Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.
News Article for July 17, 2017
Rain has been a problem for growing vegetables all spring and into the summer. We are now into the long days of summer, and while it is hard to get motivated to work outside in the heat, there is still an opportunity to grow tomatoes.
It is easier to start tomatoes in the cool of spring and let the temperature gradually get warmer than to plant transplants in the garden in the heat. It is also easier on the grower, but if you use heat-tolerant tomato varieties, you can grow tomatoes into the hot months of summer.
The varieties that we usually grow in the spring will not set fruit once the temperatures get into the 90’s. You do not get adequate pollination and therefore do not get tomatoes.
It will be necessary to use heat-tolerant varieties. These varieties have been selected for their ability to flower and pollinate in the hotter portions of summer so you can extend your tomato-growing season. Recommended heat-tolerant varieties include Florida 91, Heat Wave II, Phoenix, Solar Fire, Sun Leaper and Sun Master.
In addition to heat, you have to pay attention to the length of the growing season to have a successful crop. Frosts will limit how long you can grow spring and summer vegetable plants. I would plant tomato transplants no later than August 15 to give you time to grow the tomato fruits and harvest them prior to the first frost.
Weeds are a big problem in the summer, and it is way too hot for pulling weeds and lots of hoeing. Organic mulches work well in heat and tend to keep the ground cooler. Most importantly, they block sunlight and prevent weed seeds from germinating. Organic mulches are plant-based products like pine straw and leaves. You could also consider white plastic mulches, but it is too hot to use black plastic mulch during the summer.
If you have been trying to restore your lawn from flood-related damage, you are coming to the end of your opportunities for fertilization for this growing season. Grasses grow best when they have plenty of water in the growing season, and we have had no shortage of water. The other important component is fertilizer to make the grasses grow and spread faster.
Centipede is a very popular grass that grows slow, which is an advantage when mowing but a disadvantage when trying to get it established or re-established. To get maximum growth, fertilize centipede twice per year, once in the spring and the second application by the end of July. If you use 13-13-13 fertilizer, your application rate would be 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet, and if you use an 8-8-8 fertilizer, apply 6 pounds per 1,000 square feet.
We fertilize early enough to allow the grass to run out of fertilizer before winter so it can naturally harden off. You do not want grasses too lush and susceptible to cold damage. Apply fertilizer to a dry lawn. Grass blades should not be wet from rain or dew as fertilizer will stick to the blades and burn them. After broadcasting fertilizer, apply irrigation to wash fertilizer from grass blades.