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June is the time to prune many flowering shrubs

• Prune gardenias as soon as they finish blooming to keep them in shape. Yellow leaves with green veins may indicate an iron deficiency. Correct by applying iron chelate or iron sulfate according to the label instructions.

. Clip off faded crape myrtle flowers just behind the flower heads to encourage more blooms. When crape myrtles are allowed to produce seed, flowering slowly declines as seeds are produced.

m Chrysanthemums can be planted this month. Pinch back to encourage branching, which will result in more blooms in the fall, but do not pinch or prune after August. Use a low-nitrogen fertilizer with a higher potassium number such as 6-4-10.

• June is the last month to safely prune azalea bushes if you want flowers next spring. Fertilize the plants four times each year (February, May, August and November) with fertilizer labeled for acid-loving plants.

Despite recent showers, tight watering restrictions are still in effect for most of us. You can get complete information about the restrictions in your area by going to tampabay.com/drought. Restrictions are broken down by county on the right side of the page. You'll also find current news stories about the water shortage and links to Tampa Bay Water and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

As you take stock of your trees to prepare for storm season, remember that palms do not need "hurricane cuts." In fact, pruning all but the top several fronds from a palm is damaging to the plant. Removing many live green fronds starves the palm and leaves the growing bud (the topmost part of the palm) vulnerable to high wind. If you must prune, do not remove any fronds above the horizontal plane (9 and 3 on a clock face).

Dingy brown moths flying around grassy areas often are an indication that eggs are being laid in your lawn by the sod webworm. These eggs will hatch into small green caterpillars that will feed on your grass. Injured grass will have notches chewed along the sides of the blades, and the foliage may be stripped in patches.

A soap flush is a good way to detect sod webworms. Place 2 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid in a 1-gallon sprinkler can. Fill with water and drench a 4-square-foot area. The soap will cause the insects to surface.

Pesticides labeled for sod webworm control are Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt, Dipel, Thuricide) and carbaryl (Sevin). Bt is a bacterial product that kills the caterpillars without harming beneficial insects (except butterfly caterpillars). Sod webworms may reinfest the lawn within one to three weeks after treatment. Continue to reapply pesticide as required.

• Azaleas, pyracanthas, sycamores and other woody ornamentals may show signs of lacebug damage this month. (Infested plants have a gray, blanched or stippled appearance.) Spray plants with a paraffin-based horticultural oil, fish oil, neemoil, malathion or other approved pesticide. Be sure to spray the undersides as well as the tops of the leaves.

• When croton leaves lose their color and appear blanched or faded, the cause is usually a thrips infestation. This sucking insect removes the juice from the leaves, and plants often completely defoliate. Spray affected plants with insecticidal soap, neem-oil or paraffin-based horticultural oil.

• Leaf spots on ligustrum are usually caused by a fungal disease called cercospora. Spray plants three times at 10-day intervals, then once a month until spots stop appearing on new growth. (The old, spotted leaves will not improve.) Use a fungicide labeled for ligustrum and carefully follow the label directions.

As night temperatures increase to 70 degrees and above, tomato production usually decreases. Some types of tomatoes will produce most of the summer. The varieties best suited for Florida are Florida Basket, Florida Petite, Florida Lanai, Patio, Cherry and Sweet 100. Other good summer crops are sweet potatoes, black-eyed or southern peas, okra and watermelons.

When you make plans to go on vacation, think about your plants as well.

• Consider placing potted plants in the ground up to the rim of the container. A thick layer of mulch will help conserve moisture. At the least, place outdoor potted plants in a shady location.

• Place indoor plants in an area that receives indirect light. (Direct sunlight will dry the soil faster.) Do not leave plants in a darkened room because the leaves will drop.

• The last thing to do before you leave on your trip is to thoroughly soak the plants. Houseplants should be okay for two weeks. If your vacation is to be longer, then move the plants outdoors and sink the pots in a shaded and cool garden bed.

Carol Suggs is with the Pinellas County Extension Center/Florida Botanical Gardens. Pam Brown recently retired from there. For more information, visit the extension Web site at pinellascountyextension.org or call (727) 582-2100.

Given the restrictions on watering, it is important to check that your automatic sprinkler system is working properly. It should deliver three-quarters to 1 inch of water during each cycle. Learn how to calibrate your sprinkler system at edis.ifas.ufl.edu/LH026 or call your local extension office for help.

June is the time to prune many flowering shrubs 06/05/09 [Last modified: Friday, June 5, 2009 4:30am]

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