With the advent of warmer weather and the sun’s northward progress plant growth will quicken and we’ll welcome Florida’s spring. I’m inevitably overcome with a desire to haunt the nurseries and pour over seed catalogues. Unfortunately, this spring finds our landscape in need of major restoration. Matthew, Irma, and the coldest winter in years have taken their toll, primarily on the trees, hedges, and large shrubs that provided a wonderful feeling of privacy. These are things that generally take years to attain maturity; so, I’m researching fast-growing plants that are effective screens and will flourish here. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile here’s what to do when the sweet, soft air of spring calls you out to the garden. The cattleya below

growing in a jatropha tree bravely bloomed through the coldest nights and defied winter’s winds.


Seeds – Start seeds for March planting.

Annuals/Bedding plants: Replenish ragged flowerbeds with cool-weather annuals for a colorful display that will last until the heat arrives in early summer. Plant in full sun, water three times a week, and feed monthly with a fertilizer such as Sta-Green All Purpose Slow Release Plant Food 19-6-12 or Dynamite Organic All-Purpose 10-2-8.

Choices include dianthus, nemesia, diascia, petunia, pansy, verbena, strawflower, calibrachoa (million bells), lobelia, alyssum, johnny-jump-up, phlox, stock, flowering kale, snapdragons ageratum, aster, baby’s breath, begonia, browallia, cosmos, dusty miller, gazania, geranium, hollyhock, marguerite daisy, periwinkle, petunia. Wow! So many possibilities.

See Annuals: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_annual_landscape_plants

Be Aware - Impatiens: For decades we’ve depended on lovely plantings of impatiens to add dependable beauty to our borders and container plantings. However, in 2011 a severe infestation of downy mildew appeared on impatiens (Impatiens walleriana in Palm Beach County. causing a blight, which has since spread to Brevard County. Danger of infection is highest when the weather is cool and humid and plants are crowded so wet foliage can’t dry quickly. This disease is spread by splashing overhead irrigation, rainfall and wind.

Downy mildew, a form of water mold more closely related to algae than fungi, is very aggressive and can spread rapidly. Early symptoms appear as downward curling leaves on younger growth, yellowing or speckled leaves. Then whitish film appears on the undersides of leaves. Finally, leaves and blossoms drop, leaving the stem structure. Remove all plants and fallen debris at the first sign of disease and dispose of them in your garbage. Fortunately, New Guinea impatiens are quite resistant to the pathogen and are a safer bet for adding color to your garden.

No treatment available to homeowners is very effective, but you could try one of the following if you catch the blight very early:

Non-Commercial Homeowner Products

Concern Copper Soap Fungicide (copper octanoate)

Fertilome Broad Spectrum Landscape and Garden


Monterey Agri-Fos (phosphorous acid)

Ortho Max Garden Disease Control(chlorothalonil)

Southern Ag Liquid Copper Fungicide (copper

ammonium complex)

Southern Ag Triple Action Neem Oil (extract of neem


Remember, the label is the law; be sure to use products only in a manner consistent with the manufacturer directions on the labels. Please use pesticides safely.

Bulbs and Perennials: Divide large, crowded clumps. Many bulbs can be planted now. Provide adequate water for establishment and protect from cold weather with mulch. Some examples include Amazon lily, crinum, and agapanthus. Day lilies, African iris, blood lily, Caladium, Canna, Lilium, shell ginger, tiger flower, Potted flowering perennials can be planted any time of the year. Day lilies are great because they so easy to care for. See Bulbs for Florida: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_bulbous_flowers

Vegetables: Numerous warm- and cool-season vegetables can be planted this month. Last month to plant cantaloupes, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, peppers, spinach, and tomatoes fora late spring harvest. Protect cold-tender veggies if a frost or freeze is predicted. See Vegetable Gardening in Florida: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_vegetable_gardening

Herbs: Anise, Basil, Bay Laurel, Borage, Caraway, Cardamom, Chervil, Chives, Cilantro/Coriander, Cumin, Dill, Fennel, Ginger, Horehound, Lemon Balm, Lovage, Marjoram, Mexican Tarragon, Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Savory, Thyme, Watercress.

Fruit Trees - Plant bare root apple, peach, pear, pecan, persimmon and blueberries by late February. Do not fertilize at planting time.


Give cold-damaged palms proper care to encourage their recovery. See Cold Protection and Chilling Damage of Landscape Plants: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_landscapes_and_cold

Use a fertilizer such as Vigoro Palm & Ixora Food 6-5-12 or Lesco 8-10-10 Palm and Tropical Ornamental Fertilizer.

Roses: Prune roses this month to remove damaged canes and improve the overall form. After pruning, fertilize and apply a fresh layer of mulch. Blooming will begin 8–9 weeks after pruning. See Roses: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_rose

Shrubs: Fertilize shrubs by spreading fertilizer evenly over the soil surface and watering it in. Follow with a fresh layer of mulch to conserve moisture and reduce weeds. See Landscape Fertilization: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_landscape_fertilization

Groundcovers: Consider replacing areas of grass with drought-tolerant, low-maintenance groundcovers. See The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection and Landscape Design: http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/FYN_Plant_Selection_Guide_v090110.pdf and Ground Covers: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_ground_covers

Lawn: Apply a preemergence weed killer (not a "weed and feed") to lawns this month to prevent germination of warm-season weed seeds. A fertilizer with controlled-release nitrogen provides longer-lasting results. See Lawn Fertilizer: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_lawn_fertilization Apply when temperatures rise to 65°F for 4–5 days. Timing is important for effective control.

What to Do

Lawns: Fertilize lawn grasses to improve color or coverage. Choose a fertilizer (not a "weed and feed"). A fertilizer with controlled-release nitrogen provides longer-lasting results. See Lawn Fertilizer: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_lawn_fertilization

Apply a preemergence weed killer (not a "weed and feed") to lawns late this month to prevent germination of warm-season weed seeds. For effective results apply when temperatures rise to 65°F for 4–5 days. See Lawn Weeds:

Roses: Prune roses this month to remove damaged canes and improve the overall form. After pruning, fertilize and apply a fresh layer of mulch. Blooming will begin 8–9 weeks after pruning. See Roses: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_rose

Shrubs and palms: Fertilize shrubs and palms by spreading fertilizer evenly over the soil surface and watering it in. Follow with a fresh layer of mulch to conserve moisture and reduce weeds. Delay pruning any cold-damaged branches until new growth starts. See Palm Nutrition and Fertilization: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_palm_nutrition and Landscape Fertilization: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_landscape_fertilization

Avocados and mangos: Disease-susceptible varieties of avocado and mango may require applications of copper fungicide. See Avocado: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_avocado and Mango: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_mango

Citrus and other fruit trees: Fertilize now or in early March. Frequency and amount of fertilization depend on the age of the tree – generally 1 pound per year of age of the tree. Spread evenly under branch spread. Keep mulch, weeds and grass away from citrus trunks.

Check citrus trees for scab disease. Apply a copper fungicide when new leaves appear and again when two-thirds of the flower blossoms have fallen. See Home Citrus Culture: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_citrus_home_citrus_culture and Temperate Fruit for the Home Landscape: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_home_temperate_fruit

To Do Every Month

· Adjust irrigation based on rainfall.

· Deadhead flowers to encourage new blooms.

· Monitor garden weekly for insects and disease. Watch for scale insects, which seem to multiply at the same time new growth is maturing. Use soap and oil sprays when soft insects war detected (scales, white fly, spider mites, thrips, aphids, mealy bugs).· Mow lawns at recommended heights: • St. Augustine & Bahia: 3-4”, Centipede: 1.5-2.0”, Dwarf St. Augustine: 2.5”, Zoysia Grass see: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/lh011

Weed Control--

To stay ahead of weeds zap them while they’re young, before they flower and go to seed. Snapping the flower heads of weds without pulling them up as an easy Sally Scalera a way Spray weeds growing in cracks in driveways and sidewalks with full-strength white or cider vinegar. Aim for the center with a first shot and the base with a second to attack the roots.

Sprinkling baking soda or salt in the cracks is equally effective and eliminates the risk of vinegar spray damaging grass or other plants.

Baking soda applied generously to dampened crabgrass in the lawn will slowly kill it, but avoid the surrounding turf. Baking soda mixed with an equal amount of flour will discourage caterpillars from munching on leaves of collards, kale, cabbage and other plants. It will also control the spread of powdery mildew, which can affect many kinds of plants. Crape myrtle,

English ivy, cucurbits (squashes, melons, cucumbers, gourds) are especially susceptible. If you see grayish white patches on leaves remove them and then spray the plant with a mixture of: 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, and 1 tablespoon of baby shampoo in a gallon of water.

Time to Prune

When, the possibility of a freeze ends it’s time to prune, removing plants and parts of shrubs and trees that didn’t survive Irma’s wrath and this winter’s unusually cold weather. Prune summer or fall flowering shrubs (hibiscus, thryallis, plumbago, powderpuff, etc.) In late February or early March to promote flowering on new growth. Prune poinsettias back before setting into the landscape. To ensure blooming next winter make sure to plant them where they won’t receive any nocturnal light. Fertilize with ½ to 1 cup of 6-6-6. Also, apply one to two teaspoons of Epsom salts to supply magnesium.

This is an ideal time to assess the landscape with an eye to its visual appeal. Consider the following comment I read in the New York Times. “I’ve been inspired by it and wish I knew garden described below in a 1915 article:

“I once worked for a woman, a master gardener, who had spent her lifetime cultivating many acres of woods around her house. She created expansive perennial beds, alpine rock gardens full of different heathers, gorgeous and fragrant creeping groundcovers filling in her brick patio and along the perimeters were an amazing collection of flowering shrubs. Even the woods were full of columbines that she had naturalized over the years.

She had it planned that as one bloom was fading others were just beginning all summer long. The effect was like being in heaven. I can remember finding miniature toads no bigger than a fingernail as I searched for weeds to pull. but the thing that amazed me most was how she brought light into not just her gardens but the woods beyond.

She would carefully and strategically prune a branch here and there to create openings for sun and sky. She called these openings cathedral windows. It was an apt name. Besides bringing light she created little windows of distant views of mostly mountains and a river that flowed in the distance. The trees that she pruned were still vibrant and healthy. It was such a simple solution. Done right it can help the gardeners struggling with too much shade. “

Amaryllis Varieties and Care http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu/News%20columns/Amaryllis.htm

Christmas Cactus

It is important to provide the correct amount of water, fertilizer and rest at the right times during the year for successful Christmas cactus growing. Flowering also depends on the length of day and the surrounding temperatures. In February and March, the flowering should have ended and it is time for the plant to rest. Water lightly without letting the stems shrink.

Orchids – Why aren’t they spiking and blooming?

Many orchids bloom at this time of year. If yours are not spiking and blooming it may be because they are not getting enough bright, indirect light or have been over fertilized. Most orchids require a 15 to 20-degree F. difference between day and night temperatures to flower.

Tomatoes –gardener’s favorite fruit

My current favorite (only because it grows effortlessly and produces year ‘round is

The wild Everglades tomato (Solanum pimpinellifolium), an indeterminate plant also known as the currant tomato because of its small size. The sprawling tangle in the photo above is one plant! It’s a volunteer that appeared after Irma destroyed our hedge. Please let me know if you’d like seeds for this delicious little gem that stars as a snack and in salads and pasta.

Guidelines for nursery-grown seedlings

Growing tomatoes is a challenge for us here on the beach. Tomatoes from seed, except for cherry tomato varieties, should have been started in August. It’s not too late; however, to set out purchased seedlings

Growing tomatoes in pots is much easier than in our sandy, nematode-riddled soil.

Use the largest pots possible from 5-gallon, to 7 or 10-gallon containers. Make sure they have good drainage. Placing a thick layer of packing "peanuts" at the bottom of pots works very well and makes them lighter.

Use fresh nursery soil or a 'pro-mix' type soil that does not include fertilizer. Plant seedlings an inch or two deeper that the original soil depth.

Enrich the soil with manure ...composted manure or dry composted manure worked into the top 6 inches of the soil. Tomatoes need calcium to prevent blossom end rot. You can grind collected eggshells in a little water and then apply a little at the root zone.

For the first 50-60 days feed often with fish emulsion fertilizer. If you buy chemical fertilizers, select those formulated for vegetables. The University of Florida recommends spraying every week or so with Maxicrop (available at Ace Hardware), the liquid seaweed emulsion that contains micronutrients and helps plants stave off disease and insects.

Many tomato varieties suited for zone 10 are indeterminate, meaning, they are sprawling, vining plants that keep growing, some reaching 8, 10, even 12 feet. Make sure you have a good support system for them. Keep rangy indeterminate plants under control. Pruning and removing excess foliage stimulates better fruit growth. Pinch off the small shoots that grow between the main stem and the sturdy side branches. They will never produce flowers.

Observe your plants daily to make it easier to deal quickly with bugs and fungus, blights, and wilt. To keep disease at bay do not let the leaves get wet when watering.

Most important, choose tomatoes suited for our growing conditions. Look for varieties that have clues in the name like “sun,” “sol,” “heat”, or “Florida. Use the internet to investigate the following varieties: Celebrity, Big Beef, Early Girl, Sun Master, Anahu, Heatwave II, and Homestead 24. Tom McCubbin says Sweet Treat, Sweet Chelsea, Solid Gold, Champion, Big Beef and, Bella Rosa give him the most consistent and reliable production.


Peppers interbreed - Remember not to grow different kinds of peppers near each other.

Pepper Plant Spray: To help pepper plant blossoms set fruit add Epsom salts, which contain the magnesium pepper plants need to produce healthy peppers.

Peppers Like Matches: Peppers love slightly acidic soil so add a few matches to the planting hole before putting in a plant. Cover the matches with a thick layer of soil inserting the plant. It is important that the plant has access to the sulfur in the matches, but the roots should not have direct contact with the matches right away or they will be damaged.

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