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Summer garden chores abound

Half of 2010 is gone. Is half of your garden work done?

In case your to-do list is not long enough, here are a few chores to add:

Plant a little shade: Nothing seems hotter than a Florida summer. We wear lightweight clothing, haunt the beaches and stay in our air-conditioned homes. But cooling our homes costs money and devours energy. Save both by planting a tree to throw a little shade on your house.

Where should you plant? Consider that summer sunlight pours over the west and east walls, and windows admit the most sunlight. The temperature is highest during the afternoon, when the sun shines on west walls. So shading west walls is the most important.

East walls are second, followed by south walls. South walls receive less light because the sun is shining directly overhead on the roof. Of course your priorities may change if east or south walls of your home have more windows than west walls.

Shading the roof is not recommended because most attics are insulated; walls are often less insulated. And tree limbs can damage roofs during storms and clog gutters with leaves and twigs.

Walk through your house and see which windows admit the most sunlight. These are the ones to shade.

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 close to the house. This can present a new set of problems. Drive around and look at mature trees. Choose carefully and the addition to your yard can last 30 to 50 years.

Prune your azaleas. This light shaping should be the last pruning of the year, as flower buds will form soon. Pruning later in the season will remove the buds for next year's flowers.

Solarize the vegetable garden. Garden soil should be cleared, tilled, leveled, and moistened. Cover the area with plastic for four to six weeks. Solar heat accumulates under the plastic and the soil gets hot enough to kill nematodes, weed seeds and soil-borne diseases.

Check the lawn for insect pests. 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.

Start a compost pile. Leaves, grass clippings and vegetative kitchen scraps can be arranged in moist layers. Repeat until the pile is at least 3 feet wide and 3 feet tall. The pile will heat up and then cool. Turn the pile each time it cools.

Selectively prune landscape plants to shape 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 blemishes 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.

Correct iron deficiency of plants. Symptoms appear on the new growth. Leaves are yellow, but veins appear as fine green lines. Apply iron chelate or iron sulfate. If your grass is yellow, add iron to green it up without adding excessive growth.

Install a rain shutoff device. This device, required by state law, overrides an automatic irrigation system when rain occurs. It is inexpensive, easy to install and quickly pays for itself with savings on your water bill.

Cut back poinsettias and chrysanthemums. You should do this 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 6 inches long.

Replenish your mulch. It controls weeds, keeps soil moist, moderates soil temperature and gives your yard a fresh look.

Control diseases on roses. Use a fungicide for black spots. Remove all diseased leaves. Even Knock Out roses are not maintenance-free.

Fertilize and water warm season annuals when needed. Remove wilted flowers.

Repair or replace lawn using seeds, sprigs or plugs this month. If we have the typical rainfall, you won't need to water them. You will need to mow more often because of the heat and rain.

Mary Collister can be reached at hillsnews@sptimes.com.

Summer garden chores abound 07/22/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:54pm]

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