The big yellow school buses traveling our streets signal the end of summer for children. But the weather still screams "summer," with no end to the heat, rain and humidity in sight. So as your children get used to the school routine, our routine in the garden stays about the same.
I will have to replace the portulaca in the bed by my front door. The slugs were very bad this summer and I never treated for them, so they removed every single leaf from all the plants. I'm not sure what I will plant there, but colorful flowers will do. If you want to add some color, consider coleus, impatiens, kalanchoe, marigold, melampodium, ornamental pepper, portulaca, salvia, torenia, vinca, wax begonia or zinnia. If you're after something a little more permanent, try perennials such as African iris, salvia, butterfly weed, chrysanthemum, false dragon head, four o'clock, gaillardia, gloriosa daisy, jacobinia, pentas, ruellia or verbena.
Although this can be a difficult time to add vegetables or fruit, you might want to try pole beans, broccoli, celery, collards, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, onions, pepper, pumpkin, Southern peas, summer squash, tomatoes, turnips or watermelon. Add flavor to your garden and cooking with basil, ginger, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme. I had a great basil and avocado sandwich while on vacation this month and will use some of my fresh basil leaves trying to duplicate the sandwich.
Don't stop there. You may want to try a few bulbs that will perform in the Florida garden and add some interest. Try Aztec lily, butterfly lily, clivia, crinum, gladiolus, iris, moraea, society garlic, spider lily and walking iris.
We've had plenty of rain, but if you do add new plant material, make sure it gets adequate water. Even a day or two without rain along with the wind we've been experiencing may dry out the soil too much around tender roots.
This is a great time to add organic matter to the soil. When isn't it? Grass clippings, manure, leaves and compost are all excellent soil amendments. It's best to till the materials into the soil, but a top dressing (spreading the organic materials around your plants) will also help. Of course I have to add worm castings, since I have my worm farm up and running. The worms seem happy in the laundry room and I found only one escapee.
Your annuals, perennials and flowering shrubs are growing very rapidly now. To keep them in top form, pinch or prune off spent flowers. This encourages more blooms. Crape myrtles can sometimes be forced to bloom a second time if the old seed heads are pruned from the bush.
If you have roses, spray for black spot disease now. Symptoms of this disease are dark, round spots with yellow halos followed by dropping leaves. Remove infected leaves. Avoid wetting the foliage during irrigation. This will limit the problem. This is also a good time to groom your roses. Remove dead and dying twigs and reduce length of excessively long canes. This is the time to neaten your plants, not do a major pruning as is done in January or February. My Knock Out roses are generally very low maintenance, but I noticed some black spot and yellowing on the foliage. I will have to spray the bushes.
Fertilize outdoor potted plants. Soluble fertilizers diluted to half strength can be applied every week or two, or add a slow-release fertilizer once or twice during the summer. If the potted plants are out in the rain, nutrients will be quickly leached from the soil and have to be replaced on a regular basis.
Your lawn should be looking better by now, but you may have some insect damage. Mole crickets may be found in Bahia, Bermuda and St. Augustine turf. Chinch bugs are probably active in St. Augustine. Watch all lawns for sod webworm chewing.
You may need to resort to chemical control. Check the bags carefully and make sure it is formulated for your type of lawn. Follow label directions.
If you have poinsettias, lightly prune for the last time. Flower buds initiate in October. Pruning after Sept. 10 results in small bracts (flowers) or none at all.
This is a good time to transplant or plant palms. Palm roots grow best in warm, moist soils, so the summer months encourage a strong root system to take shape. Apply 1 to 5 pounds of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts), depending on the size of the palm. Take the opportunity to enjoy your yard even if the hot, humid weather makes it hard to be outside for more than brief periods at a time.