Spring and Summer Garden Planner

Keep Your Plants Looking Tip-Top Through The Spring & Summer
April
If you did not fertilize the lawn or landscape plants in March, then now is the time to do it. Use a time released granular or organic granular fertilizer, carefully following label instructions. Fertilizing is not necessary if the size and condition of your plants are satisfactory.
Perennial and tropical plants that have not shown new growth by now are more than likely dead, and it is time to replace them. Look at this situation as an opportunity to try a new plant. Visit floridata.com, a great gardening information website for Northeast Florida gardeners, and find something new to plant in the garden.
Summer plants that grow well in the heat of summer months can begin growing indoors. Plant a few squash, tomato and eggplant seeds now so that they’re ready to transplant into soil later.
Jacksonville experienced a particularly cold winter, and brown lawn spots might still linger. Consider turning these areas into ornamental planting beds or planting a mowable ground cover. Varieties like perennial peanut (Arachis glabra) or sensitive plant (Mimosa strigillosa) provide a nice alternative to re-sodding.
Rose bushes fare best when planted this month; the trick is to plant them before the buds swell and growth starts. The Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends surrounding the bushes with parsley to increase their sweet fragrance. Another tip is to scatter crushed eggshells in a ring at the base of each bush to keep pesky slugs away.
May
With this month’s high temperatures, be smart about lawn mowing both for yourself and the health of your lawn. Set the mower to its highest setting and mow the lawn often, so as to cut only 1/3 of the grass blade. Allowing the grass to grow excessively tall and then mowing it short is hard work, bad for the lawn, and allows lawn weeds to set seed.
Plants have really started growing by now and the plant pests (better known as insects) love to eat new tender growth. Be patient and tolerate a little insect damage on plants; natural predatory insects often will control the problem. If you must spray insecticide, use horticulture oil or insecticidal soap. Consider replacing plants with consistent pest or disease problems with another species.
Temperatures only rise higher as the summer months approach. Help plants survive the heat and minimize weed growth and irrigation with a good layer of mulch beneath all  your plants. Use a degradable mulch like pine straw, chopped leaves, or wood chips (instead of rock or rubber mulch) to improve soil.
Plant annuals like salvias and wax begonias. Early, mid and late blooming daylilies will produce colorful blooms throughout the year when planted this month. Spruce up later summer meals with fresh basil, Mexican tarragon and rosemary, which can be planted now.
June
Some gardening authorities recommend fertilizing in June. However, most plants (except exotic and non-native palms) are happy to wait until September. If you must fertilize your lawn, use an organic granular fertilizer. Be forewarned that fertilizing now will encourage plant growth, but will also result in an increased need for water, more plant pest problems and more work for you during the hottest part of the year.
Summer is a great time to consider more “heat-friendly” gardening activities. Install a water garden or pond in the yard; there is nothing like sitting in cool water on a hot day while working in the garden.
Planting new plants in Florida at the beginning of summer is a bad idea, unless you like watering all summer long while the new plants are trying to get established. It really is best to wait until September to plant.
The University of Florida and the Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences list helpful tips for gardeners at solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu. Homepage articles include guides for selecting turf grass, how to attract hummingbirds and a visual guide of beneficial insects.
July
Gardening activities this month should include weeding and making sure plants are getting enough water. Early morning and early evening are the perfect times to pull weeds and work in the yard. Drink lots of water and take breaks often when working
during midday hours. Don’t forget the sunscreen.
If plants are suffering from a summer drought, consider replacing them with more drought tolerant or succulent plants. Agaves, yuccas, aloes, dyckia and cacti love the heat a need very little care and watering. Visit the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens to see beautiful succulent plant specimens.
All Florida home and garden owners are subject to landscape watering restrictions. Be sure to visit sjrwmd.com for details about the specific guidelines for your area. Water conservation is everybody’s
responsibility.
Summer veggies like peppers, okra, southern peas and eggplant can be planted this month. Keep an eye on their moisture, especially during dry spells.
Take an afternoon and assess your garden and lawn for potential hurricane damage spots. Prune weakened or damaged branches to cut down on the risk of flying debris, and invest in a rain shut off device that overrides an irrigation system during heavy
rainfall.
August
Summer will soon be over, making way for beautiful fall gardens. Ornamental grasses are fantastic additions to any gardener’s collection. Toward the end of this month, pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) may be blooming. This is an outstanding Florida native grass for dry, full sun gardens.
August is the time to plant a fall vegetable garden for harvest before November frost. Try tomatoes, pepper, squash, cucumbers, and beans. Make sure they get plenty of water after planting.
Now is a good time to think about how to improve your landscape for the future. Need a fresh change? Plant a tree. Dust off the plant books, browse internet garden sites, or visit a local public garden for tree selection ideas. Plan to plant one in the fall.
Heat-tolerant bedding plants like melampodium, salvias, torenia and coleus can be planted this month. Add herbs like bay laurel and ginger, which grow from plants instead of seeds, to the herb garden. Lily varieties like aztec, butterfly and spider (left) enjoy a versatile planting cycle, and can thrive even in August.
Prepare for winter blooms by pinching poinsettias and mums; by doing so this month, the buds will have time to form by winter.

Written by Chris Dailey, Horticulture Manager at the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens