Neil Sperry

Critical gardening tasks for early June in North Texas

Bagworms damage junipers and other cone-bearing plants.
Bagworms damage junipers and other cone-bearing plants. Special to the Star-Telegram

Not to be a total nag, but there are some gardening tasks that you either get done right now or don’t get done at all. As I sat thinking about what topic might be best, the importance of all of these things came racing through my mind.

Second application of pre-emergent herbicide to prevent germination of crabgrass and grassburs. They include Team, Dimension, Halts and others that have been properly labeled to prevent the germination of annual summertime grasses.

However, the most critical fact is that those grasses start germinating by late March, which is why the first application must be made between March 5 and 15 every year. If you didn’t put the pre-emergents down then, this “booster shot” will be of no value.

Best time to eliminate poison ivy. If you have poison ivy growing in the outskirts of your landscape, this is the time that it’s most vulnerable to broadleafed weedkiller sprays.

Choose a product containing 2, 4-D, and apply it carefully according to label directions onto the succulent new foliage. You should get 100 percent kill if you apply it now.

Remember that all parts of poison ivy plants, living or dead, have the oil that can cause allergic reactions. Always handle it with gloves and long sleeves.

Time for second feeding of your turf grass. You should be applying a high-nitrogen or all-nitrogen lawn food that has half or more of its nitrogen in slow-release form. Your nursery professional can explain all of that to you.

Feed Bermuda every two months from early April through early October. Fertilize St. Augustine in early April and early June, then apply no nitrogen again until mid-September.

That’s because gray leaf spot, a serious fungal issue for St. Augustine, is exacerbated by nitrogen and hot weather. The St. Augustine doesn’t need as much nitrogen as Bermuda anyway.

Keep a close eye on junipers, cypress, cedars and other cone-bearing plants. Fine-tune that eye to watch for young bagworms. They’ll start as small larvae dragging pea-sized bags behind them. They will devour the needles of the conifers, partially as a food source and also to make their portable cocoons larger.

The plants will quickly start looking stripped. If you spray them with almost any general-purpose insecticide while the bagworms are still feeding actively, they’ll be easy to control, but if you wait until they have sealed themselves off in the bags, you may lose your plants entirely.

Webworms will start spinning their misery at the ends of pecan branches now. I have a long-handled pole pruner I use on my pecans. I clip out the webs as they start to appear. For a few days, just quick snips will let you drop the small webs to the ground and discard them into sealed trash bags.

Spraying up into tall trees requires commercial equipment and really isn’t practical. I do the best I can from the ground, and try to ignore any others.

Spider mites are already showing up on many of our shrubs, annuals and vegetables. Leaves begin to turn mottled green, then entirely tan starting at the bottoms of the plants and progressing upward. You’ll see their damage on beans and tomatoes, junipers and Italian cypress, violets, and a host of other plants.

No pest (not a true insect) is any more widespread. If you’re going to stop them, you must do so when they first appear. Confirm their presence by thumping small portions of the plants in question, whether leaves of tomatoes or twigs of junipers, over a sheet of white paper. If mites are there, they’ll start moving around within 15 seconds. They’re almost microscopic.

Since we no longer have a dedicated miticide, we’re left to apply insecticides that list mites on their labels.

Leafrollers soon will tumble into town. Vinca ground cover (not the annual flowers), cannas, redbuds, sweetgums and a host of other plants will become their homes. They sequester themselves between the leaf surfaces and ruin the look of the plants. Apply a systemic insecticide several weeks prior to the estimated date of first attack and you may be able to bypass damage.

Chiggers will attack you where you least expect them. In fact, the reports are surging in — this is a banner year for their populations. They live in tall weeds and grasses, and are quite common in Bermuda that is not maintained by really regular mowing. You’ll seldom find chiggers in St. Augustine turf.

First and foremost, protect yourself by spraying your feet, ankles and shins liberally with a DEET insect repellent. I even apply it to the outsides of my socks, shoes and pants. For whole-area treating, there are plenty of sprays that you can use in your own yard, but when you’re away from home, and especially when you’re out in nature or in a park, chiggers are waiting.

Protect yourself fully before you venture out.

Neil Sperry publishes Gardens magazine and hosts “Texas Gardening” from 8 to 10 a.m. Sundays on WBAP/820 AM. Reach him during those hours at 800-288-9227. Online: