As the summer gets hotter and more humid, remember to do your gardening chores in the morning or late evening hours.

Remember to water in the morning hours, once or twice a week, and apply one-half inch of water per application unless we get adequate rainfall – that all-day, slow, drizzling rain, not that short, quick rainfall that produces a large quantity of water in a short period and runs off.

If you did not make the last pruning on your azaleas by the end of June, you’re too late. The flower buds for next year’s blooms start forming in July and August. Do not worry how the plant might look later in the fall.

If you prune to level them off after July, you will be cutting the flower blooms off for next year and will have very few blooms on the top of the plant.

What about those older plants that might have been neglected and have gotten unruly?

There comes a time with your plants when they might need to be cut back drastically. The best time to do this is late spring or early summer.

Older plants might have become too large or too leggy, with very few leaves on the lower half of the plant. This is when it is time to severely prune. You can cut these shrubs back to knee high if you like. This will remove the dead and weak limbs, and generate new growth.

During the summer months, insects can be a problem on lawns and shrubs. We are already seeing chinch bugs causing damage in St. Augustine lawns.

Chinch bugs normally start in the sunny areas of your lawn near pavement, which are usually the hottest areas. The areas will first turn yellow and then, in a couple of weeks, turn brown.

The lawn will look like it is not getting enough water, but even with sufficient water it will keep dying off. Liquid insecticides work faster than granular insecticides in controlling chinch bugs.

We are also seeing aphids a little earlier than normal this year on crape myrtles. Aphids are normally the cause for the crape myrtles turning black during the summer months.

The aphids suck the plants juices from the leaves causing a shiny, sticky substance called “honeydew” on the leaves. Dirt and pollen in the air stick to the leaves, causing the leaves to turn black. This is called “black sooty mold,” which is also controlled best by liquid insecticides.

A systemic insecticide during the spring and summer will help prevent this from happening.

Edward Poenicke is a retired Chatham County extension agent. This article is provided in collaboration with Lawn Doctor of Beaufort County.