Proper lawn care keeps troubles away
Mow often enough so that no more than one-third of the leaf blade is removed at each mowing. Cutting the grass high increases the grass leaf surface area for photosynthesis and also encourages a deeper and more extensive root system.
Keeping the mower blades sharp and properly balanced is another important part of mowing practices. Grass cut by a sharp blade will heal over more quickly and lose less water than a leaf blade shredded by a dull mower blade.
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Grass clippings are a valuable resource that many homeowners throw away. Raking or frequent emptying of mower grass catchers into non-biodegradable plastic bags is hard work!
Leaving the clippings on the lawn will reduce the amount of time and money you spend on lawn care. Each bag of grass clippings you throw away contains up to one-fourth of a pound of organic nitrogen that could be reused by your lawn. This is especially important in Pinellas County now that we cannot fertilize with nitrogen during the summer.
It's also very important to make sure to sweep those clippings from the sidewalk, drive and road back onto the lawn — never into the gutter or storm drain. The nitrogen from those clippings contributes to the excess nutrient problem in our waterways.
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Chinch bugs can cause St. Augustine lawns to look like straw. Damage usually begins near driveways or sidewalks where heat builds up. Neem oil is a less toxic alternative shown to be effective against chinch bugs. Fertilizing with iron sulfate during hot summer months can green up the lawn without producing the succulent growth that is so attractive to chinch bugs.
Planning a fall vegetable garden
It's time to prepare for a fall vegetable garden. Successful vegetable gardens are the result of planning, constant care and the will to make things grow. If you prefer, you can grown fresh organic produce for your family without spending a lot of money.
Start planning now: Consider the size of your family and the amount of produce you can use or may want to share. If you have not had a vegetable garden in the past, you may want to start small and not underestimate the work involved.
Choose the location: Select a location with good, well-drained soil near a water supply that is not shaded by tall buildings or trees. Most vegetables need six to eight hours of full sun each day. Enclosing the garden with a fence can help keep out small critters that may want to eat your tender plants or developing veggies.
The garden design: Many gardeners find it helpful to draw out on paper the location of each row and the crop or succession of crops to be planted. Since we garden in the fall, winter and early spring here, remember that the sun is lower in the south sky. For this reason you will want to plant your tallest plants to the north and successively shorter plants as you move to the south in your garden to avoid tall plants shading short plants.
Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide: edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/VH/VH02100.pdf
Next week: Preparing the soil.
Compiled by Theresa Badurek, urban horticulture extension agent, UF/IFAS Pinellas County Extension Service. For additional landscape and garden information, visit pinellascountyextension.org. Regular tips and information about what's growing in Pinellas are available on Facebook, Grow Pinellas.