The heat is a very real challenge for Florida gardeners. But it’s not just the heat that we’re up against. We also have torrential rains and windy tropical storms. Here are some summer survival tips for Florida gardeners:
Make sure to watch out for your own health in the heat. Slow down, work outside early in the morning, dress for summer, don’t get too much sun, drink water, do not drink alcoholic beverages, and take frequent breaks in air-conditioned places. The University of Florida Extension has a great webpage for heat safety that everyone should read before gardening in the summer: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/weather/heat-safety.html.
Plant for your hardiness zone to ensure that your plants can take the heat. Most of Pinellas County is located in USDA hardiness zone 10. You can find your zone by zip code here: https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/#.
Rain is a blessing for new plants. If you plant once the rainy season starts- then you won’t need to water as often yourself saving you time and money while protecting a precious resource. This is also a great time of the year to observe areas in your yard that may flood and make notes for future planting. 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 shrubs: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/EP391.
Prepare your plants for tropical storms. Check your trees for damaged or weak branches and prune if needed. Do not “hurricane cut” your palms- this will weaken them and make them more likely to be damaged in a storm. In fact, only completely brown, dead fronds should ever be removed. Hire an ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) certified arborist to do this work on larger trees/palms- they are trained and continually participate in ongoing education to maintain this certification. This can help lengthen the life of your trees and palms and minimize the chance of property damage. To find a certified arborist near you, visit the ISA website tool to locate a tree professional: https://www.treesaregood.org/findanarborist.
Take care of yourself and your plants and enjoy living in paradise this summer!