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Spring clean-up duties

June 13, 2014
By H.I. JEAN SHIELDS ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Everyone understands about spring house cleaning. Here in our fast growing tropical climate we also make time for spring cleaning outside areas.

One favorite outside cleaning space is the popular lanai. It is time to move things around and wash away dust and stray soil spills from accidental spills and just moving pots full of flowers and herbs and decorative items that just sit around.

Would you spring clean inside the house without moving the couch? Of course not.

The time to spruce up is now before the heavy rains really start and the winds begin blowing top-heavy potted flowers and plants all around.

One important thing to remember is that every single pot needs a drain outlet in the bottom and preferably has a drip dish underneath. The dish will keep loose soil from seeping out onto the lanai floor and it's very necessary for whatever is in the pot to be able to drain all excess rainwater away from the roots.

Small dishes and pots can be placed on pretty saucers from the secondhand store. Larger pots need the shallow clay dish that is available almost anywhere you shop. They come in and wide variety of sizes and if you really cannot stand the natural clay look, just get creative with a spray paint and mix and match your colors.

A fun thing for the grandchildren to do is spray and design some of these dishes. Set them up out in a space with some newspapers spread around and some spray paint colors and some damp towels for washing off noses and fingers and let them spray away.

Do not let them be creative on the lanai itself.

The sun has been changing the last few weeks and you probably need to change your outside display so that shade plants and flowers are not in the hot afternoon sun now.

I am still moving mine around. I have a large peace lily that just blooms its heart out as long as I keep it moist enough and out of the sun. I have had it for about five years, a gift from some friends during a sad time. The cold weather does not bother it, nor the heavy rains that pour through it. The fact that I do not feed it at times is OK, however the hot sun will dry it up quickly.

One thing you should know is that when it does get a touch too much sun and is looking really droopy, do not throw it out. Don't feed it, just water it well and get it back in the shade. It is really amazing how it pops right back up, and still blooms when it is ready.

Hanging plants need to be trimmed and fed. Blooming is best when there is not too much plant hanging down. A cascading petunia is beautiful but quickly becomes thin and weedy looking when not kept trimmed.

A lot of lanais have palms growing in the corners or a nice green island area inside of screening. Watch for new growth at the top and make sure it is not going to poke a hole in the screen roof.

I can tell you first hand that when it pokes through, you are going to be paying quickly for a nice screen man to come and repair the hole it makes. Mosquitoes are famous for finding these screen holes. It takes the nice screen man a lot longer to get to the scene for repairs.

Make sure all your lanai and yard ornaments and garden art work is safely placed in case a sudden 40 mph summer storm comes along. That open dock looks so inviting with the pretty chairs and side tables waiting for you. They do tend to blow into the water when you are not looking.

They can be tied to a railing or lashed to a piling, or just folded or taken off the dock when you have warning. We used to just drop ours into some bushes along the back side of the pool wall, facing the dock - never lost one doing that. We did lose a few, temporarily, into the lake when we forgot to be aware of summer winds and storms.

The only storms around me so far this year are thunderstorms. Not any rainstorms. Have not seen any rainbows yet either. Do watch for them, the come as doubles many times.

I have been really trimming everything around here this year. I am fortunate to have a teen-age grandson with his first car who is not presently working, so I have a strong yard man to assist. I like to give orders and he likes to get paid, so we work well together. I do notice each summer he knows a little more about what to do and when. He is never going to be a great horticulturalist, he is more the techie type, however he is willing and strong and I do not have to be feeding him pizza nowadays. He also understands sometimes in life you have to do more work than you are getting paid for. Bless his heart!

I have a lot of old dracaena plants and they were much too tall with thick stalks, a copper leaf bush that was 9 feet tall and almost as wide, fat pittosporum bushes and ixora bushes that are about 5 feet tall and 12 years old which do need more attention than they get from me nowadays.

I won't even talk about the one prolific banana tree that even he has to struggle with to get rid of any thick fallen stalks.

I do not let anyone touch the gardenia bush. I am the only one who trims around on that. Trimming right now is tricky. I wanted to hurry and trim it as soon as it stopped blooming. It will just not completely stop. Still getting a bloom or two. It needs to be trimmed right after blooming so that new growth will produce flowers next spring. So, I pick and choose where to trim and had a lot of sooty mold to deal with a couple months ago.

I am not worried about trimming hard right now, the hot wet summer season will have everything growing fast. It is not a good idea to cut things to the ground, as far as I am concerned, even my sturdy yesterday, today and tomorrow brunfelsia. I trim to make a nice form and do cut out some thick center wood, but leave it half the size I started with.

While trimming, remember to empty any standing water vessels sitting around. Mosquitoes love standing water as much as your blood.

We have another mosquito stranger danger disease to worry about. With a name like chikungunya fever, it sounds serious. We have to be aware and take regular precautions.

Happy gardening till we meet again.

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



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