By Master Gardener Lesley Arrandale

Taking a look at the Climate Prediction Center on the NOAA website (, it seems we may escape drought conditions, at least for the next couple of months. Unfortunately, also according to NOAA, we are likely to experience higher than normal temperatures.

For gardeners, the ramifications are that we need to pay particular attention to our yards’ and gardens’ water needs, since our usually sandy soils allow for quick drainage, and higher temperatures cause faster evaporation. If you haven’t yet done so, check out your system, whether you have in-ground sprinklers, soaker hoses, drip irrigation, or a gravity-fed water barrel, to ensure that your yard is getting adequate water. If you have recently installed new beds they may not be getting the optimum amount of water if you are relying on a system that was set up to irrigate grass.

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Converting sprinkler systems in plant beds to soaker or drip systems saves water by delivering it more directly to the roots of plants. Check out for various irrigation methods and applications. Since almost 50 percent of potable water used in Florida is used in the landscape, it’s particularly important to determine if you are applying the right amount of water to your lawn — and aren’t applying too much to plant beds.

The Extension Master Gardener phone service (904-255-7450) has recently been getting enquiries from homeowners about a leafspot they are seeing on Japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum). It is most likely a species of Cercospora fungus, and can be treated with suitable fungicides. This article describes the appearance of the leafspot, and suggests treatments: For any leafspot problem it helps to rake up and dispose of fallen leaves to reduce the fungus spores spreading.

As summer progresses, increasing humidity is usually followed by increases in disease and insect problems, but it is important to make sure to identify what is wrong before applying a remedy. In the case of lawns, treating for “fungus” when the specific disease hasn’t been identified is both pointless and harmful — the problem will only get worse. And even if the diagnosis is clear, the timing and mode of application of fungicides can be tricky to get right, and a reputable lawn and yard service may be better able to tackle it (see If you wish to deal with it yourself, but are unsure of the diagnosis, take a bagged sample of the diseased plant material, including all parts that show signs of disease, not just the leaves, to the Extension service at 1010 N. McDuff. If it’s something difficult to diagnose, the University of Florida has a service to identify plant diseases (

Insects should also be correctly identified, since so many are actually beneficial predators of the insects which eat our plants. (More than 90 percent of the insects in our landscapes are good guys: The larvae of lady beetles (ladybugs) are one example, as they look nothing like the adults, but both life stages eat pesky aphids (see Unfortunately the larvae of one species of lady beetle can be mistaken for mealybugs, which could make them a target for the insecticide spray, to the real detriment of the garden.

If you enjoy learning about different aspect of gardening, you may appreciate a BBC podcast (from the UK) called Gardeners’ Question Time. It has been broadcast weekly since 1947, from different towns, cities, and inspiring gardens across the British Isles. The format is simple: a panel of experts answers questions from the audience. If it sounds a little dry, I can assure you that’s not the case, although British humor can be a little different…

Closer to home, for a little lighter reading, including a whole host of timely tips, check out the May-June issue of A New Leaf:, available in early May. Stay cool and happy gardening.

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