Cooperative Extension Service 
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Hendry County Extension, P.O. Box 68, LaBelle, Florida 33975-0068  Phone (863) 674-4092

Hendry County Horticulture News

August 2000 - Rains Season Better Late than Never

As the old saying goes, "Better late than never."  Hopefully, this will be the case with this year's rainy season.   August is often our wettest month and abundant rainfall would be indeed welcome by most gardeners who saw their parched landscapes suffer through the driest spring in recorded history.  In addition to sparking wild fires across the state, this year's drought was so severe that it actually caused the death of mature trees and shrubs in number of cases. While June and July rainfall bought relief to many communities across SW Florida, other locations are still dry and hope for much needed precipitation.

In addition to rain, August often brings the increased threat of tropical storms.  The high winds and driving rain accompanying such storms can be quite destructive.  This is a good time to survey your landscape for weak limbs and overhanging branches that may cause damage in the event of violent weather.  It is wise to consider calling a professional for help with big jobs who have the know-how and equipment to avoid injury.

It is common practice to see folks prepare palms for possible storms by pruning off all but a few of the upper fronds.  This practice is very harmful to the tree and should not be done.  Most palms are native to the tropics and have evolved modifications that enable them to successfully weather most storms.  The open feather like structure of their leaves allows wind to pass through them easily and their trunks are strong but flexible allowing them to bend but not break.

Most palms produce only a few dozen leaves or less per year.  The removal of even a few green fronds greatly diminishes the photosynthetic capacity of the plant.  This denies the palm the food it needs to grow.   Palm fronds should never be removed before they have completely died and turned brown.  Continued removal of green fronds over time will often result in a condition known as pencil-pointing or a drastic decline in trunk diameter making the palm look just like a sharpened pencil.

Pest control can be a major concern this month.  With the warm temperatures, moisture and the long days of summer comes the explosive proliferation of certain insects and diseases.  Astute gardeners will take advantage of the relatively cool morning and evening temperatures to patrol their domain and nip the development of any pest problems in the bud.   Look out for and be ready to control ants looking to make their way into your dwelling, insects intent on gobbling up your lawn, scale insects sucking the life blood out of your fruit trees and ornamentals, and aphids delighting on the new growth of your citrus.

Lawns, in particular, are prone to a number of insect and disease pests at this time of year.  Mole crickets, sod webworms and chinch bugs are some insects that may become problems at this time of the year.  Contact the Hendry County Extension Office for specific pest control recommendations.

Many turf problems can be avoided by practicing good cultural techniques.  Over watering and over fertilization, especially with nitrogen, can lead to lush, tender growth that is more attractive and susceptible to attack by insects and diseases.  Excessive growth can also lead to the formation of thatch which can harbor insects such as chinch bugs.

Fire ants are another bane of gardeners that seemingly become worse during periods of high rainfall.  In actuality, high water tables resulting from heavy rainfall force fire ants to the ground surface where they have a greater probability of coming into contact with people. A variety of products are available for the control of fire ants.  It is important to realize that nothing will completely eliminate fire ants.

The planting season is beginning to open up for the planting of fall crops.  Vegetables that can be planted toward the end of August are beans, broccoli, celery, collards, corn, cucumber, eggplant, onion, pepper, pumpkin, squash, tomato and watermelon.  Beware of insects and diseases and be sure to apply a fungicide on a preventative basis.

Bulbs to plant in August  include African iris, agapanthus, amaryllis, canna, crinum, gladioli, society garlic and rain lily.

Flowers that can be planted now include asters, balsam, begonias, black-eyed Susan vine, blue daze, cat's whiskers, coleus, cosmos, cockscombs, dianthus, forget-me-nots, gaillardia, golden globe impatiens, marigolds, moon vine, pentas, periwinkles, petunias, phlox,, porterweed, portulaca, purslane, salvia, scabiosa, strawflowers, sunflowers, tithonias, torenia, verbenas and zinnias.  Late summer and early fall is prime time for butterflies.  If you would like to attract these lovely creatures consider planting a butterfly garden now.  Good luck and good gardening.

Gene McAvoy is the horticulture agent with the Hendry County Extension Service.  Direct your horticulture questions to PO Box 68, LaBelle, FL 33975,  e-mail - or phone 863-674-4092 or 863-983-1598.  You are also welcome to visit the Hendry County Extension Office at 225 Pratt Blvd., LaBelle.   Office hours are from 8:00 - 5:00.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an Equal Employment Opportunity - Affirmative Action Employer authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap or national origin.

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