It's getting hotter and hotter outside, but that's no reason to feel stuck inside. You don't need to be an expert to garden, but it doesn't hurt to get some tips from one.
Gardening is good for your mental health, and more than ever, it's important to escape the confines of your home. Create a space for yourself away from your work-from-home setup and the stress of seemingly endless neagtive headlines: Go outside.
A garden offers productive, family-friendly fun with tangible rewards for both belly and budget. It can relieve stress and promote mental well-being, in addition to physical benefits of exercise and sunshine.
Guest: David Rodriguez, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension agent for horticulture in Bexar County
Q&A edited for style, length and clarity.
What can you add to soil other than water to help sustain a healthy composition?
Mulch, mulch, mulch. Put a two-inch layer of a good mulch, and one of my favorites — which is a renewable resource here in our backyard basically — is a double-shredded hardwood mulch, with some compost. Put it at least two inches away from the crown of the plant. That will not only aesthetically look good, but it's going to help hold moisture in, it keeps the weeds down and it regulates soil temperature.
Is the care for avocado trees the same as the care for other trees?
You can start an avocado tree from the seed, and it will grow if you can keep it well-watered, well-fertilized and have it in a microclimate. Then you can go ahead and plant it in the ground. Just protect it when it gets too cold.
Is it too soon to start a garden for the fall?
We can vegetable garden 12 months out of the year. So our spring garden typically finishes up right around mid-June and Fourth of July weekend, so July and August is always a challenge with the heat but people start their fall tomatoes as early as the Fourth of July weekend and start setting out multiple plantings typically mid-July, through the month of August no later than early September.
What are some good books for vegetable gardening in Texas for people not from Texas?
Dr. Sam Cotner’s book The Texas Vegetable Book is a must for every home vegetable gardener and you can go to Texas Gardener magazine and order it online from their bookstore there. Go to the Bexar County Extension Service website. Under the horticulture section, we have both the vegetable, spring and fall guideline vegetable list, and also on the homepage of the Burke County Extension Service website, we have webinars.
When’s the best time to water?
Remember, people waste water and not plants, so we try to really conserve water 9–10 months out of the year, bank it as best we can. Plant the right plants native as well as adapted plants, a proper salt preparation place in the plants. Mulch, mulch mulch, all that's going to help. So as a rule of thumb, an inch a week, supplement irrigation and then hopefully we’ll get a good rainfall this weekend.
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*This interview was recorded on Thursday, July 23.