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July gardening tips

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With the rains and plant growth of spring, an application of fertilizer may be required in lawns, vegetable gardens and plant beds now that we are in summer.

July may not the most pleasant month for our lawns, landscapes and gardens. Here are some tips on gardening during this “not so good time” to be outdoors.

With the rains and plant growth of spring, an application of fertilizer may be required in lawns, vegetable gardens and plant beds now that we are in summer. But don’t overdo it. This is a supplemental application. A 15-0-15 slow-release fertilizer is a good all-around landscape fertilizer for most plants.

Some maintenance pruning can be done now. Deadhead, or clip old flowers, from summer flowering shrubs as soon as they fade to extend the bloom season. Crape myrtle, chaste tree, hibiscus, hydrangea and althea are examples of shrubs that will bloom repeatedly if light, selective pruning is done.

Flowering annuals also can benefit from deadheading. Snip off old flowers and flower spikes before they form seed to improve plant appearance and increase flower production.

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Inspect your lawn and shrubs for pest problems. Look for chinch bugs in St. Augustinegrass, spittlebugs in centipedegrass, sod webworms in all lawn grasses, lace bugs and caterpillars on azaleas, whiteflies on gardenias and spider mites on a wide range of landscape plants.

Sod webworms often attack lawns during summer and fall. They feed at night and rest curled up near the soil line during the day. Look closely for notched leaf blades from their chewing damage. You may find a dusty material left behind from their feeding. You may notice a patch in the lawn that looks like it has been mowed extra low. Closer inspection may reveal grass blades that have been chewed away.

If insect damage requires treatment, choose the least toxic option. Soft-bodied insects and mites such as aphids and spider mites can often be controlled by spraying with an insecticidal soap solution. But before using any insecticide, be sure the insect pest has been correctly identified and always follow the product’s label directions and precautions. These two UF/IFAS Extension publications provide more info on understanding pesticide labels and pesticide safety.

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pi071, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pi051

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July is a great time to try soil solarization in vegetable gardeners that have problems with nematodes. Prepare the soil as you normally would for a vegetable garden including adding organic matter. Moisten the area and cover with clear plastic, not black plastic. Be sure to secure the edges of the plastic so it doesn’t blow up. Allow the soil to bake in the sun for four to six weeks. The sun will raise the soil temperature high enough to kill many soil borne problems. This UF/IFAS Publication on Nematode Management in the Vegetable Garden provides more instructions on soil solarization.

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ng005

Larry Williams is the Extension horticulture agent with the Okaloosa County Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida. Contact Larry at 689-5850 or email lwilliams@myokaloosa.com.

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