May 12, 2008

Timely Tips for May - Part 1

By Andy Wilson, Horticulturist, Pinellas County Extension

May is a month of transition from spring to summer. For many people this will be the last time until fall to enjoy having windows open. As we all know, hot and humid weather is just around the corner. It’s a good time to get some things done in the landscape before summer’s heat arrives. Here are some lawn and garden tips for May.

Irrigation- Since May is a warm and usually dry month, St. Augustine grass lawns will quickly show drought injury if irrigation heads get clogged or in some other way stop working. Although diseases and insects can cause browning of lawns, if the browning follows the same pattern as the sprinkler head coverage it’s time to check the heads. It’s also a good ideacalibrating a sprinkler system to calibrate the system to make sure that about ¾ of water is being applied per irrigation. When watering established lawns the goal is to wet the soil to the depth of the root system and in our sandy soils this usually requires about ¾ inch of water. If much more than this is applied in one watering the water quickly percolates below the reach of the grass roots and is wasted. Calibrating an irrigation system is not difficult. Find out how here:

Mulching- The dry weather of May is usually followed by the beginning of the rainy season sometime in mid- to late-June. Frequent rains will encourage weed seeds to germinate. Applying about a 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch now will help to discourage this. Several kinds of mulches are available including pine bark, pine straw, melaleuca, and recycled yard waste mulch. Pinellas County distributes free recycled yard waste mulch at several sites around the county. A list of locations with hours of operation can be found here:

over pruned sabal palmetto palmDon’t Let Your Palm Go Topless- Although hurricane season begins June 1st, it is not a good idea to give palms what is commonly known as a “hurricane cut”, pruning off many green fronds, leaving the palm looking like a feather duster. Removing large numbers of green fronds stresses the palm by reducing its ability to manufacture food for itself. It also removes significant amounts of nutrients with the removed fronds, often worsening any existing nutritional deficiencies. If this is done repeatedly it can lead to bottlenecking, an unattractive constriction in the trunk. It is better to remove dead fronds as they appear throughout the year. Observations of wind damage to palms after some of the hurricanes that have occurred in recent years indicate that damage to palms that have been “hurricane cut” actually tends to be worse than on palms that faced the storms with a full complement of fronds. More information on pruning palms (and other aspects of palm care) can be found here:

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