Water restrictions remain in effect over the Tampa Bay region. Check with your county or city for the specific regulations in your area and adjust your sprinkler system's timer so you are in compliance. You can find your local restrictions at tampabaywater.org.
The University of Florida/IFAS Extension publication, "Tips for Maintaining Landscapes During Drought," is available online at edis.ifas.ufl.edu/EP091, or call your county extension office for a copy.
Watering is important for good lawn maintenance, along with proper mowing and pest control. Your sprinkling system should be calibrated to deliver ¾ inch of water each time you water. (The publication "How to Calibrate Your Sprinkler System" is available at edis.ifas.ufl.edu/LH026, or call your UF/IFAS County Extension office.)
Mow grass often enough that no more than a third of the leaf surface is removed. A sharp-bladed mower is a necessity to ensure a clean cut and avoid blade damage by tearing the grass tips.
An insect invitation
A recent study at the University of Florida suggests that repeatedly using large amounts of nitrogen fertilizer on St. Augustine grass can ignite a population explosion of Southern chinch bugs. Chinch bugs are the No. 1 insect pest of St. Augustine grass, the state's most popular turf grass.
"Everything in moderation," said Eileen Buss, an associate professor of entomology with UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "When we try to overly manage a natural system, we get the balance out of whack." In the study, Southern chinch bugs produced the most eggs on St. Augustine grass fertilized with the equivalent of 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per month.
UF turf grass experts advise homeowners to use no more than 1 pound of slow-release nitrogen fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of lawn, a recommendation found in the document "St. Augustine Grass for Florida Lawns," available at edis.ifas.ufl.edu/LH010.
As the temperatures rise outside, check your lawn grasses for chinch bugs. If large infestations are found (20 to 25 per square foot), treat with an insecticide containing Bifenthrin, Cyfluthrin, Lambda-cyhalothrin, Permethrin or neem oil.
May is a great time to think about adding color to your landscape that can stand our summer heat and humidity. Some good annuals for summer include angelonia, narrow-leaf zinnia, vinca, ornamental peppers, torenia and gaillardia.
Herbaceous perennials provide color in your landscape every season. Once established, these plants require less maintenance than annuals. Some colorful perennials that can stand both the heat and sun are beach sunflower (Helianthus debilis), cigar flower (Cuphea micropetala), flax lily (Dianella tasmanica 'Variegata'), gaura (Gaura lindheimeri), salvias, sages (Salvia species) and pentas (Pentas lanceolata).
Some perennials that like a little shade along with sun during the day are daylily (Hemerocallis species), African bush daisy (Euryops pectinatus), African Iris (Dietes species), jacobinia (Justicia carnea), lily of the Nile (Agapanthus species), and wishbone flower (Torenia hybrids).
Pinch for fuller mums
Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum spp.) also do well in our summer heat, but they can become leggy if not properly pruned. Small-flowered varieties should be pinched when they are 6 to 8 inches high. Unless the growing tips are pinched, plants may develop tall, weak stems that produce few flowers.
After you pinch, new branches will develop along the stems. Pinch all shoots every two weeks until June 10 for early varieties and July for later varieties. Flowers will not form if you continue to pinch any later than this.
Monitor the veggies
Vegetable gardening should be in full swing this month. Remember to watch for insects and diseases, and be prepared to treat at the first sign of invasion. Vegetables are annual plants and use a lot of fertilizer while growing. Side-dress every five to six weeks and keep plants well watered.
There is still time to plant pole beans, black-eyed peas, lima beans, cantaloupes, okra, sweet potatoes and summer spinach.
Compiled by Pam Brown and Carol Suggs of the Pinellas County Extension Center/Florida Botanical Gardens. Questions? Call them at (727) 582-2100.