lantana, sweet potato vine and Dahlberg daisy. For shade, consider begonias, Persian shield, coleus, impatiens, ferns and hostas. Wait until May to plant caladiums.
  • Sow okra seeds.
  • Herbs such as dill, parsley, fennel, mint, oregano, thyme, basil and Mexican mint marigolds can be planted from transplants.
  • Wait until May to plant the hot-weather tropicals like hibiscus, esperanza and plumbago.


Fertilizing & Pruning

  • After the third mowing, when the entire lawn is green apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer to lawns.  Follow up with additional fertilizer in June (optional) and again in September. St. Augustine and Bermuda grass need one pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet, 2 to 3 times a year.
  • Frequently mow Bermuda grass at 1½ inches to keep thick and healthy and mow St. Augustine at 2½ inches. Raise the mowing height one notch later in the summer to reduce water requirements and to make the grass more draught tolerant.
  • Use a mulching mower and leave grass clippings on the ground. They will provide a source of nitrogen to feed the lawn.
  • Six weeks after flowering, thin peaches to one fruit every 6 inches.


Garden Watch

  • Closely inspect plants for insects. Treat only if you see the insect. Many insects are beneficial such as lady bugs, garden spiders, praying mantis and assassin bugs. Identify the pest. If it is one that must be controlled, use an appropriate insecticide for that insect. The insecticide must make contact with the insect or be used while it is feeding on foliage.
  • For fire ants, use the “Texas two-step method”. First, apply fire-ant bait to the area with a hand spreader. Use fresh bait from unopened containers. If fire-ant colonies are still active after using the bait, treat the individual mounds with an appropriate insecticide. There are organic and chemical types available. Beneficial nematodes (microscopic worms) that can be purchased at many nurseries are also effective. Make sure you get the type that kills fire ants. If only a few mounds are present, avoid treating the entire lawn with an insecticide. It can kill earthworms and other insects that are not harmful.


Odds & Ends

  • Read the labels on plants that you buy. Does it need sun or shade? Check the hardiness zone for perennial plants. The hardiness zone is the lowest average temperature for an area. Ellis County is in zone 8, meaning the plant is hardy from 10 to 15 degrees in the winter.
  • After planting annuals in your landscape, use any leftovers to make interesting container groupings. Visit your local nursery or garden center to see the many new plant options.
  • Shade plants, including those in containers, will use much less water than those in the sun.
  • Take cuttings and divisions of plants from your gardens that are rare, unusual or hard to find. Share them with others.

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