Snakes, snails and rainfall tales

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

This summer in South Florida, rain has put our plants on liquid steroids. Lucky for them, but maintenance has kept us running with pruners. On those occasions when the sun appears, a good day’s work has meant several changes of appropriate attire – T-shirts and shorts designated for gardening by telltale stains of plant blood. (I know that bananas and crotons can stain, but they cannot possibly account for all the drips and drabs I manage to accumulate.)

In times like this, we must give plants some elbow room or it’s mycelium city, root-rot ranch and snails as transformers. Take a hard look at what’s going on in your garden and if your plants have out-performed your wildest expectations, then nip, prune or move them around in their containers so air easily circulates around them. Snoop around the garden early in the morning to find snails and dispense with them. Leave offerings for the sun god.

Nonetheless, we are approaching fall, and here’s a reminder of what is to come in September besides the up scaling of worry about the hurricane season.

Trimming bougainvilleas – always a sticky exercise.  A blood bank should be on standby. The idea is to increase new growth on which flowers form as the days shorten.

To increase the flower power of bougain-
villeas, trim back in September.

Which means a lighter pruning than is called for in spring when you can prune the things nearly to the ground. Fertilize afterwards. There’s a bougainvillea fertilizer on the market that is a 6-8-10 formulation with micronutrients. Or, use palm special, 8-4-12 with micronutrients that is made for South Florida soils.

Cutback poinsettias and fertilize, using palm special or 4-6-8.

Some orchid growers also like to apply bloom booster fertilizer (3-9-6 or 10-30-10) to orchids that flower in the winter and spring, such as cattleyas and phalaenopsis orchids. If you want to try it, use it two or three times in a row.  Or, just continue with 15-5-15 orchid fertilizer. Martin Motes recommends potassium nitrate – 1 tablespoon to a gallon of water – on every third or fourth application throughout the year. Potassium is important in photosynthesis, transporting nutrients and increasing heat and cold tolerance.





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