Summertime in Houston is like living in a steam bath for five months (or more!). And while we can escape the heat and beating down sun by stepping indoors and chilling out by the A/C vent, our outdoor grass and plants cannot. Here are the top three most common problems our lawns and plants experience during these sweltering months and how to cope with them.
Problem #1 – Watering: It can be a delicate balance between over and underwatering our lawn, shrubs, and potted plants during the summer. You worry that they will droop and die from the hot sun, so you give them extra water. Unfortunately, this may cause more harm than good and lead to things like yellowing leaves, fungus and even plant death.
The rule of thumb for lawns in north Houston summers is two inches of water per week, so set an empty tin can on your grass and measure how much water you collect after a sprinkler cycle. Watering twice or three times per week to accumulate two inches is best, and set your sprinkler system for the early morning hours.
Flower beds may need more frequent watering, so a manual dousing may be in order on non-sprinkler days. Make sure beds are raised to allow for adequate drainage and keep a layer of mulch on top to hold in the moisture.
For potted plants, place crushed, empty plastic containers in the bottom before filling with potting soil and only buy pots with drain holes.
Problem #2 – Fungus: With all that watering, you may get fungus in your grass or on your plants. Lawn fungus shows up as brown patch, black spot and powdery mildew and can all be treated with a fungicide. However, prevention is the best medicine, so re-read Problem #1 above!
Sago palms suffer from fungal leaf spot which appears as brown or tan leaves, and bud rot which causes new leaves to turn yellow or brown before they open up. Both can be cured with a weekly spray-on fungicide found at any gardening store.
Problem #3 – Bad Soil: Our lovely Houston soil is a muddy mix of clay and doesn’t provide a whole lot of nutrients to the plants that grow in it. Therefore, fertilizing and adding topsoil are both must-dos around here. Fertilize your lawn in the spring and fall (tip: get one with fire ant preventer!) and be sure to add topsoil before planting bushes and flowers to help them get established.