Peppers and Peas and Yams
Time is now for heat-seeking plants and veggies
May is the time to plant heat-tolerant annuals, which add color to home landscapes. Ornamental peppers, wax begonias and salvia are all plants that will withstand the heat and humidity in months to come.
Proper preparation will offer the greatest prospects for colorful success in June and beyond. As with any gardening project, the preparation of the growing bed can make a tremendous difference in the yield of blooms.
Remove competing weed species from the cultivation site. In addition to being unsightly, the weeds will compete with the selected annuals for nutrients and water.
June is a great time to finish pruning many early blooming shrubs. Azaleas, spiraea and gardenias should be pruned and shaped before July 4 if the homeowner wants to avoid reducing the following year’s bloom.
Monitor for nutrient deficiencies or environmental problems with palms and cycads. One common soil-nutrient shortage for both palms and cycads is magnesium. The remedy for this situation is easy, inexpensive and simple to apply.
Epsom salt, a staple in drug stores and pharmacies worldwide for footbaths, is chemically known as magnesium sulfate. Sprinkled in the root zone of palms and cycads, it can supply their need for this micronutrient.
Okra, Southern peas and sweet potatoes can all be started now. Clemson spineless is the standard bearer for local okra production, with plants having the potential to reach 8 feet in height. Other varieties are available, but yields will not equal those of Clemson spineless. Black-eyed peas, pinkeye-purple hull, Crowder and many other popular Southern pea cultivars will do well during the upcoming summer months. After heavy rains, monitor ripening tomatoes and melons closely. Too much moisture can cause skin-splitting in maturing crops, which leads to premature decay.
One of the first tasks of late spring is to check for destructive insects. It is important to remember a majority of insects are beneficial and should not automatically be killed.
Chewing insects are currently active in North Florida along with piercing and sucking pests. Each is highly effective at damaging a variety of ornamental and vegetable species.
The most common chewing insects are grasshoppers and caterpillars. There are many local species in each group and some can be quite destructive.
The armyworm, really the caterpillar stage for a bland-colored moth, is likely the reigning champion for individual consumption of desirable plant material. It is not a finicky eater, so it may be seen on a wide variety of plants, shrubs and even weeds.
It is important to remember all caterpillars transform into butterflies and moths, some quite beautiful. If uncertain of the species, and if very few are present, leave them to develop.
As for the grasshoppers, the lubber species is the prince of pigging out. Also known as the Georgia Thumper, this eating machine is happy to dine wherever it lands.
The piercing and sucking insects include stinkbugs, leaf-footed bugs and aphids. Each uses its proboscis, a straw-like structure on the front of its head, to pierce a plant’s surface and suck its juices.
Les Harrison is a retired University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Wakulla County Extension Director.