Pruning Hydrangeas

Pruning Hydrangeas

We grow many types of hydrangeas in North Florida. In order to prune your hydrangeas at the correct time of year, you need to identify which types you have in your garden.

Bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)
Bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) comes in mophead and lacecap flower forms. They bloom on old wood, so prune in summer after blooming is finished. Repeat bloomers, such as ‘Endless Summer’ bloom on both old wood from the previous year and on the current season’s wood. You can prune after the first bloom and still get a bloom later in the season.

Hydrangea macrophylla. Photo by Beth Bolles,
UF IFAS Extension Escambia County

Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
A native hydrangea that blooms on old wood, so prune after flowering. This type requires little pruning, only
to maintain size and shape.

Oakleaf hydrangea. Photo by Beth Bolles,
UF IFAS Extension Escambia County

Panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)
These shrubs bloom on new wood, so prune in winter or early spring before new growth emerges. ‘Limelight’ and ‘Pee Gee’, are examples of this type. Plants only require pruning to shape or thin out the shrub.

Limelight hydrangea. Photo by Beth Bolles,
UF IFAS Extension Escambia County

Here are some additional pruning tips for your hydrangeas.

For all types, check for winter-damaged wood in early spring. Remove all dead branches before buds start to open.
Some plants need rejuvenation pruning. Old wood may die back or be less productive, so in early spring remove very old stems at the base. This stimulates new growth.
Deadheading flowers (cutting off spent blooms at a set of leaves) can happen as needed.

Plan on Doing a Fall Garden, Plan Now!

Plan on Doing a Fall Garden, Plan Now!

Yay, we are halfway through with August and our summer is winding down!  This is the perfect time to start prepping for that fall garden.   Growing a productive fall vegetable garden requires thoughtful planning and good cultural practices.  This process consists of selecting a site, planning the garden, preparing the soil, choosing the seeds and plants, planting a crop, and nurturing the plants until harvest time.  In the Florida Panhandle it can be a challenge to get cool season crops started; there is a balance in starting them early enough to allow them to mature (50-60 days) before a hard frost and getting them through the end of a hot summer.

August and September are the main planting times for a fall garden.  There are several cool-season crops and a final crop of warm-season vegetables that can be planted.  Some good warm season crops are lima beans, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes.  Going into September it will be a good time to establish strawberry plants.  Some good vegetables to start growing just around the corner are broccoli, carrots, cabbage, collards, mustard, and Swiss chard.  https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/NorthFloridaGardeningCalendar  Herbs that do well are cilantro, parsley, and lemongrass. Mint, oregano, and thyme should be planted in containers as they tend to spread. Mexican tarragon, mint, rosemary, and basil will also do well in September. See Herbs: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_herbs

Transplants from the local garden center will get the garden off to a fast start while seeds will offer more varieties to choose from.  It is also important to think about your location.  A vegetable garden can be in the ground, a raised bed, or even grown in containers.  Your plants will need more than just a place to grow.  They will also need sunlight, water, air, soil, fertilizer, and care.  Most vegetables require at least 8 hours of sunlight.   Keep an eye out for pest problems such as insects, diseases and weeds because they will continue to flourish in warm temperatures and high humidity. To help conserve soil moisture a layer of newspaper and mulch can be placed between the rows.  Mulch also aids in weed control. 

Raised beds are an excellent way to get started with gardening. Photo by Molly Jameson.

The result of a beautiful, successful vegetable garden is fresh produce to eat, share with neighbors, family, and friends and even the possibility to sell your harvest.  With patience and practice your gardening skills will improve every year!  Follow the above few tips and you will be well on your way to a great harvest!  For more information about starting a fall garden or any other horticultural or agricultural topic, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office. Happy Gardening

Summer Tasks

Summer Tasks

Summer should be the time to relax and enjoy the fruit of all the hard work performed in the landscape over the previous winter and spring.  However, there are still some essential tasks that need to be completed during the summer.  Perform them in short energy bursts early in the morning or late in the evening.

1. Aerate Your Lawn

If your yard is starting to look weak and thin, even with fertilizing and proper moisture, it may need aeration.  Aeration, which is creating channels into your lawn, allows water and nutrients to reach the deep roots of your grass more efficiently.

To test if you need to aerate your lawn, shovel up a patch of grass to a depth of at least four inches.  If the layer of thatch is a half-inch thick or higher, your yard would benefit from aeration.  There are self-drive aeration machines and tractor-pulled devices you can rent to make quick work of large areas.  For smaller areas, simply punching multiple holes with a pitchfork will do the job.

2. Fertilize

Gardener fertilizing yard
Commercial landscape fertilizer applicators must obtain state certification.

Turf grass often displays a yellow color during the mid-summer rainy seasons due to the heavy rains flushing nitrogen away from plant roots. If your lawn is looking sad and yellow, chelated iron can often give a temporary green-up. Iron is not a replacement for nitrogen, but it can work well during our summer rainy season.

If you soil test revealed a potassium or magnesium deficiency, summer is a good time to make the last corrective application.  Potassium (K) is an essential macronutrient. Fertilizer bags typically show the percentage of potassium in a product as the third number displayed on the front of the bag (e.g., the “8” in 16-2-8). Potassium acts as a “vitamin” for turf grass, increasing root strength, disease resistance and cold hardiness.

Magnesium (Mg), also a macronutrient, is essential for the production of chlorophyll, necessary for photosynthesis, and also plays a part in the movement of carbohydrates from leaves to other parts of the plant.

3. Don’t Mow Too Short

It’s a natural inclination to want to mow your grass as short as you can, so you have the longest time until you have to mow it again. However, giving your grass a buzz cut every time you mow can hurt your lawn over time.

While some turf grasses can be mowed relatively short, like Bermudas and some Zoysias, most grass types shouldn’t be cut shorter than two-and-one-half to four inches high.  Mowing shorter than that can damage the growth point and leave it susceptible to disease and pest infestation.  It can also dehydrate the grass and lead to long term damage.

5. Water Infrequently but Deeply

One common mistake made by many is watering too often and too shallow.  When only given frequent shallow waterings, grass will begin to grow their roots upwards to take advantage of the small amounts of water, which makes weak and unhealthy.  The grass becomes even more dependent on water and very susceptible to disease and insect attack.

Try watering only once or twice a week, but for a considerably longer time so that the water can penetrate deeper into the soil and encourage downward roots.  Ideally, each irrigation zone is calibrated to determine the length of time it take to deliver ½ – ¾ inch.  Then set the system to run every 3-4 days for that number of minutes.  While checking the irrigation delivery system, make sure the rain shut-off device is working and set to the same ½ – ¾ inch.

6. Prevent Mosquitoes

Summer rains on a nearly daily basis lead to lots of standing water. In less than one inch of water, hundreds of mosquitoes can hatch 3 -5 days later. Not only are these blood-sucking pests annoying, but they can also transmit dangerous diseases like West Nile and Zika Virus.  Even without disease, their bites are painful and irritating.

To prevent mosquitoes, make sure no standing water is allowed to remain in your yard, either in low points or in empty containers like flower pots or wheelbarrows.  Any amount of stagnant water is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.  Take a walk around the yard, dumping out water and disturbing the oak and magnolia leaves that are acting a collection cup.  Treat birdbaths and water features with floating “donuts” specifically designed to kill mosquito eggs.

While getting tasks done in quick morning trips to the yard, make sure to keep hydrated.  Heat exhaustion can happen fast.

The Fall 2022 Leon County Seed Library Kicks Off August 13

The Fall 2022 Leon County Seed Library Kicks Off August 13

The Fall 2022 Leon County Seed Library Kickoff event starts at 11 a.m. on August 13 at the Collins Main Leon County Library.

The Fall 2022 Leon County Seed Library Kickoff event starts at 11 a.m. on August 13 at the Collins Main Leon County Library.

 

To kick off the Fall 2022 Season of the Leon County Seed Library Program, UF/IFAS Extension Leon County will be at the LeRoy Collins Leon County Main Library (200 W. Park Ave.) Program Room on Saturday, August 13, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with information on raised bed gardening, a hands-on seeding activity, an Ask-a-Master-Gardener booth, and a healthy cooking demonstration.

Although we are still in the full swing of summer, gardeners know it is time to start thinking about planning the fall garden. Although pulling weeds and adding fresh compost can wait a little while, gathering seeds for the new season can be something to think about doing now.

Youth creating garden gnomes at the 4-H station during the 2019 Seed Library Program debut. Photo by UF/IFAS.

Youth creating garden gnomes at the 4-H station during the 2019 Seed Library Program debut. Photo by UF/IFAS.

If you live in or around Tallahassee, the Leon County Seed Library Program can help jump-start your fall garden. Starting August 13, you can go to any of the seven Leon County libraries to check-out three sample vegetable seed packets per month per library card! The Leon County Master Gardener Volunteers are currently busy labeling and packing each of the seed varieties that will be distributed to the seven libraries.

There will be 10 vegetables varieties this season, including a few varieties that have never been featured in the program. If you like to save seeds from your garden, know that all varieties in the Seed Library Program are open-pollinated (by insects, birds, wind), which means if they are not crossed with another variety, the seeds they produce will grow true to form.

The Fall 2022 selection includes:

  • Common Arugula: Deep green with a spicy, peppery, mustard-like flavor
  • Cylindra Beets: Heirloom with long cylindrical roots, good for slicing
  • De Cicco Broccoli: Central light green head and side shoots to extend season
  • Scarlet Nantes Carrots: Sweet, crisp, bright red-orange, seven-inch roots
  • Vates Collards: Slow bolting, large blue-green leaves
  • Lacinato (Dinosaur) Kale: Cold tolerant, sweet dark green narrow leaves
  • New Red Fire Lettuce: Crisp and flavorful, green base with red ruffled leaf edges, bolt resistant
  • Peione Parsley: Large flat leaves with sweet flavor
  • French Breakfast Radishes: Mild, spicy flavor with a red top and white bottom
  • Bright Lights Swiss Chard: Rainbow stems, burgundy and green leaves, very mild

The vegetable varieties available starting August 13 for the Fall 2022 season of the Leon County Seed Library Program. Image by Molly Jameson.

The vegetable varieties available starting August 13 for the Fall 2022 season of the Leon County Seed Library Program. Image by Molly Jameson.

 

See you at the Leon County Main Library on August 13!

Citrus Canker on the Spread in NW Florida

Citrus Canker on the Spread in NW Florida

Citrus canker has made its way to Escambia County and may be more widespread that we realize.  This bacterial disease was first seen in Northwest Florida almost 10 years ago in Gulf Breeze. Given time and the ease of transmission of this disease, we are now seeing affected citrus trees in both the east and west portions of Escambia County.

This disease is specific to citrus with grapefruit, lemon, and lime being the most susceptible to infection.  The disease can infect all above ground tissues and often enters through natural openings and wounds of leaves, stems, and fruit.  If you find an infection early in an isolated area of the tree, you can prune out and double bag the affected tissue for disposal.  Often times, the disease is noticed only after a considerable amount of tissue and fruit are affected making it difficult to keep the disease in check.

Since the bacteria is so easily transmitted through rain and wind, it is difficult to prevent movement during our frequent storm events. People can also spread the disease by movement of unregulated citrus trees, on equipment, and even on clothing.

Citrus canker lesions appear on both the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County

Lower surface with citrus canker. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you suspect a citrus in your landscape has canker, do not bring a sample to your Extension office for identification.  Take a photo of plant symptoms of upper and lower leaves, fruits, and stems so that your local Extension educators can assist with identification.  The University of Florida publication https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/PP323 has quality photos and descriptions of the different stages of citrus canker, along with photos of other citrus issues.

Stem lesions on grapefruit. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County.

The bad new for homeowners is that there is not a treatment to cure citrus canker.  If the infection is small (a few leaves or a branch), it may be possible to remove and dispose of the material, following proper sanitation guidelines. Homeowners may also suppress a small infection on fruit by using copper-based fungicides, applied at appropriate intervals. These fungicides only protect plant tissue for a short time by acting as a barrier to infection. See this UF publication for timing of copper sprays for fruit.

Once susceptible citrus are heavily infected, trees will have fruit and leaf drop, along with general decline and dieback.  At this stage of the disease, homeowners should strongly consider removing the tree.  If it can be burned on site in accordance with local burn laws, that keeps the material contained and may reduce disease transmission. Otherwise, all material should be double bagged and sent to a landfill. Do not compost any material onsite or at local composting facilities.  Be sure to follow disinfecting techniques outlined in the University of Florida publication https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/PP323 for tools, hands, and clothing.

Since management of citrus canker is so difficult, prevention is the best method to protect your tree.  If you are considering a citrus, choose a more resistant selection outlined in the UF publication, Table 2.  Always purchase a citrus from a certified nursery and follow state guidelines which prohibits all propagation of citrus, unless registered to do so.

Plenty of Summer Gardening and Landscape Activities Ahead

Plenty of Summer Gardening and Landscape Activities Ahead

A watering tin and gardening gloves at a home garden.

Spending time gardening in the summer months can be difficult, especially in the Florida Panhandle. The brutally high temperatures and sometimes intensive humidity can make gardening seem unbearable. However, for those brave outdoor enthusiasts, there are always things to do around the homestead when it comes to vegetable gardening, landscape shrubs and lawn care.

Warm season vegetable gardening at this point becomes an uphill battle for some crops, with this being peak time for both insect and disease problems to occur. However, if you planted early enough, much of your harvest is probably in the safe zone. Scouting is key to prevent any major pest damage. Be sure to scout several times a week during these hot, summer days.

Shifting gears, the warm season is a good time to take extra special care of plants such as, azaleas and camellias, while they are establishing flower buds for the next bloom. A lack of water, fertilizer and pest detection and prevention can all certainly play a role in the following season’s flower production. Summer annuals always provide quick and easy color. Remember to feed established annuals with a complete fertilizer and remove faded blooms along the way. Water annuals well during hot, dry periods and control major annual pests to insure good production.

Finally, lawn maintenance is a need for many homeowners during this time of year. Almost all highly successful herbicides are no longer recommended at this point, as many will burn the turfgrass at temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the weed pest and type of turfgrass, most likely the best way to control weeds in your lawn is to wait until cooler fall temperature to treat. Keeping good cultural practices this time of year will help in maintaining a healthy lawn and reduce pest pressure. Be sure to water lawns thoroughly when needed by applying one to three quarters of an inch of water weekly, depending on rainfall. Be sure to keep in mind mower height/frequency, as this is critical in keeping your lawn healthy. As stated in the “Mowing Your Florida Lawn” UF/IFAS EDIS publication, mow often enough so that no more than 1/3 of the blade height is removed per mowing. For example, if your St. Augustinegrass lawn is mowed at a height of 4 inches, it should be mowed before it grows to a height above 6 inches. It is important to always leave as much leaf surface as possible so that photosynthesis can occur, particularly in a grass that is subject to environmental or site stresses.

Unfortunately, it is chinch bug time again. Chinch bugs are prone to feed on St. Augustine lawns during hot, dry weather and may cause serious damage if not controlled. Damage usually occurs as a patch with a brown, dead center and yellowish margin. It seems chinch bugs get the blame, and often unjustly, for everything. Consult with your local county extension office to be sure the damage is not due to other reasons.

For more information, please contact your local county extension office.

Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publications/websites below:

Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/VH021

North Florida Gardening Calendar: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/ep451#SECTION_7

Lawn Maintenance: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/entity/topic/lawn_care

Mowing Your Florida Lawn: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/LH028

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.