Coastal and Tropical South

July, 2009
Regional Report

Vacation?

When you go away, don't abandon your plants. Be sure inground irrigation is working, especially rain shutoffs. If you use other systems, slow down your schedule: skip every other time for two weeks before leaving if no one can water for you. Your plants will suffer less shock in your absence if your prayers for rain aren't answered. Fill a child's pool with water and set pots around it connected by strips of wicking to keep container plants hydrated.

Figgy Details

Many fig trees ripen once in late summer, while others set an early crop and another in fall. Either way, summer is prime time for the fruit to swell with pride and natural sugars. Water deeply once each week if it doesn't rain. Wrap trees in netting to keep birds out. Pick figs early in the morning, before the heat softens them further than perfectly ripe.

Midsummer Shrub Care

Whether you fertilize them at any other time of the year, July is a good time to nourish evergreen and deciduous shrubs. To thicken evergreens, clip or shear about 2 inches off the tops and sides before fertilizing. Deadhead hydrangeas and gardenias to stimulate new growth and perhaps flowers. Follow pruning with a new blanket of compost or a complete shrub fertilizer and fresh mulch.

Mushrooms

The sudden appearance of mushrooms in the lawn isn't usually a serious problem, but you are never advised to eat them or let pets nibble either. Tree roots left in the ground long ago rot slowly and sometimes provide a perfect proving ground for the mushrooms. After plenty of rain, conditions ripen and the fungus pop up. Pluck or rake them out and spread garden lime in the area if the wet weather and mushrooms persist.

Azalea Alert

The bright orange-headed azalea caterpillar has been troublesome again this year. If you've been plagued by these devastating critters, rake out the mulch now and replace it. Spray with neem to control them and the dreaded lacebugs now dehydrating azaleas across the region. Their damage looks like stippling on the leaves, and can cause leaf drop, too. Left unchecked, the leaves turn yellow and drop off at midseason. It can take two years to completely get rid of lacebug infestations, and some gardeners choose to replace seriously compromised shrubs.

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