By BJ Jarvis
Pasco Extension Horticulture Agent
Thankfully the Tampa Bay area has not been experiencing the brutal heat found in much of the country, but August still heralds the dog days of summer causing many gardens to wilt under the heat and humidity. There are several tasks to help the landscape beat the heat.
Lawns will develop a deeper, more resilient root system if mowed at their maximum preferred height. For most Pasco County grasses that is between 3 and 4 inches. Taller grasses actually shade out weeds and help cool the soil, reducing evaporation.
Also, check that the blades of your lawn mower are very sharp to minimize tearing of the grass. Torn grass allows more water loss and is an open invitation to disease.
Fertilizers should include a slow release component. Fertilizers containing 1/3 to 1/2 slowly available nitrogen may cost just a bit more but benefit by needing to be applied less often and protecting waterways from pollution. Contact the Extension office for additional guidance when applying fertilizers if you don’t know how much to use.
If your garden has an irrigation system, make sure its not overdosing plants unnecessarily. Too much water can cause disease or thatch development. Assure the automated shut-off device is working properly. If the system runs soon after a significant rain event, start here to remedy it.
Maintain a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch around trees, shrubs and in flower beds. Choose a mulch of something once living, such as pine, melaleuca, and eucalyptus, but avoid cypress. Mulch of rocks and rubber can actually make gardens hotter, defeating the purpose to a certain extent. Mulched beds also benefit from reduced weed competition and lower soil temperatures.
To help landscapes beat the heat, manage it in a way that will build resilience. Mow turf high enough to shade soil, assure irrigation system and shut off device are functioning properly, then mulch landscaped beds adequately with an organic material. These simple and cheap steps will pay off in a higher-performing and lower maintenance landscape.
Contact the Pasco Extension office with gardening questions at or by calling (352) 518-0474.
—BJ Jarvis is Director and Horticulturist for Pasco Extension, a partnership between the University of Florida, USDA and county government.
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