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Timely tendings: Mulch, prune and watch for insects

Summer brings vigorous plant growth and lots to do.

Put a layer of organic mulch 2 to 3 inches deep around plants to conserve moisture and discourage weeds. Keep it 2 inches away from plant bases.

Prune dead parts from plants, shrubs and trees. Dead wood and stems are the perfect entryway for disease and insects.

Wander through your landscape weekly and look for signs of insect damage, before it's too late. Watch for beneficial insects, like the ladybug and praying mantis, which control pests. They may be taking care of the problem for you. When treating for insect pests, use the least toxic method first and treat only where the pest is found. Always follow the directions on the label very carefully when using pesticides.

Those small, black lubber grasshoppers seen earlier this year are maturing into those very large, annoying adult grasshoppers — 2 inches and then some — that are yellow with dark markings and a red area on their wings. Their mission: Munch and destroy your favorite plants. But once they reach this size, there's not much you can do. Consider paying children to catch them and dispose of them in a bucket of soapy water. And there's always the stomp method.

Consider replacing shrubs that require constant pruning with more manageable shrubs like dwarf Walter viburnum (Viburnum obovatum 'Mrs. Schiller's Delight'), Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica), dwarf yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria 'Schilling's Dwarf') or dwarf ixora (Ixora coccinea 'Nora Grant').

Let this year's bumper crop of mangoes mature on the tree; otherwise, they won't ripen properly. To check for maturity, pick a large one growing in the sun and cut it lengthwise. Flesh around the seed that is turning yellow indicates it is ready to pick. Others that are the same size or larger are probably also mature.

Florida avocado varieties ripen at different times of the year, but the main season is July through February. Avocado fruit does not ripen on the tree. Mature fruit ripens in three to eight days after it is picked. Storing in the refrigerator delays ripening and allows you to keep fruit for a longer period of time.

Information from Carol Suggs and Theresa Badurek of the Pinellas County Extension Service and from the Hillsborough County Extension Gardening Almanac.

Timely tendings: Mulch, prune and watch for insects 07/02/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 2, 2011 5:31am]
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