The aftermath of a stressful summer
October typically shows a decline in hot humid weather which translates to continued growth with less stress on grass and plants. When that does happen, root growth rebounds resulting in new flushes of growth which produce a fresh flush of flower.
The incidence of hurricanes has been a case of our location, with certain areas being hit harder than others – such is life in paradise!
So, we are fortunate that the new, soft growth has, in many cases, been unharmed and will harden off naturally over the coming months. Even with this new growth, some pruning should be considered on plants with heavy growth, to reduce the impact of damage during late storms and winter weather.
During periods of intense heat as experienced this summer, root systems can become stressed in their search for moisture; the deeper the soil the better for root activity to chase after moisture.
In shallow soil, root zones tend to develop nearer the soil surface, which adversely affects plant growth during a period of stress, as the constant heat bearing down on the soil surface penetrates the top spit and ‘dries out’ the soil, reducing the uptake for plant roots.
Light watering – but applied as a drench – is the key factor in encouraging roots to chase moisture; apply water to the outer limit of the branch system which is where the feeder roots will be found.
As the weather cools and new growth continues keep an eye out for pest problems on new growth, which is a tasty meal for caterpillars, aphids and other critters.
With prolonged periods of hot, dry weather it is a no-no to use fertiliser or chemicals of any type, especially when soil is dry. Liquid applications are a good way to feed in periods of drought and also as a supplemental application. Such applications can be given as a drench around soil or as a foliar feed; Jack's fertiliser, for example, has a goodly number of trace or minor elements combined in the formula.
Remember the adage, “If all else fails, read the instructions.” Messing about with chemicals can be dangerous to oneself – use PPE – as well as disastrous for plant survival. Especially foliar feeds, always apply when soil is moist, in the cool of the day when there is no breeze.
Many lawns were affected by the prolonged drought and heat, with ’brown out’ seen in all grass types. Zoysia is a tough grass that should, for best maintenance results, be mowed with a reel mower. Bermuda grass lawns need that same approach but will also tolerate rotary mowing.
St Augustine should be mowed at three inches in height for best results; it should be noted that St Augustine lawns do not take well to pedestrian traffic. Always be wary of planting shrubs and similar in a lawn as weed wackers can cause havoc, with long-term ringing causing a demise in plant growth.
Flower beds and lawns will start to notice a slowing down of the summer weeds, whilst cooler season weeds will start to make their appearance from here on in. Weeds are weeds and should be removed as soon as they appear; the longer they are left the more troublesome they can become, especially types that are easily propagated from pieces of root. Always lift and remove weeds, fallen leaves, and prunings to keep a clean and healthy garden; pests and diseases wait for no man and can be spread quickly with poor hygiene.
The proverb ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ is especially important when working in the garden, and certainly does save time, labour and additional cost.
Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in the UK. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society