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On Tour

Betty Ronga Native Plant Garden Design

On a hilltop overlooking Lake Travis in Leander, see how Betty Ronga turned her new garden into a butterfly, bee, and bird sanctuary. When she and her husband, Gerald, built their house of two dreams, they wanted it to be heavenly for the wildlife, too. Its continual rotation of flowering and larval plants, and a stone-ledged pond attract wildlife in all seasons. Nearby, Betty and Gerald harvest vegetables and fruits for their own kitchen. Meander with them through a front courtyard of fragrance, color, and Mexican art.

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Question of the Week

With current watering restrictions, will watering at night cause fungal disease in my garden and the lawn?

Thanks to Sheila C. for sending this great question! With watering restrictions in place, many people only have time to water at night and still be within the window of time of the restrictions. Sheila would like to know if watering her lawn at night will encourage fungi and other diseases.

Well, Sheila, the answer is yes, and no. During the summer, when watering restrictions are typically in place, the temperatures are usually so hot that the air is not as humid, and so, diseases would be less of an issue on lawns. When watering at night, if the air has some room for moisture to evaporate, the leaf surfaces dry enough to decrease the likelihood of diseases. Just make sure the soil also has time to dry during the week, before the next watering.

So the real issue is awareness of the environment and managing it, whatever it happens to be. If the air is very humid, 80 to 90 percent, and the weather predicts that it is going to stay that way, it would be better to water your lawn in the morning, so that the sun can burn off the water from the leaf blades.

But with garden beds and other plants, the question may be a little more complicated. If you have mulched beds, that mulch retains more moisture, so the leaves of your plants may stay wet longer, especially if they’re in the shade. In those beds, it might be best to use soaker hoses or other drip irrigation at night, so that the leaves don’t get wet.

In spring and fall, many gardeners worry about brown patch in their lawns. Brown patch is caused by a fungus and is most commonly found in warm to hot weather (above 80) with cool nights, especially when we’re getting lots of rain or the grass is being overwatered. Areas of the lawn with poor drainage are especially susceptible. If you have brown patch, you can manage it with a fungicide, but the long-term solution is to change the environment in order to truly control the problem.

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Plant of the Week

Beach Vitex

Beach Vitex

Vitex Rotundifolia

If you do an internet search for this plant, the first thing that you'll see is that it is considered an invasive species on the eastern coast of the US. But there's no need to worry here in Central Texas. Beach vitex does spread quite nicely, but it will not become invasive in your landscape. But I would not suggest against planting it along any waterway or in any natural areas. Beach vitex gets about a foot and half tall and can spread 3 feet or more wide. It loves the full sun and laughs at the heat. Although native to coastal areas, we've found that ours at Travis County Extension thrives on once-a-week watering in our sandy loam soil. Beach vitex will be most happy in a mulched bed with some moisture in the air around it, rather than in a dry, rocky area of the landscape. If you have it planted in an area that is very well-drained and the soil doesn't hold much moisture, you will need to water it more often. The lovely grayish green oval leaves are accentuated by the purplish blue flower stems that cover the plant throughout the summer. Those flowers produce lots of seed heads that you can collect if you'd like to propagate it for other areas of your yard. It makes a great groundcover and fills in very quickly. It also needs very little maintenance once established, not even pruning off the seed heads, since they're so attractive. Beach vitex is deciduous and does get a little woody as it gets older. And it does benefit from a light shearing in late winter, before the new leaves come out.