Aug. 2013 To-Do List: Coastal and Tropical South

Susan Wells

oleanderMany plants develop unsightly spots on their leaves when hit by salt spray. While the spots may not kill the plant, constant damage to leaf surfaces slows growth and affects flowering. Making a well informed choice for beachfront gardens means less maintenance, and can include both native and exotic plants. There are many beautiful, salt-tolerant plants, such as pittosporum, Ixora, oleander or Indian hawthorne. Choose century plant and yucca over cannas for broad-leaved texture.

Vegetables and Fruits

•    Time to plant tomatoes. Plant varieties you’ve had good results with before, plus an heirloom. They’ll set blooms and fruit after the weather has cooled a bit.

•    Plant broccoli and cabbages (both round heads and Chinese), Brussels sprouts and cauliflower at the end of the month under row cover to keep bugs off. (Collards and kale can wait until late September. Their greens grow quickly and are almost bitter until cool weather sweetens them.)

•    If you’ve had problems with aphids eating squash planted in spring, worries are over this month. Plant crookneck, zucchini, butternut, and acorn types now, after the major aphid invasions are over. Many of the newest, most interesting squashes, like ‘Pagoda Gold’, show more colorful outsides and develop better flavor in fall. Give new transplants some afternoon shade.

•    Solarize empty beds by spreading clear plastic over them held down by stones. Leave the plastic for six to eight weeks to kill weeds, seeds and diseases. Beds will be ready to plant by fall.

Flowers

•    Pinecone ginger grows easily anywhere it’s planted. Though it spreads quickly, it is easily controlled. Since it goes dormant in the winter, there is no worry about frost killing it. (When you squeeze a bloom gently, you’ll get a handful of lanolin-like, sweet-smelling lotion that is great for a gardener’s hands.)

•    Prepare a list of perennials for spring and order for fall planting.

Trees / Shrubs

•    Not all palm trees can take salt spray or stand up to hurricane winds. For any beachfront garden, look to the pindo palm, Washington palm, and cabbage palmetto.

Lawns

•    All warm-season turfs grow best in well-drained, uncompacted soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5 (slightly lower for St. Augustine). Test your soil before liming or fertilizing.

•    Generally speaking, a slow-release fertilizer formula combined with regular mowing and watering will produce a healthy lawn that can outgrow many weeds and survive common pests.

•    Large, browned areas in the open lawn have one of three probable causes. In a dry spring and summer, check for chinch bugs. In wet weather on the Southern Coasts, it’s likely brown patch fungus. The browned areas decrease in size in drier weather and increase with rain. Further south, take-all-root-rot is a problem now. Its damage does not change with weather and is usually fatal.

•    Common insects capable of damaging the lawn include grub worms, aphids, and chinch bugs. Grub worms prefer dry areas, such as those missed by sprinklers or located next to hot concrete driveways and sidewalks. Common as they are, piercing and sucking insects, like aphids, often go unnoticed in lawns until the sooty mold fungus begins to grow in their “honeydew.”

•    Apply nitrogen to Zoysia in August and mow weekly at 1-2 inches high. A sharp reel mower is best.

Image: Shutterstock/Botond Horvath

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