May is here which means that summer is just around the corner. May temperatures average highs in the 80s and lows in the 70s. We will have some rain but not as much as June will bring.
Watch your lawn for water needs. If you turn your sprinklers off because of rain don't forget to turn them back on. It is very hot and our sandy soil will dry out quickly. Once again, I would advise everyone to have a rain-stat installed to turn the sprinklers on and off automatically after rains. This device won't forget to turn the system back on the way people do.
In the past we have been under watering restrictions this time of year, allowing only two days of watering a week. This is not the hardship people think it is as two days a week is really all you should have to water if you condition your lawn by watering less often and growing deep root systems. With droughts becoming more severe we may find restrictions in the future that allow for one day only. If you have a deep root system you should have few problems with that.
The spring flush of growth which your plants experienced has now hardened but there will be another flush of growth with the summer rains. And along with this new growth will be more aphids to enjoy the new, tender tips of your plants. They excrete a honeydew like substance onto the stems and leaves of the plants they are feeding on. This honeydew is soon attacked by a black, sooty mold. Some people mistake this for disease and treat with a fungicide when they should apply an insecticide for the aphids or other sucking insects. You can wash this unsightly sooty mold off with a strong hose. Scale, whitefly, thrips and various worms and caterpillars will also be a problem on your plants in May.
On the lawn, mole crickets begin to hatch around the end of May or early June. These insects are more of a problem in Bahia grass than St. Augustine grass. However, they have been known to attack and damage St. Augustine. They loosen the soil and feed on the roots of the grass. Look for yellow streaks and a softness of the soil which you can feel when you walk on the lawn. Treat quickly with mole cricket bait. Also, mole crickets are attracted to bright light. It would be helpful to use yellow colored, bug lights in your outside fixtures so you don't attract this insect to your lawn.
Chinch bugs can become active after the rains we recently had. Be sure to watch for yellowing of the grass blades especially along sidewalks and driveways or along edges of damaged areas in the lawn. Treat with insecticide labeled for chinch bugs.
Gardenias are blooming profusely. When they are finished blooming is the time to prune them back if you are going to. Remember that gardenias set flowers on old growth so you want to prune now and leave the plant alone until it flowers again next spring. Some varieties will bloom year-round. Be sure to prune selectively leaving some old growth for flowering each time you prune.
A lot of bulbs have finished flowering. Remove the old flower stalks and seed pods as soon as possible as they take strength from the bulb and could adversely affect next years’ flowering. You can plant the seeds for new plants but it will take several years for the new plants to flower. This is also a good time to dig your bulbs and separate the bulblets for replanting. These will also take years to flower for the first time.
Summer annuals are already showing signs of stress from the heat. By the end of May most will be ready for removal. It is time to plant summer annuals in their place. You may want to plant some perennials and bulbs in with your annuals so you don't have to replace entire beds at one time. Some summer annuals are celosia, coleus, crossandra, gaillardia, gazania, marigold, nicotiana, ornamental pepper, pentas, portulaca, salvia, vinca and zinnia.
You can prune your flowering trees if they have finished flowering. May is also a good month to plant and transplant ornamentals and trees. Wait for the drought to be over first.
Remember, summer is just around the corner and with summer comes the rain and the tremendous growth of everything in your yard. Are you ready?
Eileen and Peter Ward have owned a landscape and lawn maintenance company for 35 years. Eileen can be reached at Gswdmarco@comcast.net or 239-394-1413.