1. Life & Culture

Timely tendings: Taking care of your vegetable garden

Sweet potato plants not only make a delicious edible vegetable, but also can act as an attractive ground cover. Sweet potatoes are a long season crop, so they need to be fertilized during the growing period. Use an 8-8-8 or similar fertilizer every five or six weeks during the summer growing season. Vegetables and other edible crops are exempt from our local fertilizer ordinance, but always fertilize responsibly to protect our waters.

Check your garden each day for signs of disease or insect injury. Daily monitoring of the garden will help you spot potential problems before they get out of hand. Mechanical removal of pests, such as caterpillars and snails, will help cut down on the use of pesticides. There are biological products such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and insecticidal or organic disease control products available at local garden centers.

Most people do not feel love for love bugs. These insects usually swarm in late April and May. The larval stage of the love bug feeds on leaf mold, making control difficult if not impossible. The adult fly's only purpose is to find a mate. The love bug does not sting or bite but will certainly mess up the windshield and grille of your car. Avoiding love bugs is not easy. They prefer the warmth of the day. If you are taking a trip across the state, plan to travel at night or early morning before they begin to stir.

Theresa Badurek, urban horticulture extension agent, UF/IFAS Pinellas County Extension Service. For additional landscape and garden information, visit For regular tips and information about what's growing in Pinellas, go to