Coastal and Tropical South

June, 2011
Regional Report

Plant These Now

On the Southern Coasts, it is time to compost the last of the spring vegetable plants and start growing sweet potatoes, southern peas, bush okra, and bush lima beans like Tendergreen. Check local planting dates for fall tomatoes, squash, and beans, and leave space for them to go in next month. In the true Tropics, plant chayote squash, Cuban sweet potato (boniato) and all of the group known as calabaza, hard-shell squashes and pumpkins.

Summer Irrigation Tips

Take time now to check on whatever kind of watering system you are using, be it an in-ground system, soaker hoses, or drippers. Whether the summer is classically wet and humid, or turns into a drought disaster, be sure to adjust timing or personal practices to avoid under or overwatering. Modern system controllers can be programmed to slow or stop watering during rainy weather and may be worth adding to existing systems. Timers on otherwise manual systems may need adjustments if the weather is wetter or drier than usual. To avoid the heartache of wilt, unneeded high water bills, and loss of plants, check your watering practices.

Fertilize Palm Trees

Many palms can grow for years in containers but can have issues different from those grown in the landscape. Nitrogen deficiency shows first as a paling of the oldest leaves and moves into younger ones over a few months. When light green fronds dominate, the oldest turn yellow in an attempt to save the younger by transferring nitrogen to them. Prevention is better than cure, so keep nitrogen levels steady in containers with a slow release fertilizer or additions of composted manure twice annually. Use fertilizers in reduced amounts and slightly more often than directed by the products to avoid nutrient spikes and unstable growth.

Choose the Right Mowing Heights

Everyone has seen the scene: a neighbor breaks out the mower about once a month and scalps the grass in an effort to avoid mowing again. After a few months of this maltreatment, bad things begin to happen. The grass declines, the weeds get a strong grip and soon fling seeds into your lawn. Avoid being the person the neighbors complain about. Mow often enough to keep cutting at the recommended summer mowing height for your grass: St. Augustine and Bahia at 3-4 inches; centipede, carpet and zoysiagrass at 2 inches; bermudagrass at 1 inch tall.

Prune in Summer

For those who enjoy pruning, there are plants that can benefit from a snip or a shear right now. Start with annuals that have lost their "oomph" but still have months of potential blossoms hiding inside. For example, if vinca, zinnia, and impatiens have stopped blooming but their leaves are in good shape, use a set of hand-held pruning shears to cut off a couple of inches all over the plant. Water well after pruning, then fertilize and lay on fresh mulch if needed. Perennials like daylilies that are finished for the year can be clipped back unless you want them to produce seed. Other perennials like lantana can be restarted by simple shearing, too. If you want to prune summer blooming shrubs like gardenia and oleander, do so after their first flush of flowers.

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