Saturday, May 07, 2005

Summer Rains Are Coming

May Home Gardening Advice
By Gene McAvoy

As the month of May progresses, we can expect to see a buildup of white
fluffy clouds each afternoon signaling the onset on our rainy season. While
the summer rainy season pattern of afternoon showers usually begins this
month, May can also be a dry month, be prepared for anything. Daytime
temperatures should reach average highs in the mid to upper 80s and stay
there until September. The combination of rain plus long days and warm
temperatures should really get your lawn growing initiating the start of the
weekly summer mowing ritual. Be certain that your mower and other gas powered equipment has been serviced and blades sharpened in preparation for the long grass cutting season ahead.

Once the rains begin in earnest and the ground has been thoroughly wetted,
it is a good time to plant those trees and shrubs that you have been
planning to include in your landscape. By planting now, it will allow the
new plants to take advantage of the rainy season to become well established.
Remember to be prepared to irrigate if the early rains should be sporadic.
If you have an automatic irrigation system, which is not equipped with a
rainfall monitor, remember to reset it after the rains have begun to fall
regularly to avoid over watering. The return of the rainy season is prime
time for seeding bahia lawns and laying sod for new St. Augustine lawns.
This is also the time to seed bare patches in existing bahia turf or adding
sod or plugs to St. Augustine lawns. Warm weather will favor chinch bug and
mole cricket activity, monitor turf areas and treat as needed. Mole crickets
are best treated with insecticidal baits applied just before sunset.

Since the hurricane season is not far off, May is a good time to survey your
domain for weak limbs and dangerous overhanging branches that may become a problem in a storm. Removing such potential problems now may save you major grief if high winds should strike. When attempting to remove large branches, use the following pruning technique to avoid splitting the branch and tearing strips of bark off the main trunk. First, make a cut about six inches from the trunk on the underside of the branch until the saw begins to bind, next remove the saw and finish cutting from the top of the branch at a point a few inches past the first cut. The branch should break off between the two cuts. After the branch has been removed in this manner, you can then trim the stub back taking care to avoid the branch collar where the
branch joins the trunk. Injury to the branch collar can result in a wound that may infect the trunk.

Bougainvillea are best pruned soon after the blooms have fallen in May or
June. Pruning later in the season will reduce the amount of next years
flowers. Prune to keep the vines under control and maintain desired size
and form. Azaleas and camellias can also be pruned now after flowering is

Lawns should be fertilized in May in preparation for the summer rainy
season. For St. Augustine and high maintenance bahia lawns, apply a slow
release nitrogen fertilizer at the rate of 1 lb. N per 1000 square feet.
Ornamental trees and shrubs should receive a second feeding this month with
a complete fertilizer for top performance. Choose a fertilizer supplemented
with minor elements for best results. May-June is the time to give your
citrus trees a second application of fertilizer for the year. If you do not
get rain soon after applying fertilizer, remember to water in the
fertilizer to avoid damage to your plants.

If you haven't yet done so, remove spent cool season flowering annuals and
replace with warm season flowers. Continue to root cuttings from your
favorite shrubs and perennials. Use of a rooting compound will increase
your success rate with all but the most easily rooted cuttings. Be sure to
select cuttings from healthy disease free plants only. Sharp builders' sand
or well drained potting mix will produce better cuttings than attempts to
root cuttings in water.

Warm season vegetables that can be planted in May include: black-eyed peas,
calabaza, cherry tomato, collards, dasheen, lima beans, New Zealand spinach,
okra, summer squash, sweet potatoes, yams, and yard long beans.

Flowers that can withstand summer temperatures are: begonias, blue daze,
celosia, coleus, four-o'clocks, gaillardia, marigolds, morning glories,
periwinkle, portulaca, purslane, salvia, torenia, and zinnias. Bulbs to plant in May include: achimenes, blood lilies, cannas, crinums, day
lilies, gladiolus, gloriosa lilies, spider lilies and rain lilies.

Insect will become more active with the onset of summer temperatures.
Remember, that not all insects are harmful. In fact, the vast majority are
harmless or actually beneficial. These include pollinators and predaceous
insects that feed on other insects. Be sure to correctly identify insects
and spray selectively only when absolutely necessary. Good luck and good

Gene McAvoy is the horticulture agent with the Hendry County Extension

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