Summer Gardening Tips & Tools
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Heat, Drought Spur Extra Planning For Rose Festival
By JARAH WRIGHT
Record-breaking heat and drought are stressing one of Tyler’s most precious commodities — the rose.
Although the sweltering sun is leaving the plants wilted, Texas Rose Festival officials said they will do whatever it takes to make sure the festival in October features plenty of beautiful blooms.
“While we have historically used Tyler-grown roses for the Rose Show, parade floats and other festival decorations, we know we may need to make adjustments this year due to the drought and record-breaking heat,” said Julie Kidwell, executive director of the Texas Rose Festival Association.
The festival will continue the tradition of honoring Tyler’s history as the “Rose Capital of the World,” she said.
The festival displays tens of thousands of rose blooms.
Bob Wells, owner of Bob Wells Nursery in Lindale, said he thinks finding blooms will be challenging.
“That’s going to be a pretty hard deal unless they import roses from somewhere else like California,” Wells said. “That is because the fields are struggling so bad. The fields are so dry and that’s where they (nurseries) cut a lot of their blooms.”
Bringing in large numbers of roses for the festival would not be unprecedented.
According to a history of the festival published in 1983, organizers faced a similar challenge in 1952.
“A summer of scorching heat and drought had withered the blooms on vast acres of rose fields in the area,” wrote Frank Bronough in “Fifty Years: Texas Rose Festival Association.” “Festival officials hoped in vain for rain. As the festival date neared, the fields were still barren of blooms.”
That year organizers used a private plane to fly in 10,000 blooms cut from fields in Pennsylvania and then carefully packed in cases of ice.
Mark Chamblee, owner of Chamblee’s Rose Nursery, said that if heat continues, the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden will not look as good as it does most years.
“The most devastating thing for the Rose Festival is the stress that it’s putting on our public garden,” Chamblee said. “They can irrigate there as well but they have no way to shade those roses from the heat and this excessive heat.
“It (the sun) burns the leaves on the plants. Even if you have the irrigation water, you can get a lot of burn from excessive heat,” he continued. “They’re showing a lot of burn and stress and there is some mortality on those plants because they just can’t keep them cool enough in this heat wave.”
City spokeswoman Susan Guthrie said roses in the garden will be fine.
“We have an irrigation system in the Rose Garden,” she said. “We will irrigate to the level needed to keep the roses healthy.”
The 14-acre Tyler Municipal Rose Garden displays 38,000 rose bushes. During the Texas Rose Festival, it is the site of the Queen’s Tea and visited by thousands.
Keith Hansen, AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist in Smith County, said heat causing stress on roses during the summer is nothing new and that some browning of plants is normal.
With enough water, roses typically weather the heat and rebound.
“Roses, like any species, can have stress in any given year,” Hansen said. “You can go out and find plants struggling for whatever reason, whether it’s diseases, an insect problem or broken water heads.”
Wells and Chamblee said keeping plants healthy in the heat is challenging area nurserymen.
“We’ve had to drill an extra well, and we’ve doubled up on water on what we normally give our plants because of the extreme heat,” Wells said.
Lack of water from wells is becoming a problem, Wells said.
“Our wells are beginning to wane some. They’re about 40-foot wells,” he said. “That’s all we have and we’re blessed in East Texas with a 10-foot water table. We got about 30 feet of water in there (wells) but when you’re pulling out (water) 15 hours a day out of each well for every 24-hour period, it’s pretty taxing on them because the tables are dropping.”
Chamblee said his nursery also is making sure plants are getting plenty of water.
“We use wells and irrigation to water our plants,” Chamblee said. “We also recycle the water to use again.”
Amy Graham, president of the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association, said growers around the state are getting creative when it comes to keeping plants alive.
“One thing we’ve seen across the state is an increase in efforts to retain water,” she said. “Whether they are catching what little rain water we’ve had or recycling the water they’ve already used, growers and nurseries are looking for ways to stretch every drop.”
Planting. By now, cold-weather crops are planted. If some were lost to frost, try again with plants that won’t bolt (accelerated flower and seed production) in the mid-summer heat, such as lettuce, spinach, and parsley. When evening temperatures begin to stay above freezing, it’s time to plant warm-weather crops, such as tomatoes and peppers. Blankets and row covers can provide protection for tender plants on cold nights to prevent sluggish growth. Start planting summer blooming annuals and perennials. Remember to amend soil with organic materials before planting. As bulb leaves die back, remove spent foliage.
Fertilizing. Fertilize lawns, flowerbeds, and vegetables after thinning to give them a good start for the growing season. Organic fertilizers are available.
Watering. For good growth and flowering during the dry part of the summer before monsoons, water deeply, once each week under normal conditions, but more frequently when it is over 90 degrees. Many established native plants will get by with less frequent watering until the monsoons, when they will put on their show. Check irrigation periodically.
Mulch. If all mulch was removed to warm the soil, redress the soil around your plants with a thin layer to reduce water evaporation and to control weeds.
Pruning. Once early blooming shrubs have completed their flowering, it’s time for pruning. Spent spring flowers should be removed at this time so the plant will focus energy on this year’s growth. If fruit trees have produced an overabundance of fruit, begin thinning fruits to several per branch to get larger fruit.
Planting. If you are a risk-taker, calculate backwards from the expected date of the first hard frost for your location to determine when to plant a second round of quick-growing vegetables that can take the cool early fall nights (kale, spinach, onions, radishes, etc.).
Fertilizing. Feed annuals, potted plants, and vegetables monthly through the growing season.
Watering. Continue to deep-water lawns, perennials, shrubs, and trees until the monsoons arrive. Keeping lawns 2 to 3 inches in height will help protect against drying out by shading the ground and keeping it cooler. Additionally, planting lawns using native grasses such as buffalograss (bouteloua dactyloides) and blue grama grass (bouteloua gracilis), instead of traditional grass species like Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), can help curb watering needs.
Maintenance. Keep up with the weeds before they go to seed to minimize future weeding efforts. For those weeds with stout roots that are difficult to pull out completely, keep removing top growth every two weeks to drain energy out of roots.
Planting. Monsoon season is a great time to plant perennials, shrubs, and trees for next year. The higher humidity and frequent precipitation greatly reduces stress on new plants and gives them time to establish roots in the soil before the onset of winter.
Watering. When monsoons arrive, cut back or eliminate regular watering. Check irrigation timer clocks to be sure lightning storms haven’t disrupted any programming. Now is a good time to replace batteries since fresh batteries will be more likely to maintain your programming even with a few electrical disruptions.
Harvest Time. If cold nights are predicted, cover warm-weather crops at night. Pick crops in early stages for the best flavors and textures and to keep the plants producing.
Planning Ahead. Order bulbs for fall planting. At this elevation, spring may be a better time to plant bulbs so that they are not battling the intense cold of winter before becoming established.