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

July 1999 - Rainfall Makes Conditions Ideal for Plants and Pests

Sultry nights permeated with the cacophony of frogs and toads calling from rain filed swales and ditches fused with the strident sound of a multitude of insects characterize mid-summer evenings in southwest Florida.  Abundant rainfall in June has broken the long term drought, which had afflicted the area since January, and has spelled the return of our normal summer wet season.  July in southwest Florida is a time of growth and renewal. Long days and plentiful moisture have accelerated the pace of life to a nearly breakneck pace.  All things green and growing luxuriate in the steamy tropical conditions which prevail this time of year, acknowledging their approval
with unchecked growth.

Ideal growing conditions make July an ideal time for the establishment of most new plantings in the landscape, particularly the more tender tropical species, such as palms and others.  Warm weather and abundant rainfall will help ensure rapid establishment before the return of cooler drier conditions later in the year.  Despite the assistance provided by mother nature, be sure to be prepared to irrigate should we experience one of the periodic week-long or longer dry spells that often punctuate our wet seasons.

Excessive rainfall can rapidly leach fertilizer elements from our porous sandy soils.  Yellowing lawns can usually be re-greened with a light application of a nitrogen or iron fertilizer.  Bahia grass in particular seems to respond well to iron as do many ornamentals, especially those that prefer an acidic soil.  New trees and shrubs will  profit from regular light feeding with a complete fertilizer to maintain growth.  In the case of flowering annuals, regular feedings will ensure top performance and bright colors.

Pests, weeds, and diseases also proliferate under the warm wet weather conditions characteristic of July.  Mole crickets, chinch bugs and sod web worms are all active now in turf and may reach levels that warrant control.   Learn to identify these pests and the damage they cause and monitor their activity.  Note that the mere presence of a few insects is not generally sufficient cause for application of insecticides but rather a set of factors should be considered including: the presence or absence of beneficial predator insects, the number of pests present and pest population trends, and the level of damage inflicted versus the level of injury that becomes unacceptable among others.  On fruits and ornamentals, lace bugs may become problems on azaleas and avocados.  Leafminers are currently active on citrus causing unsightly deformed leaves.  Citrus should also be monitored for scale and mites in July.

Warm wet weather is prime time for the development of a number of fungal diseases including black spot on roses, which may kill roses in left unchecked as well as various leaf spots in turf which can leave large unsightly areas in lawns.  Many of these disease can be controlled through the timely application of the appropriate fungicides.  Contact the Hendry County Extension Office for more information on pest and disease control recommendations.

Weeds also seem to spring full grown from the ground at this time.  Mulching can greatly assist weeds control efforts in beds and borders.  Hand weeding and spot applications of non-selective herbicides are also effective weed control measures.

Remember to keep lawn mower blades sharp and allow clippings to remain in place to return nutrients to the turf.  Lawns should be cut frequently to avoid large clumps of cut grass from accumulating in thick piles, which can injure your turf.  The newer mulching mowers do an excellent job in this regard.

Many shrubs and perennials can be successfully propagated from tip cuttings at this time should you want to increase your favorite plantings.  Gardenias should be pruned soon after flowering ends to avoid reducing next years blossoms.  Blackberries should also be cut back after they are done fruiting.

Vegetable gardeners will want to start thinking about cleaning up and tilling garden plots for planting at the middle to end of August.  Through incorporation of debris and clean tillage for several weeks before planting will help reduce the incidence of many pests and diseases during the season.  If you plan to grow your own eggplant, pepper, or tomato or transplants, they should be started around mid- July for fall plantings.

Warm season flowers suitable for planting in July include: ageratum, begonia, blue daze, blue porter weed, cat's whiskers, coleus, gaillardia, ginger, marigold, morning glory, pentas, periwinkle, portulaca, purslane, salvia, and zinnia.  Summer season vegetables include: black-eyed peas, calabaza, cassava, okra, sweet potato, and yard long bean.   Herbs such as basil, dill, ginger, oregano, sage, sweet marjoram and thyme may be planted now.  African iris, canna, crinum lily, gladiolus, gloriosa lily, society garlic and rain lily are all bulbs that can be planted in successfully in July.

Although lawn mowing seems to occupy a disproportionate amount of time during July, be sure and take the time to sit back and enjoy a few rainy days just watching your garden grow.  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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