The unofficial start of summer is Memorial Day. However, the weather here in Florida has been hot, if not downright hot. The summer rains, which really mark summer on the Treasure Coast, have not appeared, but I hope they are not far away as it looks like summer and the plants grow like summer.
Here are some gardening tips to help you and your plants in the garden and landscape make the most of the hot, humid weather.
Florida gardeners know we grow tomatoes in the winter. If you must try growing them during the summer, try berry varieties like cherry or grape tomatoes and provide them with some afternoon shade. Make sure to water if the weather is dry and keep an eye out for munching hawksbillies which can be plucked when they are found.
University-recommended varieties for Florida include Sweet 100, Juliet, Red Grape, and Sugar Snack. Also look for local growers and online seed sources for the Everglades tomato, a berry variety that grows year round.
Protect yourself when working outdoors. The heat is extreme and can be life threatening. Garden early in the morning and wear a hat and sunscreen. Make sure you drink plenty of water. Start hydrating before you go out and continue to drink while you work and after you quit
Plants heat up too. Not all wilted plants need water; some wither just from the heat. Apply water only if the soil is dry. Avoid irrigating in the middle of the day; more water is lost through evaporation at this time of day, and the shock of cold water on hot plants can cause damage and increase the risk of sunburn.
As temperatures rise, even with a decrease in the water supply, the grass will grow and still require mowing. Be careful when using a lawn mower. Avoid the Florida uniform of flip flops, shorts, and shirtless shirts.
Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts that are both fitted and closed-toe shoes and no jewelry. Add eye, hearing and sun protection to make sure your family and friends will enjoy you and your garden for a long time.
Prepare for the rainy season, buy a rain gauge and install it on your property where it collects rain without interference from roofs, gutters or downspouts. Record amounts of precipitation and use the records combined with personal observations to determine when the landscape needs additional irrigation.
Good choices for colorful plants for summer beds include Crossandra, Dragon Wing Begonias, Ornamental Amaranthus, Periwinkle, Celosia, Wishbone Flower, Spider Flowers (Cleome), Coleus, Caladium, and Dahlberg Daisy. Make sure you mulch well and take the time to enjoy the garden yourself with your friends and family.
Carol Cloud Bailey is a landscape consultant and horticulturalist. Send your questions to [email protected] or visit www.yard-doc.com for more information.