September is here with another month of heat and heavy rain. This month is the height of hurricane-season. We’ve been lucky so far but the season is not over yet. Remember all of the hurricane preparation and clean-up tips to help you through this period.
Also, keep a close eye on your lawn right now. We just had a short dry period followed by some very wet weather. These climatic changes are perfect for the breeding of new generations of chinch bugs. They are everywhere right now. Chinch bugs like to lay their eggs when it is dry and then the eggs hatch with the rains. Watch for the telltale yellowing followed by brown spots. Part the blades of grass to find the little black bugs with white wings running in the soil or on the base of the blades. The newly hatched bugs are orange.
Grubs can also be very active right now. Areas of your lawn that look water stressed may have grubs actively eating the roots of the grass. Grab a handful of grass in these areas and pull on it. If it lifts away from the soil with no resistance from the roots, you probably have grubs. A little digging in the soil will usually produce a fat, white grub lying in a C-shaped position. Grubs come to the surface to feed when the soil moisture is high and it doesn’t get much higher than it is right now.
And finally, stressed turf is more susceptible to diseases such as brown patch, gray leaf spot or root rot. I wrote in depth about this a couple of weeks ago. People who mistakenly turn off their sprinkler systems, believing the rain will keep their lawn healthy, can bring on disease problems when lawns are stressed from inadequate water to allow for the higher trans-evaporation rates of summer. Brown-patch affects the lawn in circular patterns and the blades can be easily separated from the crown or root area. Leaf disease causes the blades to have lesions, which eventually kills the whole blade. Root rot can be found in those damaged areas from spring. The disease will rot the roots from the stolons allowing them to float above the lawn. All of these diseases can be controlled with the use of fungicides to prevent the spread of disease organisms to healthy surrounding lawn areas.
The ficus whitefly has been decimating ficus hedges all around Marco Island for several months and continues to be a problem. If you can suddenly see a new view through your hedge, like your neighbor’s house, and your gardener has not severely trimmed it, you probably have ficus whitefly. You do need to act quickly since this whitefly will cause the branches to die and eventually the entire hedge. Spraying or drenching with an insecticide containing Merit will control the insect and will last for six months to a year. The spiraling whitefly attacking our trees can be controlled the same way. This insect will make a mess but will not kill your trees.
This is a good time to start preparing vegetable and flower beds by turning the soil and fumigating to control nematodes and diseases. The natural way to fumigate is to cover the garden beds with clear plastic, allowing the heat to kill these organisms. Make sure you use clear plastic to allow the sun’s rays to penetrate the soil. I sometimes see beds covered in black plastic which does not allow for enough heat penetration of the soil. Till the beds and add some new organic matter and let them sit until planting season in mid to late October.
If you have poinsettias in your yard you should give them a final pruning this month and then leave them alone for holiday color in December.
September is the last full month you can get away with heavy pruning on all shrubs. The official cutoff date for heavy pruning is Oct. 15 to avoid damage of tender new growth from cold winter temperatures.
After one more month of really hard work October should bring slightly cooler temperatures, less rain and humidity, and a slowed growth rate for your gardens. A welcome relief after a long, hard summer for tropical gardeners.
Eileen Ward and her husband Peter have owned and operated Greensward of Marco, Inc., a lawn maintenance and landscaping company, since 1981.