When the summer begins in Gainesville, many of our students go home for the summer break. The town empties out, and everything quiets down for a few months. But the garden is still growing and there are many tasks to accomplish. Thankfully, we have a good roster of volunteers, an intern, and a part-time gardener this summer.
Whatever you do in your yard, stay hydrated. Gatorade is a good supplement to your outside work for those times when you’ve pushed yourself too far in the summer heat. Take many breaks to rehydrate and rest in the air-conditioning. It’s not worth it to push yourself into heat stroke. Don’t work in direct sunlight for too long. Working in the shade in the heat of the day is wise. If your face is red, you’re sweating profusely, and you are having trouble catching your breath, go inside. If you overdo it, you’re not going to get anything done, so be smart.
All the rain, sunshine and humidity of summer is good for plant growth. Unfortunately, that includes weeds. Do your weeding in the early morning hours, before it gets too hot. Some gardeners joke that spring is for getting the yard the way they want it and then they don’t touch it over the summer. But the weeding never stops.
Be careful how much water you’re putting on your grass—especially if it is St. Augustine. It doesn’t like to be drowned. It can catch fungus or mold with too much water. It’s wise not to have your irrigation system on a regular schedule. That may sound absurd to some, but do you really want to water your lawn the morning after a downpour from the previous day? Here in Gainesville we have entered our rainy season, so watering shouldn’t be a problem. Through April and May this year, however, we had to water quite a bit while we got through the usual dry spell before the regular rains began.
Watch out for chinch bugs in your grass. They usually come into your lawn from sidewalks or driveways, so any browning areas bordering pavement or concrete could mean you have an infestation.
It wouldn’t hurt to put down one more treatment of weed and feed or Milorganite or some type of fertilizer on your grass. As I’ve written about before, in Alachua County we are not permitted to put down fertilizers that include nitrogen from July through February, so June is your last chance to give your lawn a boost to push through the summer and into the fall before it goes dormant (or slows down) in the winter.
Last summer, we encountered an attempted invasion of lubber grasshoppers. These start out as tiny black grasshoppers with either an orange or a yellow stripe down their bodies, and they grow into the gigantic multi-colored ones that are about three inches long. In our garden they prefer amaryllis, and they will chew them into tatters if you don’t destroy them while they’re young. From April through May, we killed the tiny black ones, and then the larger black ones that evaded the first attacks. Now, we’re not seeing them at Wilmot Botanical Gardens, so, mission accomplished, we hope. But watch for those giant, three-inch lubbers. If you see them in your yard, they are looking to lay eggs for next year.
Be safe and be well. We hope you have a great summer full of flowers, fun and friends.