Finally we can all rejoice a little. The rainy season has returned but maybe a little later than normal this year. I for one and not going to start adding up all the rain we've had so far and calculate what we could get if we have a normal or maybe an extra wet year. But it does give us hope.
Water starved landscapes are finally getting a good drenching we all have been waiting for. Surviving turf, trees and shrubs have flushed out with the familiar bright green foliage. But after about eight months of pretty dry weather there is also lots of plant damage.
There are plenty of dead spots in once flourishing lawns, shriveled flowers in beds that are now filling with weeds and shrubs sprouting short yellow stems. Some trees have declining limbs and a few have died. Many landscape plantings are struggling to survive.
Take just a few weekends during the rainy season to follow a recovery plan and produce a Florida landscape that's lush and green like you remember.
- Reestablish turf in the bare spots: If more than fifty percent of the turf is dead consider starting a new lawn.
- Add new landscape plantings: Gardeners waiting for the rainy season can now complete their landscape plans. It's a good time to add trees, shrubs and ground covers to let the rains do the watering.
- Remove declining limbs: Dead limbs can be found in most trees, shrubs and perennials. Take time to do the needed trimming to prevent insects and diseases from invading the affected plant portions.
- Feed landscape plantings: Many gardeners could not water effectively and skipped a late winter or spring feeding. Give nutrient deprived plantings an application of a general garden fertilizer with slow release properties to encourage new growth.
- Add seasonal color: Replace declining spring flowers with a selection of summer varieties. Even though the rains have returned consider using drought tolerant perennials. Keep more water sensitive annuals to small planters and portions of beds where you need a burst of color.
- Renew mulch layers: Protect the soil from drying by adding fresh mulch to maintain a 2- to 3-inch layer under most trees and shrubs. Mulch also helps keep beds weed free and maintains a uniform soil temperature.
- Eliminate the weeds: Some how weeds seem to survive even the most severe drought. They are also the first plants to invade barren areas left by declining shrubs, flowers and turf.
- Adjust and upgrade the irrigation system: Determine areas that were not effectively watered by existing sprinklers.
Tom's Gotta Do List
- Summer rains have revived lawns; apply a slow release fertilizer where permitted.
- Application of an iron only product can help lawns keep their green color where permitted.
- Mow once or twice a week to keep lawns at their proper height after normal growth.
- Determine the proper height for your lawn type; grasses are mowed at different heights.
- Mow in a different direction at each cutting to prevent ruts
- Avoid mowing when the lawn is hot and dry to prevent damage from mower wheels.
- Summer weed control may cause turf decline; try spot treating weeds to avoid injury.
- Learn to identify lawn weeds and use appropriate controls.
- Seasonal rains often provide adequate moisture; water only during dry times.
- Trim overgrown shrubs and turf grass hiding sprinklers to ensure proper watering.
- Lawn moths arrived early; control sod webworms when chewing damage is noted.
- Learn about thatch in zoysia lawns; it can cause the turf to decline.
- New lawns can be established from seed, sod or plugs
- Avoid sodding shady spots during the rainy season to prevent decline due to rot problems.
- Eliminate hard to mow areas by using mulch or an ornamental ground cover.
Vegetable and fruit care:
- Start tomato, pepper and eggplant seeds for mid August transplants.
- Use soil solarization during summer as a way to bake pests out of gardens.
- One more month to go before your next major garden: get the site ready.
- Small raised beds or large containers make excellent garden sites for beginners.
- Make sure all gardens have daylong full sun exposure and a nearby water source.
- Add organic matter to sandy soils and old garden site to have them ready for planing.
- Local compost, manures or commercial garden soils are good sources of organic matter.
- Test the soil acidity of planting sites and adjust the pH as needed.
- Remove declining crops to help eliminate pests before the next plantings.
- Seldom is it worth continuing lingering tomato, peppers and eggplants into fall.
- Feed summer vegetable plantings monthly or use a slow release fertilizer as instructed.
- Many herbs struggle during hot wet summers; groom, feed lightly and keep a bit dry.
- Locate or order seeds for late summer planting; place in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
- Give fruiting trees and shrubs a mid summer fertilizer application.
- Select fruits you like to grow and add them to the landscape; make sure they stay moist.
- Apply an insecticide and minor nutrient spray to citrus trees at each flush of new growth.
- Keep figs moist, feed lightly and maintain a mulch to avoid summer fruit drop.
- Prune blueberries when the harvest is over; also check and adjust the soil acidity.
In the landscape:
- Summer rains have stimulated lots of new growth; perform timely pruning as needed.
- Lower limbs can be removed from trees that interfere with traffic or work.
- We no longer use paint to cover wounds but be sure to make proper cuts.
- Groom roses to remove faded blooms, tall stems and declining portions.
- New trees, shrubs and ground covers can be planted; do keep the root balls moist.
- Pruning time for azaleas and camellias is over; continue to prune gardenias and bougainvillea.
- Hibiscus, crape myrtles and similar summer bloomers can be pruned but you lose the color.
- Removing the seed forming stems from crape myrtles encourages more growth and flowers.
- Remove 4- to 6-inches of new growth from poinsettias to encourage compact growth.
- Prune hydrangeas to remove old flower clusters and reshape plants when the blossoms fade.
- Move indoor foliage outside to create a tropical look during the summer.
- Hang orchids from trees and feed every other week for best growth and flowering.
- Use easy to maintain container gardens as accents for entrances, porches and patios.
- Feed outdoor container plantings every two weeks or use as slow release fertilizer as labeled.
- Daily rains may not completely moisten container gardens; check frequently for water needs.
- Weeds grow as well as desired plants; pull, hoe or chemically control as needed.
- Maintain mulch layers at 2 to 3 inches with trees and shrubs.
- Delay transplanting established in ground trees and shrubs until late fall or winter.
- Mushrooms are common during the rainy season; remove them if children or pets are present.
- Divide and replant perennials including shasta daises, gerbera, bromeliads and many bulbs.
- Many palms are declining due to diseases; sterilize pruners between palms
- Leave as many green fronds on your palms as possible to keep them vigorous and healthy.
House and foliage plants:
- Use foliage plants in shady areas of patios, at entrances and along walkways.
- Groom and divide indoor plants to keep them attractive.
- Transplant root bound foliage plants into larger containers.
- Feed home and outdoor foliage plants with a slow release fertilizer as instructed.
- Check for summer pests of mealybugs and scale insects; control with natural sprays
July 2017 Plantings
Flowers: Angelonia, ageratum, begonia, blue daze, bush daisy, butterfly plant, bulbine, cat's whiskers, coleus, crossandra, false heather, fire spike, gaillardia, ginger, goldenrod, impatiens, Joseph's coat, lantana, marigold, melampodium, Mexican petunia, Mexican sunflower, moon flower, ornamental sweet potato, pentas, periwinkle, porter weed, portulaca, purslane, salvia, sunflower, torenia and classic zinnia.
Vegetables: Boniato, calabaza, cherry tomato, okra, Southern pea, Seminole pumpkin, sweet cassava, roselle, sweet potato and yard-long bean; start transplants of eggplant, peppers and tomatoes from seed in mid July.
Herbs: Anise, basil, bay laurel, chive, dill, ginger, lemon balm, Mexican tarragon, mint, oregano, sage, sweet marjoram and thyme.
Bulb-type plants: Achimenes, African iris, bulbine, caladium, canna, crinum, crocosmia, day lily, eucharis lily, gladiolus, gloriosa lily, peacock ginger, society garlic, spiderwort, rain lily and walking iris