>Tomatoes moving into fall

>I’ve been surprised this year at the continuous amount of tomatoes I have gotten all summer. I have had hot summers before where I have literally gotten no tomatoes after June 1st until it cools down for fall because many tomatoes stop setting fruit when it stays above around 80 at night. This summer certainly qualifies. So what gives? I think this year I did a better job of selecting heat tolerant varieties which will fruit in this weather. Cherry tomatoes are always reliable for this. Juliets do a very good job. Some others I planted this year include Cherokee purple, Azoychka, and Arkansas Traveler.

That said, the heat has taken it’s toll the last month or so. In fact, many of my tomato plants I have gone ahead and chopped back a half to ready them to go in fall. The rest will be done by the first week of August. I did this last year and I got a fantastic crop in the fall. I had tomatoes going all the way until frost last year.

So do your tomatoes a favor. If they are still healthy, cut them back by half so they can be ready to perform when the weather gives us a break.

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>The ugly…

> They declared the drought in Central and South Texas as “extreme” and “exceptional” the other day. Our area is the only one in the nation to be in a declared drought right now and lake levels are at a 25-year low. It’s not hard to find record-breaking facts right now having to do with the heat here in Central Texas. And for gardeners, that means things are ugly right now. July is already a tiresome month for gardens here because of the normal heat we get, but we have been above 100 degrees for a long time with no rain.

Container plants need to be watered at least twice a day on my patio, and many of them I have dragged into the shade to give them a little break from the sun’s searing rays. Shade will help them quite ba bit. And the grass, what can I say? I know I have St. Augustine and this is a good shade grass, not good for full sun. But I have both shade and sun on my property, so what is a homeowner to do- install patchwork grass of different types according to sun and shade locations on their porperty? The grass is usually able to hold on quite well most of the year, but this drought has just put it through it’s paces. I’m not interested in keeping the greenest lawn on the block and running up water bills and breaking water restrictions while I am at it. At this point, I just want to keep a hint of life in it to carry it through the rest of the summer until rains will revive it. But man, even with two waterings a week, look at this crispy lawn.

At least it is nice to remind myself that this is considered “extreme: weather for Texas and won’t be something I will have to deal with every year.

So what is a gardener to do in this heat and drought? If you don’t have mulch on top of the soil, add it…NOW…LOTS OF IT. It will help to keep in moisture and keep the soil temperature down. If you are watering, give deep soakings, especially to the lawn so it will develop deeper, stronger roots. And keep an eye out for things you might not normally have to watch- like trees. Our trees are now going through their second year of drought and this can really stress a tree, introducing an opportunity for diseases or pests to move in and take advantage. If trees look like they are having problems, give them infrequent, deep soakings with a hose to help them through to the fall.

Ahhh fall. Will it ever come?

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>Upcoming Seminar in Austin- Diagnosing plant problems

>This is our second run of this popular program, helping gardeners to diagnose plant problems in their garden.

Becoming A Garden Detective: Diagnosing Plant Problems
Saturday, July 11, 2009
10am-Noon
Zilker Botanical Garden

Just when you think you’ve done everything right by your plants, one of them starts to really look sick. One of the biggest challenges for gardeners is correctly diagnosing plant problems and finding effective, safe solutions. Is your plant dying because of an insect, environmental or disease problem? This seminar will teach you the causes of plant problems, the process for diagnosing plant problems, and how to respond to the problems. This class is free and open to the public.

>More rain!

>

I don’t know who finally did that rain dance right, but we have gotten some very nice rain storms the past two days and all I can say is that my plants are so very thankful and their sad, wilted, papery-dry faces have disappeared. There is nothing sweeter right now than the sound of rain pitter-pattering on the roof.