Mid Summer In The Garden
It’s July in the South Florida garden. It is hot and wet, and we are starting the second month of hurricane season.
Midsummer is the period when parts of the South Florida garden are the least productive. Few vegetables are growing now, and many gardeners will choose to solarize their vegetable patch right now. Many of our winter annuals will not grow in the summer. The pleasures of our summer garden come from the tropics. We may have heat, but when we dig and weed early in the morning, the backyard is more lush and green than any luxury resort we know.
Summer Is A Period of Rampant Growth
Summer is our rainy season, everything that grows in summer- grows all the time. We find ourselves in the garden as soon as we have light to work. Early pruning is vital. It’s important to keep the plants under control and do so before the plants set new blossoms for next year.
Soil solarization is a chemical-free way to kill dangerous pests that live in our soil. It is fairly simple. You cover the soil with opaque plastic sheeting, which raises the soil temperature and kills the pests. This is particularly effective in the case of harmful nematodes. There is a downside to this, any insect in the ground will be killed by the heat. This means that beneficial organisms will be killed too. The University of Florida points out that beneficial insects tend to return faster than harmful ones.
Solarization is a personal decision, and if you have an interest in learning more, the following link will take you to some 18university research.
What’s In Bloom In July
The tropical plants are shining now. They love the warm weather and are fully in bloom. Some of these plants can be grown as summer annuals or taken indoors for the winter in colder climates. These are discussions of two plants you can use in cool climates. The first is Tropical Hibiscus and the second, is large-leafed Elephant Ears. In the case of the HIbiscus, you can plant it in a container that can come indoors. The Elephant Ears can come indoors or you can cut it back and bring the bulb inside to replant next spring
This bushy tropical shrub is in bloom right now. There are two in the garden to the rear of the pool and in January they suffered some cold damage and are now recovered. The photo is Mussaenda erythropylla, The Philippine hybrid ” Dona Luz.” They are prized for the large, showy bracts. (The flowers are tiny and in the middle of the bracts.) I discovered that all of the cultivars of this colorful plant are named for First Ladies of the Philippines. This one gets to about 10′ and has a lovely salmon-pink color. You can grow it in a pot and that will keep the size to about 3′.
The second, newer and much smaller, is a pale yellow. We think that it is Mussaenda philippica. They are all hardy in zones 9-11.
We enjoy three Plumeria (Frangipani) trees in the backyard. They all began as one-foot-long stems rooted in pots. If you went to Hawaii and your hotel greeted you with a Lei, this is the plant that produced the scented flowers.
Plumeria is cold-sensitive, and hardy in zones 9-11. They flower in many beautiful colors. In a colder climate, you can bring your plumeria indoors for the winter. This website Plumeria Care has a useful report on caring for plumeria by the season, read it for more winter care information.
We have pruned three plumeria trees, we would like them to branch out a little more, and now there are cuttings to plant. I cut off all of the leaves leaving a stick looking like a giant cigar. It rests outdoors, in the humidity, lying flat to 18dry. In about ten days to two weeks, the cut end has produced a callus and can be planted. We use potting soil with good drainage, (some gardeners love sand) and old nursery pots. The plants start to root in about two months and we plant them in the garden or give them to friends.
We like the way they look partially hidden by some large flowering ginger plants.
In our small yard and hot climate, this is the slow season for the herb garden. The various mint plants are healthy, as well as parsley and sage. Basil is thriving, and rosemary never falters. I like to cook with both types of chives, garlic, and onion, and they seem always to be unaffected by the humid summer. The beautiful dill plants have gone to seed. In our subtropical climate, herbs do well in pots, and they spend time in the shade of a three-trunked palm.
It started with butterflies, and then honey bees from a local beekeeper showed up. This led to hummingbirds, always great fun to watch, but you need to be quick!
What we learned, wherever we lived and gardened, is that if we plant a small area of flowers that are serious pollinator attractors, the butterflies come to them and then stay for the entire garden. My point is that you do not need to revamp your garden for pollinators. Just make them a little “dessert buffet” of pollen-rich flowers, and you will have them all around you. It’s fun, try it.
What To Do In October
|Salvia, coleus, torenia, celosia, vinca
|Warm season varieties
|Gladiolus, butterfly lily
|Summer is a good time to plant palms, brace the taller ones for6-8 months
What To Do In October
|What To Do
|Prune in preparation for hurricane
|Install shutoff in the rainy season
|Identify the source of problems before treating
|check ornamental plants for pests
|Install shutoff in the rainy season
July’s Big Project
We would like an additional seating area overlooking the pond. It would provide a spot to enjoy cool winter evenings. We have planted the littoral shelf area along the pond edge and it seems to attract the wading birds, making the spot an attractive place to linger.
Also, trees we planted have added some shade, creating a small area in which turfgrass is not performing, so we will replace that with groundcover and a stone walkway. Here is the initial discussion of the project goals and the small obstacles we need to overcome.
The Marsh Rabbits
We have a lot of rabbits. They are marsh rabbits, a subset of the cottontail, and not the prettiest of the bunch. They have smaller ears and beady eyes. They do however have their charms, and we like to have coffee outside and watch them. They covet the hibiscus blossoms that drop at night near our front porch. The little creatures are fussy though, and prefer those that are dry and not soggy from rain or the irrigation system. They will stand on their hind legs and pull down their favorite low-growing blossoms.
Rabbits are voracious eaters and some of our favorite herbaceous plants are theirs also!
These are ground-covering plant samples that we have tested. Rabbits do not like any strong-scented foliage. Some samples are the ground covers themselves. others are aromatic herbs that seem to dissuade the rabbits.
The Project Status So Far
The goal of the project is to surround the seating area with a low growing ground cover. We selected Asiatic Jasmine, second from the left. It is Trachelospermum asiaticum, and it is not even Jasmine, but it is native to Korea and Japan. It is a popular plant in the American Southeast and a winner of a Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit.
It is popular because of its twining, vining nature, which covers ground quickly is resilient to salt, cold, and heat, and adapts to both sun and shade. We have used it before and we do know that rabbits will eat it. During our extended test, we discovered that the herbs seemed to make the whole area one of rabbit discouragement. They graze on the lawn, nearby, and avoid the seating area.
What Plants Do The Rabbits Hate?
If you have a problem with hungry rabbits in your yard, this information may help. The number one winner is Cuban Oregano, a pretty, variegated herb which is also has a misleading name, being neither Cuban nor Oregano. Still, it is aromatic, and the rabbits who nest nearby, avoid it like the plague! They also dislike mint and chive plants.
Our wildlife camera took nighttime photos of deer so we know they are grazing in the backyard. They also do not appreciate the strong scents and their hoofmarks and photos are beyond the new planted area. You can never be certain about wildlife, true hunger changes the rules. But, so far so good with wildlife.
Hurricane preparation, in a climate with real hurricanes, is an all year process. We plant trees in groups, we select hurricane resistant varieties. This link will take you to a variety of research items from the University of FLorids regarding hurricane resistant trees. The University of Florida is a major center for hurricane research in the U.S.
” Hurricane Proof Your Florida Yard and Garden,” reflects what we have learned to keep our own garden safe.