Fall Weed Control

The recent rains are a great boost to my lawn and garden.  I really am amazed at how quickly plants can recover from drought after a good, soaking rain.  My salvia plants are already blooming again, and my fall tomatoes are really growing a lot of foliage.  The rain also helped the weeds kick into gear, and they are growing like…well, weeds.

With fall just around the corner, this is a good time to talk about preventing cool-season weeds.  Winter weeds such as henbit, dandelion, annual bluegrass, rescue grass, and ryegrass will be germinating soon. (more…)

Starting Seeds for Fall Crops

August is an interesting time for Texas gardeners.  We are trying to keep our plants alive in the heat and drought, but we also start to look forward to fall gardens and flowers.  I wrote about fall tomatoes last month, and I continue to plant fall crops of butternut squash, zucchini, Zipper Cream peas, and a few peppers.  If you have not had the privilege of a bowl full of Zipper Cream peas with ham, some sliced tomatoes, and a big piece of sweet cornbread, you have not lived.  You need to find an old-timer and fix this problem soon.

Dr. Larry Stein, Texas A&M AgriLife Horticulture Specialist, puts out a great list of monthly garden tasks, and first on the list for August is a reminder to plant seeds for cool-season plants.  We enjoy a wide variety of plants to grow in the fall and winter, everything from pansies and zinnias to broccoli and cabbage.  I planted sweet basil seed last week to get some fresh basil this fall to go in my salads. (more…)

Spider Mites

When you have been gardening for a while, you start to notice that the weather affects all kinds of things in the garden.  It is easy to see the effects of the heat and drought on our plants as they wilt in the sun, but the weather also affects disease and pest problems.

During a rainy season, I know that we will get a lot of calls about fungus like take-all-root-rot and large patch in lawns.  Lots of rain and high humidity makes the perfect conditions for those fungal pathogens to multiply.

The heat and drought might make you think that all the pests are dying or in hiding until it cools off, but one pest really makes itself known during hot weather.  Spider mites increase in hot weather, and that is certainly true this year! (more…)

Watering Trees through Drought

In Texas, we love our trees.  Live oak trees spread out wide to make a beautiful shade tree.  Pecan trees are the official State Tree of Texas, and we all love their shade and nuts.  Who can resist a pecan pie made from fresh pecans in the fall?

Most trees in Texas do well with minimal care, but our trees have faced some challenges over the last few years.  Winter Storm Uri was a big stress on trees.  We saw broken limbs, limb dieback, cracks in the bark from internal freeze damage, and thin canopies.  This year, the drought is an additional stress on our trees.  These stresses accumulate over the years and can lead to tree decline and an increase in pest and disease problems. (more…)

Time to Plant Fall Tomatoes

To be a gardener, I think you need to be a persistent optimist.  Gardeners face a lot of conditions outside our control.  We cannot control the temperature, rain, bugs, or diseases, but the taste of a fresh peach or vine-ripened tomato motivates us to keep planting and growing.

Tomatoes are one of my favorite vegetables to grow, even though this has been a tough year for tomatoes.  Large-fruited varieties of tomatoes do not pollinate well when daytime temperatures are above 90 degrees and nighttime temperatures are in the mid-70’s.  Cherry or grape tomatoes can handle the heat better.  It got hot early in May this year, and we missed the window for good pollination on a lot of tomatoes. (more…)

Turfgrass in Drought

We face a tough dilemma during a hot, dry summer like this in Central Texas.  The plants in our lawns and gardens need water to survive and thrive, but we know that water is a limited resource.  My budget is a limited resource, too, which keeps my watering habits in check when I reach to turn on the sprinkler!  With this dilemma of plant health and water conservation in mind, there are a few things to know about turfgrass to help you manage your lawn through the drought this summer.

In Central Texas, we grow warm-season grasses in our lawns like Bermuda, St. Augustine, and Zoysia.  These grasses like full sun and can tolerate our hot summers.  Each of these grasses have some plant characteristics that help them to survive drought like developing deep root systems, a high tolerance to tissue dehydration, or reduced leaf area. (more…)


Every year it seems like we get to learn about a new caterpillar that emerges and makes a pest of itself.  Last spring, the oakleaf roller caterpillars hung from the oak trees by silk threads, and then in the fall the armyworms marched across the county eating our Bermuda lawns along the way.  Fortunately, the various caterpillars do not reach infestation levels every year!

I had three phone calls about bagworms on Italian cypress or juniper trees within the last week.  That is when I need to start brushing up on my entomology!  Hopefully, this is just an interesting case study and not an infestation of bagworms. (more…)


Some of my favorite memories as a kid revolve around the garden, especially during this time of year when the blackberries are ready.  We had a good patch of wild blackberries on the back fence of our place in Comanche County, and we spent evenings picking berries with a one-gallon ice cream bucket in hand.  About half the berries went in the bucket and the other half were eaten while we picked.

Later, my dad planted two 50-foot rows of blackberries in the garden, and we spent many hours picking, freezing, and making jam.  I also got to help dad prune back the canes, and we both looked like we lost a fight with a pack of cats.

This year, I have been fortunate enough to find some wild blackberries, or dewberries, and I have enjoyed a pie and some jelly from the harvest.  It is hard to beat a piece of blackberry pie and some BlueBell ice cream. (more…)

Be Water Wise This Spring

The recent rain was a blessing to see after a very dry winter and spring.  The average rainfall reports I have seen show about two inches of rain in much of Williamson County.  I have not been able to bring myself to water my yard so early in the season, so it looks green and happy now after the rain.

Even with the rain, the majority of Williamson County is experiencing abnormally dry conditions or moderate drought.  My social media newsfeed is full of Texas drought maps (further proof that I am a total nerd), and according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 96% of Texas is in drought.  Lake Georgetown provides water for a lot of residents in Williamson County, and it is currently 74% full.  We all need to do our part to conserve water, especially as we head into the warm summer months.    (more…)

Spring Allergies and Pollen

Central Texas is known for its allergy season, and this spring the allergens are living up to their name.  I like to get outside to enjoy the spring weather in my garden or on the hiking trails, but I keep a package of tissues and a bottle of allergy pills handy to enjoy springtime.

It is not hard to see why our allergies feel out of control.  One finger swipe on my windshield reveals a yellow layer of pollen, and my outdoor furniture has to be wiped down every time I want to sit outside.

Spring allergies can be caused by pollen from oaks and other trees, ragweed, and grasses.  Oak trees might be one of the more noticeable types of pollen because we can all see the catkins on the trees, and they collect on our driveways and along the street curbs. (more…)