Coastal and Tropical South

July, 2011
Regional Report

Take Care of Ponds

A perfectly balanced water feature is the dream and the plan, but there can be challenges in hot, dry weather. Plants can grow out of bounds, flop over and spoil the water in the pond as well as its looks. Worse, they can go dormant or succumb to hot water in small features. In that event, the ratio of open water to cover plants can be upset and lead to the growth of algae. Clean it up, get more plants if needed, and in the meantime, drop in some barley wreaths if more than one third of the water is exposed. Flood features if necessary to cool the water and any fish that are present. Cooler water will also benefit wildlife in the neighborhood seeking a drink.

Care for Your Lawn in Summer Heat

Very dry weather can cause big problems for turfgrass, even healthy stands that are well maintained. Those in good condition may need only two adjustments, to raise the mowing height by one notch and to increase the duration of irrigation slightly. If the lawn is a work in progress, get more assertive to prevent losses. Water regularly, especially areas already in stress, and work a dusting of organic matter into those challenged areas. Inspect browned areas for insects, since fungus diseases are less troublesome in dry weather. Lay off the fertilizer, especially if you do not water the grass, and use a slow release lawn formula if you choose to feed at all this month.

Pot Up Bromeliad Pups

Terrestrial bromeliads are popular garden plants, indoors and out. Their leaves are spectacular, and when the flowers shoot up into rainbows of crazy flowers, they last for months. First time growers think this is the end and pull the plant out of its pot to compost it. But there are baby plants, called pups, hidden under the leaves or barely showing out of the mother bromeliad's soil. They are the future of the plant and need only be removed and potted up to insure it. Use your hands, if possible, to separate the pups or else cut them away. Pot up in a very loose mix of bark and potting soil if roots are present; if not, sink into damp sand to encourage rooting.

Root Shrubs

My grandfather called it summer wood and used it to take tip cuttings that seemed to root overnight. I am not that good, but it is true that many plants root readily from cuttings taken in summer. Technically, the wood is considered semi-hard, a definite location in the spectrum between the fleshy green stems of spring and the wood that snaps easily in fall or winter. If the stem is as big around as a slim pen and bends with the gentle pressure of your thumb and finger, it is ready. Thinner stems and very woody ones do not work nearly as well, but azalea, crape myrtle, oleander, and roses are among the many woody shrubs that will root in summer. Take a cutting 4-6 inches long, strip the leaves off the lower half, and stick it in a small pot of damp potting mix. Keep the pot moist and in the shade for about a month, then tug gently on the stem. If it resists, it is rooting and will be ready to move up or plant out soon.

Give Knockout Roses a Boost

People who thought they could never grow roses and places where these popular plants seemed like a laughable design idea have embraced Knockout roses for good reasons. Durable shrubs with plenty of flowers always gets attention, but the fact that these roses are low maintenance sealed the deal. Low maintenance is different from no maintenance and these roses do need some attention, especially in times of drought. When these rose canes are numerous but wimpy, new flowers stop forming, and some leaves turn yellow, it's time to take action. Cut back the plants by one quarter all around and then remove some of the saddest canes by cutting them off at ground level. Water the roses daily for a week, then fertilize and continue watering for another week. If no new growth has popped by then, repeat the process.

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