Ready, Set, Grow! Don’t let July heat smother your lawn, garden

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, July 4, 2018

July is not generally the most exciting month for horticulture. There’s not the excitement of Spring, looking forward to starting anew. And we’re nowhere near the heat letting off, so we can’t see Fall from here.

But there’s always something to be done in the yard.

For instance, what about those tomatoes you planted in March? They’re just about done producing now, and the stinkbugs and diseases get to the fruit before you can pick it. But you can replace them with transplants now, and with a little luck you’ll have Fall tomatoes.

If you do, be sure and plant heat-set varieties. These include Solar Fire, Phoenix, Talledaga, Heatwave, and others.

Another option is to “hit the reset button.” If your Spring-planted plants are still in decent shape, cut them back enough to leave just a few sets of leaves.

Give each plant a teaspoon or so of a nitrogen source, and they’ll resume vegetative growth. Again, if all goes well you should harvest Fall tomatoes from these without much effort.

Lots of people take vacations in summer and get someone to take care of the dog while they’re out. Don’t forget about the plants! No matter how much you water them when you get back, if they’re dead, they’ll stay dead. Start by watering everything well (slowly and deeply) just before you leave.

Container plants don’t have much water reserves around their roots, but they can be moved to the shade to slow their drying. Move full-sun plants back out when you return.

If you’ve left them in the shade a long time (over a week), move them back gradually. Put them in a slightly sunnier location a few days, then a little sunnier, etc. until they’re back where they belong.

One thing that’s hard to ignore is the grass. You can fertilize it every other month during the growing season with about six pounds of 13-13-13 per 1,000 square feet. You’re probably tired of mowing by now anyway, so don’t fertilize unless you want to push more growth. This could be to fill in bare areas, recover from some damage, or just get it greener and thicker.

Watering may also be necessary during dry periods. Once a week during droughts is enough; any more frequently invites diseases. It’s preferable to water in the mornings so the grass blades dry quickly.

The equivalent of one or two inches of rain per watering is best. Use a rain gauge to determine how long that is for your sprinkler, then water for that long each time.

Lawn diseases are also prevalent now; unfortunately well-fertilized and well-watered lawns are more vulnerable. Flush growth can be a breeding ground for fungi and bacteria, especially on St. Augustine lawns.

Slime mold is very common; a black or gray dust often seen in streaks or circles. It does no real harm and can be brushed off with a broom if it bothers you.

Gray leaf spot is the most common lawn disease this time of year. It appears as brownish areas in the lawn, sometimes with leaf blades dying to the ground. Closer inspection shows diamond-shaped lesions on the blades, a tell-tale sign.

The best product for this is azoxystrobin (Scott’s Disease-Ex, Spectracide Immunox, others.) It’s a systemic fungicide, so it should give you some disease control for a while… until the next problem pops up.

If you want to know more about gardening, landscaping, or anything else horticultural, contact St. John / St. James Parishes County Agent André Brock at The LSU Ag Center’s website can be accessed at with lots of user-friendly information.