DECEMBER IN THE GARDEN
Learn to Love Your Lawn’s Weeds…or at least understand them.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about medieval tapestries because the little flowers that are carpeting so many local lawns remind me of the the ground in medieval tapestries. IN these works of art unicorns prance, peacocks strut, and elegant lords and ladies promenade across tapestry “lawns” strewn with lovely, little blossoming plants. They share the landscape with birds, bees, and butterflies beautifully crafted by ancient weavers.
The history of lawns is fascinating and I plan to profile the plants that populate Florida lawns in the News Vine, with expanded information posted on our website. This month the focus is on native Florida pusley (Richardia scabra) known as “Florida snow”. Pusley is an opportunistic weed that aggressively takes over in turf areas stressed by too much water, insects, fungal disease, too-low lawn cutting, and improper fertilization. It spreads by seed and is almost impossible to get rid of once it is established without using heavy-duty, deadly chemical controls. Far better to nip it in the bud by hand-weeding as soon as you see it. Better yet, be environmentally proactive and learn to love the tapestry-like effect it creates with its miniature blossoms that turn from white to pink to lavender and which attract butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.
How are your tomatoes growing? Here are some tips for better production.
1. Plant a tomato plant in a place with 10 hours of direct sunlight.
2. Have enough space between plants for air flow.
3. Soak the base of tomato plants once a week or more during windy, hot days.
4. Fertilize every three weeks. I scratch in crushed egg shells,
5. Pinch and remove suckers that develop in the crotch joint of two branches.
6. Use a tomato cage to support plants.
7. When a tomato plant reaches 3 ft., remove the leaves from the bottom 1 ft. of the plant.
8. When tomatoes start to ripen it’s time to scratch around the bottom and add some compost.
9. Pinching off the tops of the main stems of intermediate varieties to encourage more energy going into flowering.
10. Remember to check for tomato hornworms (large, green & white striped caterpillars).
December is a good month to add or transplant trees, shrubs and other plants and to divide perennials. Add new cold-tolerant fruits to the landscape; delay tropical fruit plantings until spring. Because of the cool weather, water loss through foliage will be low and above ground new growth minimal. Start flower transplants. This is a good time to plant herbs and most vegetables. Start seeds of the cool season crops for transplants.
Safe Planting: Anytime you dig without calling 811 to get underground utility lines marked, you're taking a risk. Why? The places you plant could have electricity, data (internet) and communications lines, plus water, sewer or natural gas pipes. Where you put those plants can damage underground utilities now and in the future, and create access problems for utility workers.
Check out our Safe Planting information page for tips on planting safely now and for the future.
Yellowing turf areas generally greens up with application of iron or a minor nutrient spray. This the time to replant hard-to-mow and shady areas with Florida Friendly ground covers.
Continue fertilizing hardy annuals and container grown plants monthly. Discontinue fertilizing other outdoor plants except vegetables. Delay any major pruning until after winter. Renew mulch to conserve water and control weeds. Hardy annuals that will provide color in your yard and survive our normal winter cold include alyssum, calendula, cleome, dianthus, pansy, petunia, phlox, salvia, snapdragon and verbena. Remove faded blooms to extend flow
Start sprouting sweet potatoes. Toothpicks, a healthy tuber and a jar of water are all you need to get going. Stick three or four toothpicks into a sweet potato about 1/3 of the way down from the end with the little eyes. Position the potato in a glass or jar filled with water so at least half is submerged. In a few weeks, sprouts will appear. When they get 2-3” long, break them off and stick them into some soil. They’ll root and the potato will continue making new sprouts, sometimes for months. By the end of February you ought to have plenty of little ground-covering vines to plant.