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Gardening: Fruit Tree Image

A Home Fruit Growers’ Tour will be conducted from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon on Saturday, May 19, 2007. Two fruit orchards are on this year’s tour route, including a commercial peach orchard in the Texas City-Dickinson area.

Photo Credit: Dr. William M. Johnson


By Dr. William M. Johnson, Galveston County Extension Agent - Horticulture

May 2, 2007

Temperature-wise, April was a yo-yo month—one day it’s in the upper-eighties and the next day it’s in the mid-sixties. But we had some absolutely beautiful weather at times nevertheless. The days of May will bring warming nights and longer, sunnier days—a change of season.

Busy days of gardening are in store for the May gardener in completing spring chores and in preparing for summer. The following gardening guides may be helpful for May gardening activities:

HOME FRUIT GROWERS’ TOUR: A Home Fruit Growers’ Tour will be conducted on Saturday, May 19, 2007. Two fruit orchards are on this year’s tour. Each location will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon.

This year’s tour sites contain a wide variety of fruit trees ranging from a peach orchard (Fruits ’n Such Orchard located at 6309 Avenue U in Texas City) and the Master Gardeners Demonstration Orchard (located in Carbide Park in La Marque). Citrus, figs, apples and other fruit trees can be seen also. Tour maps may be downloaded from the Internet from the website provided at the end of this column (click on the “Extension Educational Programs” link). Additional information will also be provided in my garden column on May 16.

CARE OF NEW PLANTINGS: Rainfall has been adequate over the past few weeks. Should dry weather conditions set in, be sure to keep newly planted trees and shrubs well-watered. Spring-planted trees and shrubs will be establishing their root system this year and thus are very susceptible to transplant shock during the summer if not given proper care. The first summer is a critical period for all new plantings. To reduce transplant shock, be sure to water thoroughly and deeply as needed during dry weather rather than giving more frequent, light sprinklings.

Plants should also be mulched with shredded pine bark, pine needles, compost, dried lawn clippings, etc. A 4-to-6-inch layer of mulch will also help control weeds, maintain more uniform soil moisture, and keep the soil cooler. As a result, the degree of transplant shock will be significantly minimized. Also, add to the list of benefits the fact that mulched trees and shrubs will grow much better than non-mulched transplants.

PROTECT INSECT POLLINATORS: We are busy in the garden this month and so are honey bees and other insect pollinators. Let's do all we can to protect these valuable little insects. Many insecticides are highly toxic to bees. Some cannot be safely applied anytime target plants are in bloom, while others should be applied only in the early morning or late evening when bees are less likely to be foraging for nectar and pollen.

If there is clover growing near the area to be sprayed and it is producing flowers (which are attractive to honeybees), mow the clover to remove the flowers before applying any material that is hazardous to bees. In all cases, when plants in the area are in bloom, select the material least hazardous to the bees. Insecticides should be applied only during late evening if blooms are present.

LAWNS: Many homeowners will level out low spots in the lawns this time of the year using sharp sand or bank sand as the only filler. While this is a common practice, it is not a good one. Use of sand to fill low areas in a lawn will very likely cause problems later on with unsatisfactory lawn growth.

Such areas will suffer more from drought stress during the summer and will likely have problems with soil nutrient uptake. For best results, use a good quality topsoil to fill in low areas of the lawn.

LEAF DROPPAGE OF EVERGREENS: Many gardeners take the description "evergreen" too literally and often are concerned when evergreens, such as magnolias, euonymus, live oak, gardenia, and some of the hollies, lose some of their old leaves during late spring and early summer. The flush of new growth on many evergreens will cause a yellowing of old leaves and leaf droppage. Nothing to be concerned about–just Mother Nature putting on a new spring coat of green and discarding the old.

FRUIT SET ON SQUASH: Don't be concerned if the first several squash fruit fall off the plant before they reach an edible stage. The first flowers to form in squash in early spring are the female flowers (with the miniature fruit located right under the yellow flowers).

No male flowers are formed at this time; therefore, no pollination takes place. However, in a few days the male flowers will be formed, and normal fruit set should take place. Interestingly enough, it's the reverse in summer plantings–the male flowers tend to develop first so no fruit set occurs until the female flowers develop.

BLACKBERRIES: Blackberries are coming into production. As canes which produced fruit this season finished bearing and start to die back, they should be removed at ground level. "Tip back" new canes to encourage branching; next year's blackberries will be produced on these canes.

SUMMER ANNUALS: Remove faded blooms for more productive flowering. If beds are not mulched, then lightly cultivate the upper soil so as not to disturb shallow roots. Doing so improves water absorption, reduces soil compaction, and aids in weed control. Plant summer annual plants that take the heat such as periwinkles, purslane, portulaca, lantana, etc.

Annuals for shade may include: impatiens, coleus, caladiums (the tubers are just about out of stock, potted plants are still available), and bedding begonias. Caladiums will often produce a single flower stalk right after the first leaves are produced. Early removal of the flower stalk will encourage the plants to produce more lush leaf growth.

Dr. Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston County Extension Office of Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas A&M University. Visit his web site at

Note: Picture updated.

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Gardening: August Gardening Calendar - August 16, 2004 article

Gardening: Trio Of Extension Programs Includes Pear Tasting, Master Naturalist Class & Rose Seminar - August 20, 2004 article

Gardening: Prepare Now For Fall Gardens - August 26, 2004 article

Gardening: September's Garden Calendar Includes Fall Pecan Field Day - September 2, 2004 article

Gardening: Ornamental Grasses - September 8, 2004 article

Gardening: Don't Let Landscape Become A High-Maintenance Nightmare - September 22, 2004 article

Gardening: Oct. 10 Plant Sale & Seminar To Feature Butterfly Gardening - Butterflies Bring Color, Motion to Garden - October 2, 2004 article

Gardening: Plant It And They Will Come: Getting the Butterflies of Galveston County to Grace Your Yard - October 2, 2004 article

Gardening: Rose Propagation & Seasonal Decorating Workshops To Be Held - October 13, 2004 article

Gardening: Extension Office To Sponsor Open House On October 29, Seasonal Decorations and Onion and Garlic Workshops - October 20, 2004 article

Gardening: Extension Office To Sponsor Open House On October 29 and County Pecan Show - October 27, 2004 article

Gardening: November Is Pansy Time - November 6, 2004 article

Gardening: County Pecan Growers Display Their Successes - November 11, 2004 article

Gardening: Gardeners' Questions On Fall Crops - November 17, 2004 article

Gardening: Gardeners' Q&As For November - November 28, 2004 article

Gardening: Gardeners' December Checklist Includes Citrus Show On Dec. 9 - December 3, 2004 article

Gardening: Citrus Show A Huge Success With 185 Entries - December 19, 2004 article

Gardening: Trees and Shrubs - December 23, 2004 article

Gardening: Cold Weather Impact - January 4, 2005 article

Gardening: Gardeners' Checklist For January Includes Several Educational Programs - January 7, 2005 article

Gardening:Announcing the 2005 Galveston County Master Gardener Training - January 13, 2005 article

Gardening:Peach & Plum Growers' Workshop To Be Held Saturday, January 29 - January 19, 2005 article

Gardening: Gardening for Texas Wildlife - January 28, 2005 article

Gardening: Wide Variety of Citrus to Be Available at February 5 Fruit Tree Sale and Home Citrus Production - January 31, 2005 article

Gardening: Fruit Trees Of The Gods Featured In February 5 Master Gardener Plant Sale - February 2, 2005 article

Gardening: "If I Were A Tomato, I Would Want To Be Grown In Texas . . . Galveston County, That Is!" Workshop to be held February 12 - February 9, 2005 article

Gardening: February Is Rose Pruning Time...Attend Rose Care Seminar to Learn How - February 16, 2005 article

Gardening: Extension Activities At The Home & Garden Show On Feb. 26-27 - February 23, 2005 article

Gardening: March Gardening Calendar Includes Seminar On Butterfly Gardening - March 2, 2005 article

Gardening: Gardeners' Q&As From The Galveston Home & Garden Show - March 10, 2005 article

Gardening: Extension Offers Program On "Living To Be 100 . . . A Commonsense Approach." - March 16, 2005 article

Gardening: Program On Plumeria Offered On March 26- March 29, 2005 article

Gardening: Garden Checklist For April Includes Pecan Field Day - April 6, 2005 article

Gardening: Hints On Harvesting Vegetables For Peak Flavor - April 15, 2005 article

Gardening: Fresh Blueberries From Your Home Garden Seminar On Saturday, April 23 - April 22, 2005 article

Gardening: Learn About Weed Control - April 27, 2005 article

Gardening: Home Gardening Chores and May 14 Home Fruit Growers’ Tour - May 5, 2005 article

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