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Seasonal changes under way in Southwest Florida

May 11, 2012
By H.I. JEAN SHIELDS - Garden Club of Cape Coral , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Springtime in Southwest Florida results in several important changes that we may like or dislike. No matter, they will happen.

On my list for good changes are less people, more flowering colors with trees, shrubs and perennials, lots of bedding plants available for a change in gardenscapes and an end to formal meetings and gatherings. Also, the ever hopeful rainy season will soon start.

My bad list is, here comes the heat and humidity, pesky mosquitoes and the ever present danger of drought that even the rainy season does not seem to be able to relieve

We have escaped more humidity in the early spring than usual. The price we paid for that pleasant dry heat increased the danger of fires. The healthy winds were blowing as usual and pools were drying up faster. Plantings in pots were really drying out and new landscaping needed more than its usual share of watering to get settled in.

Rain is now doing its thing - somewhere in Lee County. It pays to watch your favorite weather channel to see just where it actually is falling. I try not to feel like Cape Coral is being slighted by the rain gods, but in the past two weeks, in talking with Fort Myers residents and Cape Coral residents, it looks to me like Cape Coral is on the losing end of the rain scale. At least for now.

The city fathers are watching out for us though. They have now reserved the right to lower our dedicated watering days to one day per week. How they intend to enforce this control is beyond me. I am not entirely against a one -day watering period, however there are so many residents watering at the wrong time and wrong days that if they could get enforcement control on these people we may not even need to drop down to a one day a week schedule.

There seems to be a need for employment in the city, looks like a good possibility we could hire more enforcement workers. They do, of course, want to be paid for their hard work, and that is always a sore spot with the city budget agenda.

I guess we will just have to settle for the same ol', same ol' routine. Some of us will do as we are told and water wisely and some will not.

I manage to water all of my many plants on the lanai from water gathered from the kitchen sink run-overs. It is a nuisance sometimes but I have become used to doing it. I have gray water, soapy water and filtered water. Hot water is not a real good thing for plants, but by the time I get it out there it is cool enough.

Once in a while I accidentally throw a little gray water on an orchid, but nothing has died because of it yet.

I do draw the line at showering with a bucket in there with me. I would probably fall over it, or in it. Also filling a pail with the water while I wait for it to be the right temperature creates a problem because I am not a weightlifter and that bucket gets mighty heavy. I know because I did try that once.

Life is full of choices; we can ignore doing a good thing, figure out a way to do it differently or just do it.

We need to remember though that sitting around blaming someone else for our problems is not the answer at all. Is it really too hard to remember which day you are scheduled to water? The time you should water? Where you should water?

There are plenty of businesses available in the city to set your timer if it needs to be reset. Check a little old senior neighbor and see if he or she needs help with watering correctly. When your neighbor is leaving for the season, remind them to check their system before they leave. Hopefully you do talk to your neighbors.

My timer is set so that even when the time changes in the spring and in the fall, it fits the schedule. Check your rain gage (which you are supposed to have) and make sure it is working. When the street in front of your house is getting more water than the front lawn, do something about it.

While you are waiting for the rains and mosquitoes to invade us, look around the city, it is the best time, without so much traffic, to enjoy the median plantings we have. I saw some beautiful raspberry crape myrtles this weekend and the grasses are beautiful, as well as all the gorgeous. bougainvilleas. I really like the dwarf variety. I do not have the right space for a large bush. The crape myrtles can be planted by the end of the month, as we hope to be having more rain by then to get them started. They are pretty carefree and tolerate drought once established.

You do need to make sure which size you are buying. Some of them get mighty big. Keep rose bushes watered well, at root level. They need water and mulch now more than anything. Hopefully you have an adequate feeding schedule.

I am still fighting with some marigolds around the mailbox. Thank goodness I backed them up with some Dusty Miller plants, which are doing perfectly. Yes, I know they do not need as much water as marigolds, but it always worked before.

Keep alert for fire hazards and watch the water regulations. Get some mosquito spray and stay in after dusk. Who wants to be mosquito bait?

Even though we have seen our one and only super moon last week, go out and look at the moon and stars; they seem extra brilliant, especially from inside the lanai.

Happy gardening until we meet again.

H.I. Jean Shields is a past president of the Garden Club of Cape Coral



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