Weatherford Democrat

April 14, 2013

ASK A MASTER GARDENER: How to improve planting soil


Weatherford Democrat

Here are this week’s gardening questions and answers, provided by Parker County Master Gardeners. To submit a question, send it to pcmgaquestions@gmail.com. For more information about Parker County Master Gardeners, or to become a member, call 817-598-6096 or visit www.pcmg-texas.org.



I bought a red autumn sage, and want to keep it coming back year after year. I’ve read that this plant needs well-drained soil, but I have clay. How can I improve my soil?

Autumn sage (Salvia Greggii) is a perennial Texas native, well suited for dry garden areas. It reaches 2-4 feet in height and has a long flowering season. It grows best in full sun, but will not tolerate poorly drained soil.

To improve the drainage of clay soil, work in at least 3 inches of organic matter (compost). Expanded shale may also be worked into the soil. This product is available at many of our local nurseries. Salvia Greggii is a magnet for butterflies and hummingbirds with a high resistance to deer and grasshoppers. To maintain a full, bushy shape prune them severely just before new growth begins in the spring.



I have wax myrtles that have been in the ground for a year. What kind of fertilizer should I use, and when is the best time to apply it?

Wax myrtles are hardy, native shrubs that are well adapted to Texas soil and weather conditions.

They thrive without any fertilizing except what occurs from nature. Fertilizer is very likely not necessary unless you want to improve their appearance and performance in your landscape. A fertilizer that is high in nitrogen and low in phosphorous (4-1-2 or 3-1-2) is best for Parker County soil. Selecting Texas native and adaptive plants for your landscape is advantageous for a number of reasons. They require less water, are resistant to most insects, provide food and shelter for wildlife, and save you money as you care for your landscape. For more information on native and adaptive plants, see our website www.pcmg-texas.org.



What is the problem with planting red tip photinias?

 Red tip photinias (Fraser photinias) are shrubs that have great spring and fall color.  They perform well in many landscapes but are susceptible to a fungus called Entomosporium mespili. This disease causes leaf damage severe enough to kill the plant.  There is no known practical cure.  There are a number of hollies that could serve the same purpose in your landscape, and would be a wiser choice.