By Brent Gray
The heat is on and warm season crops should be in the garden. The NOAA is predicting warmer and maybe wetter weather for the summer months, but these are the same folks that told us we would have a warmer, drier spring back in January. Plant warm season crops between the holes left by cool season crops. The roots will explore a different volume of soil and can utilize nutrients left behind by the preceding crop.
Okra is hard seeded and sometimes difficult to grow by planting seed. One method of speeding germination is to soak the seeds in water before planting. Put the seeds in warm, not hot, water for several hours, then thoroughly rinse them before planting. The seed should be dried if you are using any type of planter. Another method is to scarify the seed with a nail file or sandpaper just before planting. This physically breaks the seed coat and allows water to penetrate easily. Try one of the dwarf varieties like Annie Oakley II, Little Lucy, or Vidrine’s midget Cowhorn if space is a concern.
Pumpkin planting time is about a month away. Pay attention to vine type as you are searching for the right variety. Compact vines can produce jack o’lantern pumpkins on a five to ten foot vine. Remember each large fruited vine will normally produce three or (probably) less pumpkins.
Green bean growers should be aware that many beans cannot set pods when temperatures are above 85 degrees. One reason rattlesnake beans are still around is their ability to make beans in hot weather. Other varieties with heat tolerance include Contender, Tendergreen, and Jade.
The one activity that we perform on our lawn more than anything else is mowing yet it is also the most often done with lack of attention to mowing height, regularity, leaf wetness, or sharpness of blade. Any of these factors could cause undue turf stress and provide less than desired results.
Every turf species has its own optimum mowing height and any extremes from this may cause scalping, turf thinning, and even loss of the lawn. Shade intolerant species like bermuda grass when maintained at a mowing height greater than two inches will begin to drop lower leaves from shading by the canopy above often creating a scalped appearance just after mowing when the top canopy is removed exposing the brown leafless stolons. In contrast a St. Augustine lawn cut less than two inches in height may become wear stressed and lose turf density due to exposed stolons and reduced leaf area. Recom-mended cutting heights for our warm season turf species are as follows: bermuda grass 0.5-1.5 inches; zoysia 1.0–1.5; carpet grass 1.0-2.0 inches; centipede 1.5-2.0 inches and St. Augustine 2.5-3.0 inches.
Regardless of the turf species mowing regularity should follow the one-third rule. This means never remove more than one-third of the total turf height at a single mowing. Therefore, depending on the rate of growth and the desired maximum turf height this could require mowing several times a week for a hybrid bermuda grass lawn or perhaps as little as once every two weeks for a centipede lawn under low water and fertility management.
Assuming the growth rate is the same for a bermuda grass lawn kept at a one-inch height and a St. Augustine lawn maintained at 3 inches the bermuda grass lawn would require three mowing to one for the St. Augustine lawn. When the on-third rule is followed leaf clippings will fall into the canopy of the turf and decompose rather quickly. With irregular and improper mowing excess leaf clipping collect on the turf canopy shading the turf below, increases disease and insect incidences, and creates excess thatch.
Blade sharpness will determine the quality of cut and aesthetic appearance of the turf. A dull mower blade will tear rather than cut leaving leaf tips split, ragged and brown. It is best to avoid cutting the lawn when there is leaf wetness from rain or heavy dew especially when disease pressures are prevalent.