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

June 1998 - Flowering Trees Brighten the Sky

Splashes of scarlet flame dotting the landscape signal the beginning of June, as the royal poinciana comes into bloom.  This spectacular tropical tree, known in many places  as the flamboyant, has been called the world's most colorful tree.  It's riotous display of color lends a festive atmosphere to the beginning of summer.  June is a great month for flowering trees, with the lovely crape myrtle in shades of white, pink and lavender also coming into season.  This prim little tree has been called lilac of the south and really deserves wider recognition for it's sinuous trunk and branches,  the pleasing mottled pattern of it's bark, long lived flower clusters in delightful pastel shades and it's rich fall color.  The crape myrtle is a versatile landscape plant, whose size adapts it to close quarters.

After a brutally dry period of absolutely no rainfall for nearly sixty days, ended by showers at the very end of the month of May, hopefully June will usher in the beginning of a normal rainy season.  This drought, coming on the heels of an abnormally wet winter caused by El Nino, illustrates one of the realities of our local weather.  Extremes - too much water or too little, wide seasonal temperature variations, high winds and rarely ever just the right amount of anything.

Temperatures are regularly reaching into the nineties now and should settle at this new level for the next few months.  Hot weather, coupled with long days and renewed rainfall will result in a lot of new growth.  Given the favorable growing conditions, June is a good time for renewing lawn areas that have developed problems.  New sod or plugs will establish rapidly.  Bahia lawns may be seeded now.  Make sure that the seed is lightly covered and and be prepared to irrigate both sod and seeded lawn areas on a daily basis until well established if the rain should falter.

Cut established lawns frequently and leave the clippings where they fall to help return nutrients and organic matter to your turf.  Most folks tend to cut their grass too short, try raising the height of your mower to 3 inches and mow when the grass reaches 4 - 4 ½ inches.  This will result in a healthier lawn that is better able to crowd out weeds.

June is time to apply a second application of fertilizer to tree and shrubs, citrus, palms and turf areas.  Most garden centers will stock various blends that are specifically formulated for lawns, citrus, palms, and ornamentals.  When purchasing fertilizers look for a complete fertilizer that has at least 50% of the nitrogen content in a slow release form.  For low maintenance lawns, an application iron fertilizer may green up the grass without the excessive growth.  Check with the Hendry County Extension Office for specific fertilizer recommendations.

Good growing conditions and new, tender growth will result in an increase in weeds, insects and diseases.  Watch St. Augustine lawns for chinch bug activity.  Monitor your domain frequently, practice integrated pest control methods and use pesticides only as a last resort.  Mole crickets may become a problem, these can be controlled using baits.

Cool season annuals, such as impatiens will start to fade before the fierce summer heat.  Renew your beds by changing out your tired plants for summer annuals such as zinnias and marigolds which can withstand the summer weather. Other good selections suited to hot weather include: begonias, caladiums, celosia, coleus, gaillardia, ginger, porterweed, pentas, periwinkle, portulaca,  and, salvia.

Although most gardeners abandon their vegetable gardens due to difficulties with the heat, insects and diseases, it is possible to grow vegetables through the summer with a little effort.  Vegetables that do well in the summer months include: calabaza, blackeye peas, pole beans, lima beans, okra, cherry tomatoes and sweet potatoes.

If you decide to forgo the garden for the summer, a good technique that will help reduce nematodes, weeds, and diseases next season, is to till the garden thoroughly, moisten the soil well and apply a close fitting clear plastic mulch over your beds.  The plastic will trap the summer heat and bake out many of the potential pests that might be in the soil. 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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