In the Garden all year long
Adjust irrigation based on rainfall.
Monitor the garden for insects and disease.
Deadhead flowers to encourage new blooms.
Plant trees, shrubs, and perennials and water as needed until established.
Mow lawns at recommended heights:
St. Augustine & Bahia: 3-4”
Dwarf St. Augustine: 2.5
Cover tender plants with blankets, quilts or a mattress pad. If you will be using a plastic tarp, you will need to construct a frame around the plant to keep the plastic away from the foliage. If the cold front is forecasted to be windy, you will want to secure the covering so that it can’t blow away.
Make sure that all of your tender, tropical plants have a thick layer of mulch, up to 4 inches deep, to protect the root system.
Move containerized plants into the garage or house. If they must stay outside, move them together and cover the entire group with blankets or quilts.
If a hard freeze, temperatures at 30 degrees or below, is forecast you can also place a light bulb or Christmas lights underneath the cover. LED bulbs will not work for this because they don’t produce any heat. Make sure that none of the hot bulbs will come into contact with the blanket, quilt, tarp, etc.
With the shorter days and cooler temperatures, you won’t need to do much for your turf. Just mow it every other week or so and water it, at most, once a week. Do not fertilize the turf in the winter because the grass isn’t actively growing and therefore won’t absorb the nutrients. Fertilizing in the winter can lead to nutrients leaching into the nearest body of water.
Deciduous trees and shrubs can be pruned after they have shed all of their leaves. Meanwhile, take advantage of the weather to enjoy your garden.
WHAT TO PLANT NOW
Annuals/Bedding plants: Plants that can be added to the garden during the coolest months include alyssum, begonia, browallia, lobelia, dianthus, dusty miller, pansy, petunia, viola, snapdragon, and nicotiana. See Annuals
Bulbs: Winter is a great time to plant bulbs that will bloom in the spring. Some examples include Clivia lily, crinum, gloriosa lily, and agapanthus. Provide a layer of mulch to protect bulbs from cold temperatures. See Bulbs for Florida
Herbs: Many herbs will thrive now that temperatures are cooler, including garlic chives, chives, lemongrass (plant this aggressive grower in a large pot), parsley, dill, rosemary, Mexican tarragon, fennel, any of the mints, thyme, lemon balm, Greek oregano, salad burnet, lavenders, chervil (a winter annual that has a licorice flavor) See Herbs
Vegetables: Many vegetables can be planted this time of year. Start with quality seeds purchased from an online catalog. This the last month to plant Irish potatoes, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, lettuce, mustard, and turnips. See Vegetable Gardening in Florida
WHAT TO DO
Landscape: It is a good time to plant woody shrubs. Water frequently to get new plantings off to a good start. See The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection and Landscape Design and Shrubs:
Citrus Care (also good for most trees)
Spray both sides of leaves avoiding peak daily temperature:
1. Spray citrus trees with Epsoma Citrus Tone or Sunniland Citrus
2. Spray before trees blossom with a citrus nutritional spray, which has micronutrients.
3. Spray once a month or so with Maxicrop, the liquid seaweed emulsion available at most Ace hardware stores. 4. To avoid disease spray with Liquid Copper Fungicide
5. Shrubs – apply Epsoma plant tone or Holly Tone [for acidic plants]
Deciduous fruit: Plant deciduous fruit trees now to give their roots time to develop before the warm, dry spring months. Prune and fertilize existing trees. See Temperate Fruit for the Home Landscape
Irrigation: Water plants if temperatures remain higher than normal and rainfall is scarce. See Landscape Irrigation
Shrubs and trees: Prune non-spring flowering shrubs and trees this month to improve form. See Pruning Landscape Trees and Shrubs
Arbor Day: Celebrate Florida Arbor Day (the 3rd Friday of January) by planting a tree in your yard or community. See Arbor Day in Florida
Crapemyrtle: Remove seed pods, crossing branches, and small twiggy growth to improve the appearance and form of the plant, if desired. Hard pruning is not required. See Crapemyrtle
Cold protection: Be ready to cover tender plants to minimize damage and be sure covers extend all the way to the ground. Frost or freezes are likely this month and next. Bring sensitive plants like orchids inside if a frost or freeze is predicted. Thoroughly water and cover sensitive plants in the landscape 12–24 hours before a freeze. See Cold Protection and Chilling Damage of Landscape Plants
Pests: Apply horticultural oil to citrus, shrubs, and deciduous fruit trees while plants are dormant to control scale. Apply copper spray to mangos after bloom. See Landscape Pest Management
Last but not least: Don’t forget to spray a fine mist of liquid seaweed solution on both sides of the leaves on vegetable plants, citrus and avocado trees weekly. For other fruit-producing trees, shrubs and vines aim for every other week.
Fight the urge to prune plants that have been damaged by cold. Limit pruning to removing damaged and unsightly foliage. Don’t cut back any woody stems or branches until spring comes and new growth is produced. If you have plumeria that has been hit by the cold, watch the growing tip. If it appears to be rotting cut it off low enough to cut through a sound part of the stem.
Something you can prune now is your fig tree if it needs it. Removing some of the older wood will increase new growth. Only choose three to five main trunks. Remove all small competing stems from the base and thin out any limbs that are rubbing or crisscrossing. Prune off up to one-third of last year’s growth during this pruning. After the pruning is complete, add new mulch to maintain a four-inch layer.
Other plants that could or should be pruned now are deciduous plants such as crape myrtles and grapevines. Only prune deciduous plants when they are dormant and bare. Pruning can be done any time before the vines begin to sprout new buds.
Mid-month is a good time to prune hybrid rose bushes. Choose 4-5 main canes to form the new shrub and prune off the others. Then, cut the main canes back a third of the way. Also, remove any dead, damaged or twiggy growth back to the main cane. New blooms should appear in about 45 days.
If your lawn has browned out from the cold just continue to water it once a week and celebrate the fact that you won’t need to mow again for quite a while. Don’t expect the grass to, or try to make it, green up again until we get longer days and warmer temperatures.
Vegetables that can be planted in February include beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, celery, collards, cucumbers, eggplant, endive/escarole, English peas, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, mustard, onions-both bunching and multiplier, peppers, potatoes, pumpkin, squash, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, radishes, tomatoes, turnips, and watermelons.
Flowers to plant now include alyssum, dianthus, pansy, petunia, Johnny-jump-up, phlox, stock, flowering kale, and snapdragons.
Some herbs to plant now include basil, comfrey, chervil, chives, dill, fennel, parsley, sweet marjoram, mint, sage, and thyme.
Bulbs that can be planted this month include Agapanthus, Amazon lily (Eucharis Grandiflora), Aztec lily (Sprekelia formosissima), caladium, canna, dahlia, gladiolus, gloriosa lily, kaffir lily (Clivia minata), walking iris (Neomarica gracilis), rain lily (Zepheranthus spp.), lily, African iris (Moraea spp.), society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea), Tritonia (T. crocata), tuberose (Polianthes tuberose), Watsonia (W. spp.) and spider lily (Hymenocallis spp.)
Vegetable seeds that can be sown in February for planting in March include beans, beets, cantaloupes, collards, cucumbers, eggplant, English peas, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, okra, onions - bunching & multipliers, peppers, pumpkins, Southern peas, squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, watermelon.
Prune poinsettias back when blooms begin to fade. Cut the stems to about two feet from the ground and fertilize with ½ to 1 cup of 6-6-6. Also, apply one to two teaspoons of Epsom salts to supply magnesium.
If your landscaping has been affected by dips below 32 degrees:
- Wait to determine the extent of the cold damage before pruning; some plants need weeks to show damage.
- Keep the soil moist but do not overwater.
- Withhold fertilizer until the scheduled feeding in late February or March.
- Trim affected portions from container-grown foliage plants and move them to a warmer location.
- Mow lawns as needed to remove new growth and control weeds; do not encourage growth.
- Feeding time for lawns is March.
- Begin pruning all hardy and dormant plants as normal during winter.
- Continue to plant hardy trees, shrubs, ground covers, and perennials.
- Remove affected warm-season vegetables and replant with cool-season crops.
- Keep the cold protection handy.
What to Plant
Trees and Shrubs: Most varieties. Consider planting a small tree to replace trees lost in the storms of the past several years; perhaps, a flowering accent tree. Sally Scalera suggests:
Annuals / Bedding Plants: Replace declining winter annuals with colorful heat-tolerant annuals, such as crossandra, gazania, salvia, melampodium, and zinnia that will last into fall. See Annuals.
Bulbs: Plant gladiola corms 6 inches apart and 4 inches deep; stake as they grow. Plant caladium for a showy tropical display all summer. See Bulbs for Florida
Herbs: In addition to their culinary value, many herbs are ornamental and attract butterflies to the garden. See Herbs:
Vegetables: This is the last month to plant arugula, beans, cantaloupe, carrots, celery sweet corn, endive, okra, radish, squashes, Swiss chard, and watermelon. See Vegetable Gardening in Florida
Keys to a Successful Vegetable Garden: varieties of plants selected for our conditions, good soil, adequate light, irrigation, fertilization, and attention. Restoring Soil Nutrients – from Mother Earth News
What to Do
Shrubs and trees: Prune when new growth begins after the end of the dormant season. To guard next season's blooms, begin pruning after the last flowers fade but before the new buds set. See Pruning Landscape Trees and Shrubs
Mulch: Add mulch to minimize weeds and conserve moisture during dry weather. See Landscape Mulches
Pests: Monitor landscape plants for insects, especially for the presence of aphids on tender new growth. Insects become more active during warm weather. See Landscape Pest Management
Insects should be presumed innocent until proven guilty of damage. Identify them before taking any action. Most are not damaging. Pesticides should be the final option.
Tropical and subtropical fruits: Enhance pollination of fruits during spring flowering by allowing a selection of nearby weeds to grow to provide a nectar source for bees, wasps, and flies.
It’s spring, time for blossoms and butterflies. This year’s capricious bounces from hot and humid conditions to crisp, cool air for days at a time has meant later blooms for fruit trees, notably mangoes and for orchids. It has also suppressed the plant pests and diseases that usually flourish at this time of year. Remember we are still in a drought
situation so pay close attention to the elements that make up your landscape. Above all revel in the wonderful weather and enjoy gardening!
WHAT TO PLANT
Flowers – Coleus, Celosia, calliopsis, Crossandra, dusty miller, Exacum, Gaillardia, Gazania, hollyhock, Impatiens, Lobelia, Marguerite daisy, marigold, Nicotiana, ornamental pepper, Pentas, periwinkle, Phlox, Portulaca, Rudbeckia, Salvia, Streptocarpus, sweet William, Thunbergia alata, Torenia, Verbena and Zinnia.
Perennials and Bulbs - Bulbs to plant in April: Achimenes, African iris, Amazon lily, Aztec lily, tuberous Begonia, blood lily, Caladium, Canna, Crinum, Gladiolus, gloriosa lily, kaffir lily, shell ginger, society garlic, spider lily, tiger flower, walking iris and Watsonia.
Vegetables - In April, plant beans, cantaloupe, collards, okra, sweet potatoes, southern peas, New Zealand Summer Spinach, and peanuts for summer harvest. Through June plant sweet potatoes, southern peas, peanuts, okra, and Swiss chard.
Fruits - Plant bananas and other tropical fruits such as guava, papaya and pineapple to take advantage of the frost-free growing season. Containerized fruit plants can be planted throughout the year. See BRFC’s April tree sale details below.
Trees - Delay planting balled and burlap palms until the summer rains begin. Keep the bud tied until it forces new growth. This keeps the young leaves from drying out until the new roots get established.
WHAT TO DO
Our recent rains were helpful but didn’t break the drought. April and May are the most stressful months for planting as rainfall is in short supply and the heat and wind increase. Bug populations increase with warmer weather and new growth.
Since chemical spraying kills the good guys as well as the bad be alert to early infestations and nip them in the bud with natural remedies.
If you did not fertilize garden beds and shrubs in March, do so now. Only apply about two-thirds of your normal amount due to the drought.
Clean out weeds before the hot summer temperatures return. Apply mulch to help conserve moisture. Keep all mulch 1 to 2 inches away from plant stems to minimize bark and leaf decay.
Prune water sprouts, suckers, deadwood and crossing limbs from trees and shrubs to maintain a clean appearance.
Pruning Landscape Trees and Shrubs: There are four major reasons for pruning a plant: to affect flower or fruit production, to direct the growth and shape of the plant, to change the look of the plant, and to promote plant health.
Beneficials: Identify and conserve beneficial insects. Some insects should be encouraged in your yard! See Beneficial Insects
Flowering plants: Check for thrips if leaves and/or flowers of gardenias and roses are damaged. See Landscape Pest Management
Perennials and bulbs: Divide clumps of bulbs, ornamental grasses, or herbaceous perennials to expand or rejuvenate garden beds or to pass along to friends. See Bulbs for Florida and Perennial Landscape Plants
Lawn insects: Rule out cultural problems, such as lack of water, that resemble insect damage before applying a pesticide. See Turf Grass Pest Insects
Lawns: Apply fertilizer after new growth has started which is usually early April in north-central and central Florida. Choose a fertilizer (not a "weed and feed") with little or no phosphorus unless a soil test indicates the need for it. A fertilizer with controlled-release nitrogen yields longer-lasting results. See Lawn Fertilizer
Mulch: Add mulch to minimize weeds and conserve moisture during dry weather. Organic mulches add nutrients to the soil. See Landscape Mulches
The Oldest Known Butterflies Existed Before Flowers - Smithsonian
What to Plant
Annuals/Bedding plants: Plants that can take summer heat include coleus, salvia,
torenia, wax begonia, and ornamental pepper.
Bulbs: It’s a good time to plant bulbs, remembering that some lilies do best when their roots are crowded so try planting Amazon, Aztec, and Clivia lilies in containers to increase blooming. Plant Achimenes, Agapanthus, Blood Lilies, Caladiums, Canna, Crinums, Daylilies, Gladioli, Gloriosa Lilies and Spider Lilies, and Zephyranthes (Rain Lilies).
Herbs: Plant heat-loving herbs, including basil, Mexican tarragon, ginger, cumin, summer savory, and rosemary. I hear some local gardeners are having luck with black and white sesame seeds.
Vegetables: Sweet potatoes, okra, boniato, hot peppers, southern peas, butter or lima beans, eggplant, and tropical “spinach” such as Sisso, Malabar, and New Zealand.
What to Do
Conserve Water – from the Tampa Bay Water Agency
In April, May and June, Florida’s temperatures begin to increase while the state’s rainfall tends to decrease. As temperatures rise, so does outdoor water use:
• If it rains at least ½ inch on or just before your watering day,skip your day.
• Conduct a visual inspection of your irrigation system by turning each zone on for less than 5 minutes and looking for broken or misdirected heads.
Correct these problems and water your landscape only:
• If you are planning new plants, use Florida-friendly landscaping to put the right plant in the right place and save water.
• Hold off on installing new sod, trees or plants until the summer rainy season.
• Make sure your landscape beds have at least 3 inches of organic mulch around each plant but not touching the plant trunk. Mulch cools the plant roots and helps retain moisture. See below for more on mulch.
• Use a hose nozzle when hand watering or washing your car. It saves water by keeping the water from running constantly.
• Mow turf on the highest setting possible (3 to 4 inches) and never mow more than one-third of the grass height. This helps to increase plant root depth and make it more tolerant to dry conditions.
Monitor the landscape for signs of environmental stress and for chinch bugs, scale insects, spider mites etc. It’s so much easier to nip problems in the bud (so to speak) than to deal with a full-blown invasion. Avoid chemical insecticides and use UF approved “home remedies for insect and disease control” Birds, butterflies, bees, lizards, frogs, and toads will thank you. Spray stressed plants with Maxicrop every week or so and healthy plants at least monthly for peak performance.
Trees: Prepare for hurricane season by checking trees for damaged or weak branches and pruning if needed. As a general rule, use the pruners for growth up to about three-quarters of an inch. If you're cutting green growth, use bypass pruners; for hardened wood, use anvil pruners. A pruning guide
For big jobs hire a knowledgeable arborist, who is bonded and insured. Discuss in detail what you want done. Ideally, your best bet is an ISA-certified arborist. See International Society of Arboriculture and Pruning Landscape Trees and Shrubs
Pruning Palms: You know to never, ever give palms the dreadful “pencil cut:; but please spread the word to friends and neighbors. Palms are nourished daily through their fronds. When trimmers cut off the green fronds, they are removing the palms’ natural ability to feed the tree, taking away a necessary source of nutrition. The palm trunk will be thinner at the top and more likely to fall in high wind. It takes a palm 1 to 2 years to recover from the insult. Palms that are pencil trimmed annualy will die. Several Florida counties outlaw this practice, which is promoted by tree trimming companies.
Pests: Watch for thrips, scale, and mites on ornamental plants because they become more active in warm weather. See Landscape Pest Management
Gardenias: Distinguish between the normal yellowing of older leaves and the yellowing of new growth, which usually indicates a micronutrient deficiency. See Gardenias at a Glance
Lawns: Watch for damage from chinch bugs in St. Augustinegrass and begin scouting for newly hatched mole crickets in bahiagrass lawns. See Turfgrass Pest Insects. May is usually a dry month; do not mistake irrigation problems with a pest infestation. See Lawns and Drought.
Prevent or minimize disease by following proper cultural practices. See Turf Diseases.
Tomatoes: Watch for pests, disease, and nutritional disorders on tomato plants. See Home Tomato Gardening.
Summer survivior varieties include: most cherry tomatoes, wild Everglades, Sunmaster, solar fire, florilina, and homestead. Try to avoid placing plants in scorching sun.
Recognize that bird song? The spring air is filled with the music of mating and nesting birds.
Happy Summer! Gardening in our sandy soil is never easy and during sweltering summer days, it’s not even pleasant. But, in the morning’s dawning and in the long, lovely evenings there is usually a sea breeze to bless your labors. And the sultry season with its slower pace gives you time to spend indoors learning and dreaming of your ideal garden. Exploring books, magazines, and the internet you’ll find boundless riches of inspiration and know-how. The more you know the less work you’ll have to do, I promise. Garden knowledge helps you achieve a beautiful and satisfying garden with less effort and you’ll avoid a lot of disappointment.
So, when it’s just too hot, humid, and buggy to be outdoors, dive in and educate yourself about your soil, zone 10-A plants adapted to your landscape situation and your available level of care. Use the dog days of summer to create a landscape plan. Keeping in mind the basic principles of garden design consider how you want your garden to look in a year, two years, even five years from now.
ELEMENTS OF LANDSCAPE DESIGN
WHAT TO PLANT
Annuals: Annuals that can take full sun during the increasingly hot summer months include celosia, portulaca, vinca, and some coleus. See Annuals
Palms: Summer's warm, rainy months are the perfect time to plant palms. Make sure not to cover the trunk with soil. See Palms
Herbs: Plant heat-loving herbs, including basil, ginger, summer savory, cumin, Mexican tarragon, and rosemary. See Herbs
Vegetables: Plant okra, southern pea, calabaza, Malabar spinach, and sweet potato. It is too late to plant tomatoes except for seedling cherries and wild Everglades.
WHAT TO DO
Deadhead spent flowers to stimulate new blooms.
Pests: Monitor the landscape and garden weekly for harmful insects. Knowing which insects attack a plant can aid in identification and treatment. See Landscape Pest Management
Mow lawns at recommended heights: •
St. Augustine & Bahia: 3-4”,
Dwarf St. Augustine: 2.5”,
Irrigation: Watch for drought stress and water as needed if rainfall has been spotty. Focus on new plantings and follow watering restrictions. When rains begin, shut down the irrigation system. See Landscape Irrigation
Propagation: Produce more plants by air layering, grafting, division, or cuttings. See Seeds and Propagation (Land and Garden):
Palms and cycads: Watch for nutrient deficiencies or other problems and use an appropriate treatment. Keep lawn fertilizers away from the root zone. See Palm Care
Pruning: Lightly prune summer-flowering shrubs, like hibiscus, oleander, Ixora, and crape myrtle, during the warmer months because they bloom on new growth. See Pruning Landscape Trees and Shrubs
Summer is hot and we are all inside but the gardens look beautiful from the air conditioning.
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