City of El Lago

411 Tallowood Drive
El Lago, TX 77586

Phone: 281-326-1951

Trowels & Tribulations in a Suburban Garden – May Issue

May 15, 2024 | News, Trowels & Tribulations

By: Donna J. Ward, Certified Texas Master Gardener (Note: This is a reprint of Donna’s article that appears in the La Ventana del Lago.)

Gardeners attempting to follow the timelines set out in this column are aware that this publication is not distributed in conjunction with those timelines.  Trowels & Tribulations is timely published on the El Lago city web site ( on the first day of each month of publication.  “Our Community” will lead you to “Gardening in El Lago.”

Hey El Lago, you’re looking good.  Color, color everywhere – blossoms of every imaginable hue visited by orange and black honeybees, colorful migrating songbirds, butterflies, green, yellow and black Monarch larvae, and of course those flying jewels – hummers.  It must be May.   But not all of our landscape is looking great.  Last summer’s drought, our watering regulations, sizzling temperatures followed by back-to-back frosty winters have taken their toll.  Like me, you’re seeing dead shrubbery and trees up and down our streets.  We’ve waited long enough to be sure these plantings are really among the many dearly departed specimens in our neighborhood.  If you have scratched or scraped away some bark on that shrub and there is no green to be seen it’s obituary time!  Aside from the fact that they look terrible we need to consider the danger they represent.  Large tree branches are beginning to fall, hopefully not on a family member or an unsuspecting lawn crew.  Keep your homeowner’s insurance up to date – dead trees have a propensity to land on homes when they fall.

If you need to replace any dead shrubbery, hurry, hurry and do it now.  A new planting will require much TLC in view of the impending summer temps – but it can be done if you put your mind to it! 

Consider moving roses or daylilies that aren’t blooming up to your standards.  They may not be getting enough sun.  Both require 6-8 hours of sun a day, and of course regular feedings.  If you have some of the darker daylily flowers you’ll notice that they will appreciate a bit of afternoon shade.  I can’t help but be amused when I see a plant description that says “Full Sun” – Where?  Cincinnati maybe?  Not on the Texas Gulf Coast, our sun is intense!  Most sun loving plants in our locale do better with a bit of relief from our sizzling afternoon sun.

It’s time to plant gladiolas if you’re so inclined.  Stagger your planting every week or so to extend bloom time.  Of course they need staking – another ‘needy’ plant in my opinion that I avoid   Spring bloomers are looking pretty shabby.  Those petunias, geraniums, nasturtiums, snapdragons, bluebonnets and other wildflowers are fading.  Don’t take it personally.  It’s our semi-tropical temperatures – not you.

That Southern Magnolia is looking pretty terrific this month.  The blossoms only last one day, but the aroma is unbelievable.  Think sweet ‘lemon.’ I recently preserved some magnolia stems by using a glycerin/water formulation.  Equal parts of each in a glass container will be taken up by various shrubbery cuttings to be used in dry arrangements. Only about an inch or two of the formulation is needed, just be sure that the stem tips stay submerged.  Glass container is recommended so that you can see to add more if needed.   I preserved magnolia, bay laurel, nandina and camellia stems for my arrangement.  Fleshy leaves such as magnolia will take about a month to become silvery and supple, tender leaves only require a week to ten days.  Glycerin will be found in the cosmetic department of your pharmacy. (I know, it wasn’t my first place to look!)

I know you are enjoying those succulent ripe tomatoes.  Those in the produce departments of our local grocery stores are jealous.  But I’ve heard a complaint or two from backyard gardeners re ‘split’ fruit.  Tomatoes will split because of water irregularities such as quick changes in watering.  This causes rapid growth and expansion of the fruit and often occurs when tomatoes receive heavy watering after a period of drought.  Consistent moisture is the answer.

There are still a few things to put in the veggie garden.  My research mentions corn, but I disagree.  Our gardening experience has always been to plant corn on the same day as we prune roses – February 14th.   We’re eating sweet corn before the corn worms have found them.  Later plantings are a magnet to these critters in my opinion, but make your own decision.  Peas can go in now…English and snap, and eggplant (transplants) if you hurry. And of course two southern favorites – sweet potatoes and okra.

Hopefully all El Lago residents have noticed the medallion placed above our sewers stating their eventual flow to Galveston Bay. A group of Girl Scouts placed them there in an attempt to make us all aware that runoff from our lawns, trash abandoned in the streets, yard waste, etc. pollutes the bay. Let’s make a serious attempt to clean the bay and keep it healthy.  Young ladies, we thank you for your concern, please accept our gratitude.