1. Plant Watering – If you have lived in Central Florida for several years, you probably have come to realize that our summer rainfall can be either a boom or a bust. If you’ve been lucky enough to receive sufficient rainfall, good for you, but for those who haven’t, you need to monitor your plants and provide additional water as needed. With the afternoon temperature of 90+ degrees day after day, many of your plants may look stressed. Some will often appear wilted during the midday heat, but they usually recover as the day cools down. Symptoms to watch for include sun burned (yellowing/browning) leaves, premature blossom and fruit drop, and possible defoliation. You might ask how can you deal with these conditions? My answer:
- Avoid adding any new plants, including turf.
- Monitor your plants daily and be prepared to water them if the heat persists and you don’t receive adequate rainfall. And remember, plants in containers dry out quickly under our present conditions.
- Avoid fertilizing, as it can cause roots to dry out, and any new growth can become dehydrated.
- Remove weeds that are competing with your plants for water, and while you’re at it, if not already done, add 2″-3″ of mulch around your plants, but avoid direct contact with the stems/trunks of plants.
- If you have citrus developing fruit, be sure to provide sufficient water now. If not, your fruit may be dry inside at time of harvest.
Whatever you do, remember – proper hydration is the key to good plant health, especially when it’s hot. To manage your watering needs, I suggest you use a rain gauge to track how much water you’re receiving as rainfall and with your irrigation system. Both too much or too little water can cause serious problems with your landscape and lawn.
2. Pest Issues – Our temperatures have been unusually hot this season, and rain has been sporadic in many areas. As previously stated plants are often stressed. And if that’s not enough, we also have numerous pests to contend with. Be on the lookout for the following:
- Lawns – Root rot: This disease selects weakened turf (especially St. Augustine) and causes yellowing of grass foliage by rotting out the root system. This can be especially bad if you’ve been getting/using too much water.
- Soil insects – look for mole crickets, chinch bugs, and lawn caterpillars. Sod webworm will appear in August – September. Typical symptoms include development of dead areas in our lawns which continue to enlarge. If this is happening to your lawn, fill a gallon jug with water and add a couple tablespoons of liquid soap. Pour around the perimeter of infected area. If insects are the culprits, they’ll be visible within a minute.
- Pests on our ornamental plants – lace bugs on azaleas and sycamore trees, thrips on sweetgums and flowers, aphids (and ants) feeding on new growth, leaf eating insects (including grasshoppers), various bacterial/fungal leaf spots, slugs/snails eating leaves/flowers, etc., etc. And of course during hot, dry weather – spider mites.
3. Coping with the heat – summer heat is very hard on our body. To avoid possible heat related health issues, stay cool and take care of yourself. How? Only work outdoors in the cool of the morning (before 10 a.m.) or in the evening (7-8 p.m.), avoid strenuous work, wear light colored, loose fitting, breathable clothing, and a wide brim hat to protect your ears, neck, and forehead. Drink plenty of liquids – at least a glass full of water every hour you’re working, and take frequent short breaks.