What to do this week –
By Mark Govan, Host “Florida Gardening“
One of the first signs I look for in determining when I should be getting ready for the fall planting season is when the commercial growers start getting their fields ready. Over the past few weeks, I have observed several growers mounding their fields in preparation for tomatoes and potatoes. If you have not yet started your seedlings for your fall vegetable season, then I suggest you get started. In this article I want to share with you some of the plants you should be growing from seed now and some pruning suggestions. I also want to talk about the excessive amounts of water we have received and how your plants are going to respond to this saturation. Let’s get started.
Those of you, whom have prepared your garden soil according to my previous articles directions, should be getting fairly excited to start planting your crops. Even though you may be chomping at the bit to get your plants in the ground, there are a few things we need to go over before you start. Make sure your seedlings are well established before putting them into the garden. I want my new starts to be large enough to withstand the elements like wind and rain before planting them. If you are growing your seedlings in small four inch pots, then make sure they have a solid root structure and healthy growth before you put them into the garden. Plants which are smaller than six inches in overall height can be damaged very easily by the elements, insects, or diseases, and do not produce as quickly as larger plants do.
The plants you should be growing from seed include beans, broccoli, celery, collard greens, corn, gourds, onions, peppers, rhubarb, summer and winter squash, tomatoes, potatoes, and watermelons. Those of you planting watermelons should have them planted out now. Watermelons like to be put into the ground during the first half of the month of August, but I know we have had a tremendous amount of rain which may have prevented you from getting them into the garden. Planting watermelon seed directly into the garden is ok as you may still plant them by the end of the month. Just make sure your soil is ready for them. Potatoes are an exception to the growing from “seed” rule. Normally, we do not plant potatoes from an actual seed, but rather we purchase seed potatoes in late August to early September. Most Feed Stores and local nurseries will carry seed potatoes which are ready for planting immediately into the beds prepared for their growth.
For those of you whom may not have read my previous articles on how to prepare your garden for your new vegetables or for specific planting instructions needed to grow the plants I have listed above, please visit my blog at abc-pestcontrol.com. From this blog you can search for planting instructions and soil preparation guidelines needed to give you bigger and tastier vegetables in your garden. You may also find instructions there on constructing a small garden with lists of materials necessary to build a five by five starter garden including tips on growing in containers.
Along with getting your vegetables ready for the garden, there are many things you should be doing in the landscape now. Pruning your plants back by one-third to maintain their shape and to help to promote blooming will give you a better looking landscape. Bougainvillea should be pruned now to keep the plants in shape. When left to grow unattended, bougainvillea’s become leggy and they produce long shoots which tend to add too much weight to the plant. Prune these plants by at least one-third.
Hedges should also be pruned now. Ligustrum, Pittosporum, and Podocarpus hedges should be pruned at least six inches below their normal trimmed height. By pruning below their normal cut level, you can get rid of the old and diseased growth at the tip of the plant. This pruning will allow the adventitious buds below your routine cut area to break their dormancy and grow healthy new leaves, rejuvenating the plants. Those of you looking to get more growth on the bottom of the plant will also need to prune your hedges thinner on the top and wider on the bottom which allow your plant to fill in underneath. I like to think of this as pruning your hedges similar to a pyramid shape but not as thin at the top. This will ultimately give you a thicker, denser hedge and more privacy.
Hibiscus, Gardenias, and Ixoria can also be trimmed now. As these plants all tend to bloom on new growth, light trimming can help stimulate the plants and give you a thicker plant with additional blooms to enjoy in the garden. In some instances, you will also be able to remove some of the diseased or insect infested areas of the plant as many of the problems these plants get tend to start on the tips. Make sure you remove these diseased or broken branches at the lowest point possible. After pruning these plants, make sure to lightly fertilize and spray with an insecticide if necessary.
Rose growers should continue spraying your plants for black spot disease. Black spot is a fungal disease that causes the leaves of roses to turn yellow and then fall off the plant. Scout your plants weekly and apply Bayer Advance Three-In-One Rose Care every fourteen days to control this disease. Azalea plants are very susceptible to lace bugs this time of year. Look at the top of the leaves on the plant and if you see grayish-brown leaves, turn the leaf over and you will probably notice dark spots on the bottom side of the plant. If you find these, then you will need to apply a systemic insecticide to your plants to rid your plants of these pests. If left untreated, then you may not get any blooms next year.
Now is the last time for you to trim back your poinsettias. Poinsettias need to be pruned this month to help the plants branch out and give you more color for the holidays. Do not prune poinsettias after this month again until after the New Year. You should also remove the seed pods produced on your crepe myrtles. By removing the seed pods that grow after the bloom cycle, additional flowers can be generated on your trees. Cut entire stalk of seed pods from the tree. In about a month the tree will re-bloom.
The abundance of rain we have received has flooded many lawns and landscapes throughout the Tampa Bay area. Some of our plants have been under water for up to a week at a time. Water cuts off the oxygen to our plants root system, which may cause your plants to droop and turn yellow. If the rain continues and the water does not soak in, then you may lose some of these plants. Most people will notice leaf drop and weakened root systems, leaving some plants and small trees leaning. Time will tell if these plants will survive, I believe most trees and shrubs will survive as our waters drain away fairly quickly. Do not prune these plants as pruning can put additional stress on the plants. You may try to stake the plants to straighten them but do not tie them too tight. Give your plants several weeks to recover before you do any pruning.
It may seem that there is too much to do this month, but choose one task at a time and finish to the best of your ability. Keep your seedlings growing and get ready for planting next month. Prune your hedges by following the steps I have laid out above. Check all the plants in your landscape for insects and diseases and treat where necessary. Even though your landscape may be saturated, give it time to recover and as always, remember, without plants, we would not be here.