Landscape Care In the Late Summer, AUGUST 2010

It is what I call the doldrums of summer. The persistent heat has taken its toll. And the absent rains have made the heat stress of a Zone 10 summer that much more intolerable. Remember the Pinder’s Mantra: “A plant is a living organism responding to an ever-changing environment.”   As growers, gardeners, horticulturists we have a special regard for the rhythms of the seasons. We recognize the subtle shifts in wind direction, rainfall, sunlight and shadows that make up the above referenced “ever-changing environment”. We anticipate the predicable patterns in these variables and so anticipate the shifting needs of the “living organisms” that comprise our gardens.  But when one of those elements does not unfold as predicted, it can catch us off-guard. This summer, the challenge has been the heat, coupled with the relative dryness of this year’s “wet season”.

Beginning in spring, as night time temperatures rise, plants grow more actively. This addition of new green growth makes the plant susceptible to pests that like to eat the soft new shoots. Aphids, mealy bugs, scales and white fly can create problems. Be on the lookout for these pests and choose a solution the best fits your circumstance.

The quick growth also demands nutrient support to provide the cellular building blocks of new leaves, stems and roots. Hopefully, back in the early summer, just as the rains started, you fed.  Perhaps you worked in either an organic fertilizer and/or  some compost.  Or maybe you applied the appropriate conventional feed for your plants. If that is the case, then all may need to do at this point is provide a little boost in the form of a liquid nutritional spray for those plants that are looking alittle pekid. Before Labor Day, you will want to trim back shrubs that are getting too big for your liking. Remember that after Labor Day, growth on most plants will begin to slow, coming to a complete halt in several species by Thanksgiving.

Here, in the late summer, blooming plants often “go vegetative”.  That is to say they quit blooming and put most of their energy into growing new green growth. Lots of leaves, not much in the way of flower. Keep them well nourished, remove the spent blooms (this is called “dead-heading”) and be on the lookout for pests & problems outlined here. Eventually, once the temperatures drop, they will again bloom.

More new green leaves also means the plant has more area from which to lose moisture. So leafier plants lose more water–at the same time that they require more water to support their rapid growth. Usually, here in South Florida, when this imbalance in water needed and water lost reaches its peak, we are in the midst of our rainy season. Just as the need for more water arises, we are blessed with summer afternoon showers. But this year, Mother Nature is being stingy with the rainfall, so I am seeing evidence of drought stress throughout my garden.  Hand water to provide a little relief. Be sure you have an adequate layer of mulch in place to retain moisture and keep the soil cool. For those plants that have been stressed to the point of leaf drop, consider treating with SUPERThrive, a great boost to plants immunity in times of stress.  Consider this for anything planted less than a year as these plants are still getting acclimated and could use a little support.

Now usually I would say, “Heck if it can’t survive without a bunch of molly-coddling than the dang thing needs to be culled from my garden!” and let the plant dry up and die. Cruel, I know, but life is cruel. But this time I am saying, give them a little support because this is NOT a typical year. A wicked cold, now a brutal heat and not enough rain. . .Most likely, next year will not be like this, and your plants will be