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Dig in now to reap summertime rewards

Plant, prune and prepare your landscaping so that it will survive and thrive throughout the long, hot summer.

Published May 5, 2007


May is a great time to think about adding color to your landscape that can stand our summer heat and humidity. Some good annuals for summer include angelonia, narrow-leaf zinnia, vinca, ornamental peppers, torenia and gaillardia.

Herbaceous perennials provide color in your landscape year-round. Once established, these plants require less maintenance than annuals. Some colorful perennials that can stand the heat are blue daze, coreopsis, daylily, Jacobinia, Liatris and pentas.

Lilyturf (Liriope spp.) is a good edging plant with its dark green foliage and contrasting purple flowers. Liriope forms dense clumps that typically reach 7 to 12 inches in height. The "Evergreen giant" variety grows even taller. A variegated liriope ("Aztec grass" is one type) tolerates full sun.

When you plant lilyturf, be sure the crown is slightly above the soil and then be careful that you keep mulch at least two to three inches away from the base of the plant. Crown rot can be a problem if it is planted too deep.

WATER, CUT, FEED: A good lawn maintenance program includes proper mowing, watering and pest control. Calibrate your sprinkling system to deliver 3/4 inch to 1 inch of water each time you irrigate. (See "How to Calibrate Your Sprinkler System" at or call your county extension office.) Your grass should be mowed often enough so that no more than 1/3 of the leaf surface is removed. A sharp-bladed mower is a necessity to ensure a clean cut and avoid tearing the grass tips.

PRUNE: There is still time to prune your azaleas to promote blooms and fullness. Renewing mulch occasionally is also helpful. Keep the mulch about 3 inches away from the base of the plant.

BLOOM: When gardenias finish blooming, prune and shape your shrubs and replenish old mulch. Gardenias often bloom again on new growth.

VEGGIE TALES: Vegetable gardening should be in full swing this month. Remember to watch for insects and diseases and be prepared to treat at first sign of invasion. Because vegetables are annuals, they use a lot of fertilizer while growing. Continue to side-dress every five to six weeks and keep plants well watered. There is still time to plant pole beans, lima beans, cantaloupes, collards, okra, sweet potatoes and summer spinach.

MIGHTY MITES: Spider mites are a big problem on many plants during dry, warm weather. Signs of mite infestation are yellow spots on leaves, rusty needles on junipers and stippling of leaves. When the infestation is heavy you may be able to see the fine webs. Spray with insecticidal soap or paraffin-based horticultural oil.

FEED 'EM: Most Florida soils are low in magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is common on many ornamental and food plants. Symptoms occur on older leaves because magnesium has the ability to move from older growth to new growth. The older leaves of the Canary Island date palm will become prematurely yellow from this deficiency. Grapefruit leaves adjacent to the fruit may be the first to become yellow. The use of magnesium sulfate or Epsom salts will correct this problem.

Compiled by Pam Brown and Carol Suggs of the Pinellas County Extension Center/Florida Botanical Gardens. Questions? Call them at (727) 582-2100.

When to water

Going into May, we are still in drought conditions, with watering restrictions in effect throughout our region.

- Find the restrictions for your area at

- The University of Florida/IFAS Extension publication "Tips for Maintaining Landscapes During Drought" is available online at County extension offices also have copies.

Mark your calendar

- 10-11:30 a.m. today, free Rain Barrel Workshop at Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center, 3940 Keystone Road, Tarpon Springs. Learn to collect rainwater from your roof. Barrels will be available for purchase at $20 each. Preregister at (727) 582-2673.

- 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. May 15, Lawn Insects & Weeds, by horticulturist Cindy Peacock at Pinellas County Extension, 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo, in the Gardenia Room. Learn about common insects and weeds in your lawn. Preregister at (727) 582-2673.

- 10 a.m.-noon May 19, Compost Happens, with master gardener John Kingsbury, at the Dunedin Recreation Center, 1920 Pine-hurst Road. Learn how to create compost. Call (727) 582-2673.

- 10-11 a.m. May 19, Fancy Fruit for Your Yard at the Pinellas County Extension. Tour tropical garden, and taste and see what you can grow. Good for kids and families. Preregistration is required. Call Cindy Peacock at (727) 582-2671.


[Last modified May 4, 2007, 12:06:50]

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