Gardening: Your lawn and the summer rains

Eileen Ward
File: Showers to cross over East Naples and Marco Island.

The summer rainy season is in full swing. The last several weeks of rain has caused a flush of growth in the garden that will continue through September and possibly into October.

During the summer months we can have 20 inches of rain in the blink of an eye which literally just happened. The realities of lawn maintenance during the summer months in South Florida can be quite harsh. Within two weeks an entire yard can look like it has been neglected for months. Remember Marco Island is in the sub-tropics.

Given enough rain grass can easily grow three to six inches in a week. The saying, you can sit and watch the grass grow, is true here during the summer months. In season, October through April, it can take a month to see that much growth. Now consider you could not cut the grass on time due to rain.  It grows another two to three inches. When you do finally cut the grass it is very lush, wet and hard to cut.  It takes you twice as long because you may have to cut areas twice.  This leaves little time for other things like pruning or weed control. But you must make time because these tasks will quickly get out of control if you don’t.

Weeds take on a life of their own in the summer. You look around and have killed or pulled all the weeds and the gardens are virtually weed free. More of those rainstorms go through and another crop of weeds has germinated. You decide to spray again when you mow this week, but another rainstorm washes the herbicide away just after you complete the job.

There is a good chance the weeds will not die.  Another week goes by and while some of the weeds died from your efforts last week some have survived.  These weeds are now a foot high and producing seeds for the next crop of weeds. They are monsters that look like they have been growing in the garden for a year. More than likely more rain has fallen and has begun to germinate that new crop of weeds as well as fueling the growth of the last crop you are still trying to kill. It is almost a losing battle to keep gardens weed free in the summer!

Ornamental shrubs grow at astronomical rates this time of year. One of the reasons for this is that we plant shrubs and small trees with a mature size of ten to 20-feet tall and try to keep them pruned into tiny, square hedges around our houses. Once again you can have a foot of new growth in a week with enough rain.  Bougainvillea can grow four feet of growth in a week.  That is not an exaggeration! That kind of growth takes a month or two in season and can take a year in the northern states.  Pruning is a constant job this time of year or you will find your shrubs kissing the eaves of your house. That is also the reason this is the best time of year to cut back those shrubs which have become leggy and woody. They will grow back so fast you will be pruning them again within a week or two. Remember mid-October is the cut-off date for severe pruning.

If you maintain your own yard, you know the realities of the above mentioned growth rates.  Imagine having fifty or one hundred lawns to maintain each week.  That is the reality for people in the lawn maintenance business. The growing season is slow when most residents are in town and so it seems that the job is an easy one and the company is not spending much time or effort in your yard.  But should you decide to come to Marco Island in July, August or September you might be quick to think the landscaper is slacking off while you are not here. He is working five times harder and doing his best to keep your landscape neat and trim.  At times it is a near impossible task and only the strong will survive in this business.  If the gardener seems a little testy it could indicate a slight case of heat exhaustion since that is one of the first symptoms.

So, have a little compassion and give us a break and maybe an ice, cold drink when we arrive to battle the jungle in your corner of the island.  We will prevail and those weeds will die, the plants will get cut back and your yard will be the perfect place you desire just in time for season to arrive again.

More:Gardening: When landscaping, simplicity equals good design

Eileen and Peter Ward have owned a landscape and lawn maintenance company for 35 years. Eileen can be reached at or 239-394-1413.