This can be a busy time of year for gardeners. We are still in a drought condition but must accomplish our chores between rainstorms. Make a list of your must-do chores and tackle them.
Plant a little shade: Nothing seems hotter than a Florida summer. We try to keep cool by wearing the lightest-weight clothing we can find, haunting the beaches and staying in our air-conditioned homes.
But cooling houses cost money and devours energy. We can save money and energy by planting a little shade.
Shading the roof is not recommended because most attics are adequately insulated. Walls are often less insulated. Also, tree limbs can damage roofs during storms, and leaves and twigs can clog gutters.
Walk through your house and see which windows admit the most amount of sunlight. These are the windows you want to shade. Place your trees so the shadows cover the windows.
Choose trees that will thrive in your site's conditions. Take the mature size of the tree into consideration. Often people choose a tree that is too large for the area and plant it too closely to the house. This can present a new set of problems. Drive around and look at mature trees. This will help you understand the tree's ultimate growth potential and define placement of trees in your yard.
If you have questions about adding trees to your yard, get an expert's opinion, as this can save money in the long run. A tree is a long-term investment. It's important to make the correct choice.
Check lawn for insect pests: Sod webworms feed at night by chewing grass in concentrated areas. Chinch bugs suck juices from St. Augustine grass, causing dry, brown areas. Treat infested areas with a granular or spray insecticide. Mole crickets damage the roots. Mole cricket baits should be applied late in the day.
Recycle grass clippings: Leave the grass clippings on the lawn or use chemical- free clippings as a mulch or compost. Bagging them deprives your lawn and landscape of nutrients.
Start a compost pile: Leaves, nonchemically treated grass clippings and vegetative kitchen scraps can be layered in a compost pile. Moisten each layer. Repeat the process until the pile is a minimum 3 feet wide and 3 feet tall. The pile will heat up and then cool. Turn the pile each time it cools.
Prune landscape plants: Selectively prune to shape plants and encourage branching. Summer-flowering plants like hibiscus, oleander and crape myrtle will produce more blooms if old blossoms and seed pods are removed.
Check citrus trees for rust mites, greasy spot and melanose diseases. Heavy rust mite feeding will blemish citrus fruits by causing a brownish discoloration of the peel. Interior quality of the fruit is not affected. Leaf spots can be signs of greasy spot or melanose disease. Prune out all dead wood and spray with copper fungicide and summer oil emulsion. The spray will control all three problems.
Correct iron deficiency of plants: Symptoms appear on the new growth of plants. Leaves are yellow, but veins appear as fine green lines. Applications of iron chelate of iron sulfate are effective. If your grass is yellow, add iron. This will green up the grass without adding excessive growth, as would an application of nitrogen.
Install a rain shutoff device: This device overrides an automatic irrigation system when rain occurs. It is inexpensive, easy to install and quickly pays for itself with the savings on your water bill. They are required by Florida law on new irrigation systems.
Cut back poinsettias and chrysanthemums: Poinsettias and chrysanthemums should be cut back several times throughout the growing season. New growth on poinsettias should be pinched back a few inches when it is 12 inches or longer. Pinch chrysanthemum tips when stems are six inches long.
Replenish the mulch around your plants: It controls weeds, keeps soil moist and moderates soil temperature.
Control ROSE diseases: Regulate black spot with the application of a fungicide. Remove all diseased leaves.
Keep warm season annuals blooming: Add fertilizer, and water when needed. Remove wilted flowers.
Repair or replace lawn: You can establish a lawn from seeds, sprigs or plugs. If the season's typical rainfall occurs, irrigation should not be required.
Mary Collister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org