By Brian Bearden, TSB Contributor
Dr. Greg Church wants more city folks in the McKinney area to be able to take advantage of the county’s programs for gardening.
Church, who visited the Rotary Club of McKinney, serves as the Texas AgriLife Extension Agent for Horticulture in Collin County. He suggests everyone visit the gardens at Myers Park and take classes for ideas on creating perennial gardens and yards that reduce watering and add beauty to the neighborhood.
“Through our research, we are finding plants that are drought tolerant and disease resistant,” Church said. “The drought in 2011 was actually good for our research because you can learn more about how plants handle a drought and learn better ways to conserve moisture in the soil through mulching. A big part of it is plant selection. My neighbors get jealous of my garden because it is blooming throughout the year.”
Church earned his doctorate in plant pathology from Texas A&M, where he conducted research on nematode resistance.
In Collin County, Church wants to be a leader in promoting Earth-Kind principles. The county master gardener program provides 200 volunteers a way to contribute.
“There are no tricks,” Church said. “Using these strategies we teach, you will save water, add nutrients to the soil and have better looking lawns and gardens all year round.”
APRIL TO-DO LIST
Source: Collin County Master Gardeners
Prune spring-flowering shrubs soon after flowering. Keep the natural shape of the plant in mind as you prune, and avoid excessive cutting except where necessary to control size.
Roses have high fertilizer requirements. For most soils, use a complete fertilizer for the first application just as new growth starts, then use ammonium sulfate, or other high nitrogen source, every 4 to 6 weeks, usually just as the new growth cycle starts following a flowering cycle.
Continue to spray rose varieties susceptible to black spot, using an appropriate fungicidal spray such as Funginex. Use every 7 to 10 days, or as recommended.
Climbing hybrid tea roses may be pruned as soon as they complete flowering.
Removing spent flowers, trimming back excessive growth, and applying fertilizer to an established bed can do wonders towards rejuvenating and extending the life of the planting.
As soon as azaleas have finished flowering, apply an acid type fertilizer at the rate recommended. Don’t over fertilize, as azalea roots are near the surface and damage can occur. Water thoroughly after fertilizing.
Seeds of amaranthus, celosia, cosmos, marigold, portulaca, zinnia, and other warm-season annuals can be sown directly in the beds where they are to grow. Keep seeded areas moist until seeds germinate. Thin out as soon as they are large enough to transplant. Surplus plants can be transplanted to other areas.
It will soon be time for bagworms to attack junipers and other narrow-leafed evergreens. Light infestations may be controlled by hand picking and burning. Control measures such as Sevin dust or spray, should be applied while the insects and the bags are about one-half inch in length. Organic remedies include sprays of Bt or Spinosad. Tearing open the bags also allows birds and wasps to feed on the worms.
For instant color, purchase started annual plants. Select short, compact plants. Any flowers or flower buds should be pinched to give plants an opportunity to become established.
Check new tender growth for aphids. A few can be tolerated, but large numbers should be controlled. Try a strong spray from the hose first. If you elect to use pesticides, always follow label instructions.
Many flower or vegetable seeds left over after planting the garden can be saved for the next season by closing the packets with tape or paper clips and storing in a sealed glass jar in your refrigerator.
Start weeding early in the flower garden. Early competition with small plants can delay flowering. A mulch will discourage weed growth and make those that do come through easier to pull.
Soil purchased for use in beds, low areas, and containers should be examined closely. Often, nut grass and other weeds, nematodes, and soilborne disease are brought into the yard through contaminated soil sources.
Watch newspaper and other publicity for information regarding wildflower trails, and plan to take a trip to enjoy this beautiful natural resource.
Collin County Master Gardeners
Texas AgriLife Extension Service
825 North McDonald Street, Ste. 150,
McKinney, Texas 75069
Online gardening help desk
Earth Kind specialist training
Master Gardener training