June 21 is the first day of summer, a season that poses gardening challenges in South Florida. It’s also the start of our rainy season, not to mention hurricane season. Below are a few tips to make the most of gardening in the summer. For more, visit edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

Lawn

st augustine GrassSummer is the time your lawn needs the most maintenance. Start by sharpening the blades and adjusting the height of your lawnmower. Grass should be mowed often enough so that you do not remove more than one third of the length of the grass blade at each mowing. The recommended setting is 3.5 to 4 inches, ensuring your grass is never shorter than 4 inches. Cutting grass too short can cause irreparable damage to your lawn and is the most common cause of brown spots.

Be cautious with lawn fertilizer in the summer. Follow the label directions and avoid applying fertilizer if heavy rain is expected. Rain will wash the fertilizer into our aquifer, a terrible consequence to our drinking water.

Irrigation

sprinkler of automatic watering

With summer rain, be sure not to overwater your landscape. Some simple things to do:

Water only when needed. Consider turning off your automatic sprinklers during the summer.

Be sure your rain gauge is working properly.

Water only during your assigned days: Thursday and Sunday for even-numbered addresses and Wednesday and Saturday for odd-numbered addresses.

Summer plants

As your winter annuals die off, why not try something new? Ground covers and some annual bedding plants can show different colors, textures and leaf size. Plants to try now include coleus, celosia, vinca, portulaca and torenia.

Summer also is a perfect time to plant palms. Try a few unusual native palms such as the key thatch or paurotis. Bulbs, such as butterfly lily, walking iris and gladiolus, can be planted in the middle of the summer to enjoy at a later date. Don’t forget about herbs. Heat-loving herbs include basil, ginger, cumin, rosemary and yerba buena.

Pests

Inspect the leaves of ornamental plants for small white dots that might indicate lace bugs at work. Spray forcefully with water to help control this pest.

Make sure your yard is free from standing water. Summer is prime mosquito season and the worst culprit of them all, Aedes aegypti (which spreads the Zika virus), loves living in your yard. Unlike the smaller marsh or salt mosquito, the Aedes aegypti needs little water to breed, lives indoors and out, and bites at all times of the day. When removing standing water from your yard, remember some plants, such as bromeliads, collect water. Be sure they are flushed with fresh water every other day. Standing water you cannot eliminate can be treated with larvicide tablets.

Your Yard

Well before a tropical storm or hurricane, take precautions to protect your landscape and your property.

Hire an ISA-certified arborist or Broward County-licensed professional to determine what needs attention.

Prune any dead or dying branches from trees and palms.

If a storm is projected to come near or hit South Florida, secure debris so that it will not become projectiles.