March in the Garden

This is an optimum month for planting but keep in mind

that The University of Florida now reckons that here on the

beach we are no longer in Zone 9b but Zone 10a; which

unfortunately, is not a guarantee we’ll never have a freeze.

A year ago I wrote in the News Vine “March is a guessing

game in the garden. Will it stay warm? Will we have an-

other cold snap? Will we have sufficient rain? Our climate

is changing, so who knows. This year our poor mango trees

have bloomed multiple times, only to have wind and cold

blast the embryonic fruit.”

The climate certainly is changing because this year it’s

March and none of our mango trees have even bloomed

once, much less several times and we’ve had a very warm,

wet winter. It’s all very confusing for plants and for garden-

ers as well and makes it critical to give plants what they


Successful landscaping and vegetable gardening is all

about the right plant in the right places. Plants growing in

balanced soil and that have their requirements for nutrition,

light, and water met will be resistant to climate extremes.

They will also be less likely to be attacked by disease or


The single best thing you can do for your lawn and garden

is to get your soil tested by the University of Florida. If you

are interested let me know and I can bring home a soil kit

from the Extension Office for you mail to Gainesville. Read:

“Soil Sampling and Testing for the Home Landscape

or Vegetable Garden.”

Request Test B, the $7 test. It includes soil pH and lime

requirement analyses; analysis of phosphorus (P), potas-

sium (K), calcium (Ca), and magnesium (Mg). The ESTL

does not test soils for nitrogen (N). A reliable N soil test

does not exist because the chemical forms of N in the soil

are constantly changing due to Florida’s warm and humid



It’s a great time to be out in the garden. But protect yourself from mosquitoes!

• Zika Virus – So far there is no evidence that Florida mosquitoes are infected; however our area has both the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, and the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, which are among those known to transmit the virus.

Be vigilant about having no standing water in or around your house. Check any container on a weekly basis that might collect water. Flush bromeliads and bird baths weekly or treat with mosquito-specific Bti granules (Mosquito Dunks or Mosquito Bits).

Inspect windows and doors for hole and tears and repair them to exclude mosquitoes. Mosquito repellents should be

used when people plan to be outdoors at the time mosquitoes are biting. The longest lasting repellents contain DEET and

picaridin. Whatever type of repellant you use, read the label to make sure you’re putting on a product registered with the

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. See

• Pruning - If you haven’t done your pruning yet, now is the time! Shrubs, vines, and perennials will flush out in new

growth after their spring pruning. Cut back any dead wood and shape as necessary. A general rule of thumb for most

shrubs and perennials is to cut branches back no more than one-third of the plant. Pruning Landscape Trees and Shrubs

After pruning, it’s time to fertilize. Espoma natural slow-release fertilizers allow plants to take up more of the nutrients,

and are safer for the environment as well. There are formulations for many types of plants. For recommended lawn fertil-

izers and their availability see the Brevard Extension Office’s infographic below.

• Poinsettias - Set your potted poinsettias out in the yard for years of enjoyment. Plant them where they get total darkness

at night (away from artificial light) so that they’ll each year. Poinsettias need at least a half-day of sun.

• Butterflies - Augment your butterfly garden! For butterfly larval and nectar plants see:


• Roses - Early spring is the peak time to plan and plant a rose garden. Be sure to amend your soil properly; one of the

best soil supplements for a rose garden is coconut fiber, available in a product called “coir brick.” See Growing Roses in


• Annuals and perennials to plant now - alyssum (may not make it through the summer), bush daisies, celosia, cosmos,

dahlberg daisy, diamond frost euphorbia, dune sunflowers, gaillardia, gazanias, geraniums, gerbera daisies, kalanchoes,

lavendula, lobelia, marguerite daisies, pentas, salivia, sunflowers, and verbena. See Annuals:

topic_annual_landscape_plants and Perennials;

• Bulbs: Plant caladiums where they’ll get filtered sun for a showy tropical display all summer. See Bulbs for Florida:

• Vegetables - Warm-season crops, such as beans, peppers, squash, and others can be planted now. See Vegetable Gar-

dening in Florida:

• Did you know? - Scatter regular, edible corn meal under plants prone to fungus problems once a month beginning in

early spring. Apply corn meal gluten (not the same as corn meal) in the early spring as a pre-emergent weed killer on lawns

and gardens. Use a hand-held spreader. Both types should be available in bulk at your local feed store.


Mold and moisture can quickly spoil refrigerated berries. To keep them fresh and sweet give them a vinegar bath.

After sorting berries to discard any with visible signs of mold, immerse them for about one minute in a bath of 1 part white

vinegar to 3 parts water. Drain and rinse in fresh water to remove traces of vinegar, spread out on paper towels and pat

dry. Store the berries in a paper towel-lined container with air circulation.

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