5 Tips for a Summer-Ready Garden

Kenny Stokes, UF/IFAS, battles summer heat the old fashioned way.

Theresa Badurek, UF/IFAS Urban Horticulture Agent

May is here and we can already feel the first heat of summer. Lots of bugs, humidity, and torrential rains every afternoon are (hopefully in the case of rain) coming soon. These conditions present several challenges for the home gardener, but there are things you can do now to better prepare your garden (and yourself) for the heat. Maybe the most important thing of all is to make sure to protect yourself in the heat. Slow down, dress for summer, do not get too much sun, drink water, do not drink alcoholic beverages while working in the heat, and take breaks in air-conditioned places. The University of Florida Extension has a great webpage for heat safety that everyone should read before it gets too hot: http://extension.ifas.ufl.edu/hot_topics/agriculture/heat_stress.html.

Here are 5 tips for a more successful garden all summer-long:

1.  Plant only heat-tolerant annuals. Just because a plant is sold in locally does not necessarily mean it’s the right time to plant them here in Florida. However, there are several annual plants that handle our high temps in stride. They include salvia, torenia, wax begonia, coleus, and ornamental peppers. When shopping for annuals choose compact plants with healthy leaves, good color, and lots of flower buds (they don’t have to be in bloom at the time of purchase). For more information about gardening with annuals in Florida: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/MG/MG31900.pdf.

2.  Better yet- plant perennials! Right now is also a great time to plan new perennial plantings, including trees, palms, shrubs, and groundcovers. If you plan now, you will be prepared to install once the rainy season starts- then you won’t need to water as often yourself. Just remember that if you plant something before you go on vacation you should ask a friend or neighbor to care for it while you are gone. For more information on establishing new trees and shrubs: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/EP/EP11200.pdf.

3.  Plant herbs that like the heat such as basil, Mexican tarragon, and rosemary. Since some herbs are annuals and some are perennials remember to group them accordingly so you won’t be disturbing the perennials when replanting the annuals. Many herbs are also suited to planting in containers- but you must remember that plants in containers will dry out faster than those in the ground and will need more irrigation attention. For more information about growing herbs in your Florida garden: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/VH/VH02000.pdf.

4.  Try your hand at vegetable gardening. While you can’t plant the same veggies in the summer that you can up north, (our hot temps just won’t work with many of the usual veggies) there are several crops you can grow in the heat including okra, southern pea, and sweet potato. Summer is also a great time to plan for your fall vegetable garden- an ideal time of year to plant in Florida. For more information about vegetable gardening in Florida, including suggested crops and their planting dates: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/VH/VH02100.pdf.

5.  Plan for storms. A discussion of summer garden preps wouldn’t be complete without talking about hurricane season. Now is your last chance to prepare for hurricane season by checking trees for damaged or weak branches and prune if needed. Be sure to hire an ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) certified arborist to do this work- they are trained to care for trees and continually participate in ongoing education to maintain this certification. This can help lengthen the life of your trees and minimize the chance of property damage. To find a certified arborist near you, visit the ISA website tool to locate a tree professional: http://www.isa-arbor.com/faca/findArborist.aspx?utm_source=homepageclicks&utm_medium=homepagebox&utm_campaign=IAmA.

Be safe and have a great summer!