Coastal and Tropical South

July, 2010
Regional Report

Okra

Some call it nasty and sticky, while others love it fried and stewed, but love it or hate it, okra is in season. Pick frequently while the pods are small, keep the plants watered and fertilize only lightly once the plants are producing. Leaf miners may show up on lower leaves. Pick them off as soon as you see the affected leaves and throw them away. If you see ants climbing the okra stems, they are farming aphids. Look for them on the pods or flowers and blast them off with a strong stream of water.

Shade for summer planting

Many troubles can beset vegetable plants, including sunburn. Mature plants and even ripening fruit can get bronzy or burnished looking. Sunburn usually happens when the leaf surface is minimal; vegetable development and taste can be affected. Young plants for the fall crop can completely burn up in full sun unless you provide shade for them. You'll think they succumbed to transplant shock when simple temporary shade would have gotten them through it. Hang white barrier cloth, thin burlap, or an old sheet to block the burn.

Hatching soon

Azalea caterpillar hatches this month and if you miss them, they'll devour young azalea shrubs and strip whole sections of established plants. Fortunately, the caterpillars have big orange-red "heads" and "spines" along their sides, black hairs, and white sides so are easy to recognize. They hatch in summer, eat lots of leaves, and then overwinter in the ground for more trouble next year. That's when the adults emerge to lay more eggs. Pick them off now before they can bury themselves.

Mowing mantra

Grass grows quickly even if you are out of town or on a "staycation" at home. Proper mowing height differs depending on what kind of lawn grass you have. Starting with St. Augustine at 2 inches, heights get lower in this order for zoysia, centipede, carpet grass, and finally Bermuda at 1/2 to 1 inch at most. Mow often enough so you do not cut off more than half the blade's height at once when mowing. Don't mow a dry lawn- if you leave footprints when you walk across the grass, water today and mow tomorrow.

Summer pruning dos and don'ts

Many gardeners grab the shears to trim overgrown shrubs in summer, but hold off on trimming azaleas and other spring bloomers. Their buds are set for next year and pruning between now and then will cut them off. Do prune cape jasmine and crepe myrtle after bloom to shape plants and encourage more buds. You can even cut back floppy gardenias by one third if necessary, but some buds will be lost. Use care when clipping hydrangeas- be sure not to cut all the green stem off older varieties.

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