Although the high temperatures and humidity of summer, take a toll on most Florida gardeners, the summer months are actually some of the best for your lawn and landscape, if you can keep up. Read on for our tips to help you through the summer months.
For the Lawn
Weeds – If you have sedge, this is the perfect time of the year to fight back. However, long term control of these weeds is only possible when the underlying cause of their competitive advantage is resolved. The culprit is usually extended periods of excess soil moisture. Sedges typically win the battle over the desired turf in these conditions.
- What is a Sedge? Sedges are a perennial with underground rhizomes and/ or tubers which make them difficult to control. Also, since lawn clippings are rarely bagged, their dropped seeds can take over even more of your lawn. There are four main sedges: Kyllinga, Globe, Yellow and Purple and at first glance they can look like grasses, especially in mowed turf where the seed head is not present. So how do you differentiate? The easiest way to remember is “sedges have edges”. When in doubt, pick a stem and roll it between your fingers. All sedges have triangular stems. For control try Sedge Hammer, containing Halosulfuron-methyl or Image, containing Imazaquin. Although, you may not see results for up to two weeks after application, this product has systemic properties and multiple applications are often required for long-term control, especially for Purple and Kyllinga species. For an added punch, use a non-ionic surfactant like Surfactant for Herbicides or Surf-Ac 820, which will improve product performance by breaking the surface tension on the leaf, which then allows for a more uniform distribution of spray droplets and better wetting of the leaf and stem surface. In addition, the solvent characteristics will also increase the amount of herbicide absorbed by the plant. Increased product coverage = better control!
- Can’t get the weed eater to start? No worries! Non-selective post-emergent professional herbicides like Roundup QuickPRO and Ranger Pro can be a huge help controlling unwanted weeds along driveways, sidewalks, fences and foundations, around walkways, mulched areas and established ornamentals. Add a pre-emergent herbicide like Surflan and keep new weed seeds from germinating in the area you just sprayed for 2-4 months. Don’t want to mix products? Try DuraZone, a brand new product by Bayer that combines glyphosate to kill existing weeds with a pre-emergent that keeps new weeds from germinating for 6 months! Remember to always read and follow all product instructions for best results.
Pests – Summertime is pest’s favorite time to dine on your lawn, but how do you know what’s feeding on your St. Augustine Floratam? Tropical sod webworms are not finicky eaters; they have a taste for all turf varieties. They feed at night and their damage first appears as a sparse spot in the lawn. At closer look, tell-tale signs are notches chewed out of grass blades and little piles of green frass (caterpillar poop).
- OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) certified Thuricide containing BT is specifically for caterpillars and it works. Chinch bugs suck the juices from St. Augustine grass causing brown areas in the lawn that appear drought damaged. Most damage is in the sunnier, hotter spots of the yard- Especially near driveways and sidewalks. Young chinch bugs are reddish in color and have a white band across their back; mature ones are black and have white wings. They are fast so finding a live one to identify is not always easy.
- White grub worms are immature beetle larva that will feed on most turf varieties but are most damaging to St. Augustine. Minor infestations often cause the turf to be yellow and can be mistaken as a nutrient deficiency. Grub worms do eat the turf roots so in more severe infestations you can actually pull your yard up by the handfuls. Mole crickets, another pest, are nocturnal and do the most damage from late August to early October. They can be found in any species of turfgrass but they particularly like bahiagrass and bermudagrass, feeding on their roots and shoots. They make tunnels in the ground, severing grass roots along the way, while leaving behind their telltale tunnels and ugly brown grass patches in the spring. The best control for mole crickets is in the summer when product is applied soon after the mole cricket’s hatch, concentrating application in the areas where you saw spring activity. If you have identified an existing pest problem, use Bayer 24 hour Grub Control to knock down lawn insects then apply Bayer Complete Systemic Insect Killer for 3 month residual control.
Disease – Disease is usually triggered by the combination of improper cultural management practices and excess irrigation/rainfall. Prevention and or early detection and routine treatment are the keys to control.
- Common lawn diseases induced by the wet, hot summer include a variety of root rots and gray leafspot, which leaves easily recognizable brown lesions on the grass blades.
- Propiconazole (Bayer Fungus Control for Lawns and Fertilome Liquid Systemic Fungicide), azoxystrobin, and thiophanate methyl are popular broad spectrum fungicides that work well on most of our Florida warm weather diseases.
- OMRI certified Garden Friendly Fungicide is an exciting new biofungicide/bactericide on the market. The active ingredient is Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, strain D747 and is labeled for vegetables, fruits and nuts, ornamentals and turf. If caught in its early stages, anthracnose, brown patch, dollar spot, powdery mildew, rust, gray leaf spot and pythium can be controlled in turf.
Water Smart – Prevent fungal problems before they start. Adjust irrigation based on rainfall and check for damaged heads and areas that need to be adjusted. Lawns can have too much of a good thing.
- If you don’t have a rain sensor, consider adding one. Did you know they are actually required for most irrigation systems?
- Water early morning so that the plant can take up water during the day and leave the soil relatively dry by night preventing disease.
Mow Smart – Incorrect mowing heights and a dull blade can really stress your turf making it more susceptible to insect and disease.
- Mow at least weekly and do not remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade height with any mowing.
- Sharpen your blade at least once per month keeping it sharp enough to prevent tearing the leaf blades when mowing.
- Mowing heights: Bahia should be mowed between 3-4”, Bermuda .5-1.5”, St. Augustine 3-4”, Zoysiagrass 2-2.5”.
For the Garden
Watch for pest damage – Many landscape pests thrive this time of the year. There is plenty of fresh, tender growth on plants, plus the heat and humidity speed up their life cycle. Combine these conditions with a stressed plant and lack of air flow and you have the perfect habitat for an outbreak of scale, mealy bugs, whitefly, etc. Sooty mold on leaves is a telltale sign to look closer for piercing sucking insects.
Options for their control include:
- Conserve Naturalyte (OMRI) containing spinsosad works great on thrips and caterpillars.
- Thuricide (OMRI) containing BT is specifically for caterpillars.
- Dominion Tree and Shrub provides 12 month systemic control and can be used on trees, shrubs and containerized plants.
- Bayer All in One Rose and Flower Care provides fertilizer, insect control and disease control for 6 weeks on flowering plants. Especially good with plants like roses who are often plagued with black spot fungus and pests like aphids.
- Organocide 3-in-1 Garden Spray – OMRI certified insecticide, fungicide and Miticide that is derived from sesame and fish oil. Effectively controls soft bodied insects and scales in all life stages and is even safe to spray on edible crops until day of harvest and additionally, is safe to spray around children and pets.
Lubber grasshoppers – start out in spring as small black grasshoppers but are usually noticed during the summer months when they grow into large yellow and orange eating machines – 3-4” long – with their food of choice being plants in the lily family. Their bright colors are a warning sign to predators that they are distasteful or toxic, so nature is not on our side controlling this one. Bonide Systemic Insect Control containing acephate is an option which works best on grasshoppers still in the nymph stage. It is fast acting and lasts several days. The preferred method of treatment by most is scouting and hand removal. What you do with them after they are removed is up to you.
Prune – Many plants need a summer grooming. Prune out of bounds shoots and thin crisscrossing limbs along with faded blooms and seed pods. Pinch back leggy annuals and remove old blooms to encourage new growth and more flowers. Reshape vines, shrubs and larger trees if they need it. It is too late to prune azaleas, camellias and gardenias. August is the last time to prune bougainvillea and poinsettias. Our favorite tool for pruning is the Felco #2.
Mulch – Add or replace mulch. If your old mulch has broken down enough, it turns into soil which is great, but it does nothing to prevent weeds and retain moisture in your landscape beds. Add no more than 4” to discourage weeds and never apply close to stems, they need to breath!
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Weeds – The best way to control weeds in the garden is to prevent them from getting started in the first place. Weeds are not only unsightly but they rob desirable plants of water and other nutrients. Hi-Yield Weed & Grass Stopper and Treflan 5G weed preventer are granular pre-emergent herbicides that keep over 200 broadleaf and grassy weeds from sprouting for up to 3 months. If you have never tried a pre-emergent, try it! You will have more time to sit back and enjoy your garden vs. weeding it.
Plant – Summer rainy season is still a good time to add to your landscape.
- Divide and share your extra bromeliads and start coleus cuttings.
- Save the tops off your pineapples and plant them. Not only are they super easy to grow but you will be amazed at how much better a home grown pineapple tastes. Pina coladas anyone?
- Try a lower maintenance landscape rose variety like ‘Knock Out’, ‘Drift’, ‘Belinda’s dream’, or ‘Louie Philippe’.
- Crape Myrtles are at their peak. If you choose to add one to your landscape, make sure you choose the right cultivar for your space. They are available in an array of colors, growth habits, and heights.
- Tropical plants including trees like mango, lychee, poinciana, heleconia, cannas, Ixora, croton, angels trumpet, allamanda, Jatropha, mussaenda, coleus and caladiums are all show stoppers this time of year.
- Protect your investments and reduce both transplant shock and establishment time with Yeti Myco Trax. It works and you will thank us later.
- Water newly-planted trees and shrubs once daily (unless it rains) for 3-4 weeks, then less frequently till its acclimated.
- Even a drought resistant plant takes time to establish and become drought resistant.
Palms – Consider applying Manganese Sulfate to prevent “frizzletop” which is a manganese deficiency on susceptible palms including king alexander, queen, coconut, Canary Island, pygmy date and king sago at the rate of 1/3-2/3 cup per 100 sq. ft. Large Palms; 3 lbs per tree. Many palms are making a mess by dropping their small fruits and it will do no harm to the palm to remove the fruit stocks.
Color – Replant container gardens and flower beds that are in decline.
- The best summer to fall plants include angelona, crossandra, marigold, pentas, vinca, coleus, salvia and wax begonia.
- Use the same potting soil in your containers that the nursery professionals use in Florida – Fafard 3B – You will notice a difference! If you want to reduce your watering time consider adding Hortabsorb water management gel.
Herbs and Veggies – Most spring vegetable plantings come to an end in late summer but no worries; fall crop planting is right around the corner in October.
- Herbs like basil, sage, oregano, tarragon, thyme and rosemary are all not only very easy to grow but they are a flavorful, economical addition to your family’s meals.
- If you are limited on time or space to devote to edibles and a raised bed or ground garden sounds daunting, consider Earth Boxes. They are lightweight, durable and ensure gardening success through their sub irrigation design; stop by and let us tell you about them.
Now that you have all the tricks of the trade, your lawn and garden will be ready to take on summer. If you have any questions or we can do anything more to help keep your landscape in tip-top shape, feel free to contact us or stop by any Big Earth location.