March in the garden
Spring weather is fickle. Last year at this time we had unseasonable amounts of rain. This year it’s unusually hot, windy, and dry. But wet or dry at this time of year our gardens burst forth with new growth. So, get out and get to work!
By now, you should have seeds started, seedlings set out, trees and shrubs pruned and your tools honed and cleaned. If you haven’t fertilized, do so now. Spray foliage of vegetables and fruit trees with a weekly solution of Maxicrop. As you enjoy spring days in the garden, tending to established plantings and introducing new treasures use your judgment and keep your fingers crossed. And for instant gratification there are always the flats of spring annuals that please the eye and gladden the heart.
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 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), potassium (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 climate. If you contact me I can get a soil kit from the Extension Office for you.
Vegetables grow best in a slightly acid soil with a pH between 5.8 and 6.3. Never add lime without first knowing the soil pH. To collect soil for a pH sample, use a garden trowel to take a slice of soil about 6 inches deep from 10 to 12 spots in the garden, mix together, air dry, and place two cups of soil in a container.
WHAT TO PLANT
Annuals: Replace declining winter annuals with varieties such as angelonia, gazania, and salvia that will provide color now and into the summer months. Consider heat resistant annuals such as gazania, Crossandra, zinnia, and melampodium that will bloom until fall. See: Gardening with Annuals in Florida. You can also plant shorter-lived alyssum, dianthus, pansy, petunia, Johnny-jump-up, phlox, stock, flowering kale, and snapdragons.
Bulbs: Plant caladiums 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 in the Florida Garden. Varieties to plant now include basil, comfrey, chervil, chives, dill, fennel, parsley, sweet marjoram, mint, sage, and thyme.
Vegetables: Plant warm-season crops, such as cucumber, eggplant, watermelon, summer squash, pumpkin (calabaza), watermelon, peanuts, and sweet potatoes. Southern peas such as purple hulls, crowders, cream peas and blackeye peas produce abundant crops during the summer. Bell peppers don’t do well in the summer but hot peppers and sweet peppers like Sweet Banana, Gypsy, and Pimento flourish in the heat. Seedlings of cherry tomatoes and a few heat-resistant varieties can still be set out but don’t expect great results.
WHAT TO DO
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.
Revive Your Lawn
Early spring is when fungal diseases show up on lawns. This year with damp weather and moderate temperatures turf is particularly susceptible. In summer the surrounding lawn may grow, filling in the dead patches, but if the disease isn't controlled, the problem will return again in fall.
The best way to prevent fungal disease is to care for your lawn properly, since incorrect watering, mowing, or fertilizing practices all make your grass more susceptible to disease.
Lawn Diseases – a Guide
Managing Fungus Problems – a Guide
Watering St, Augustine Lawns – a Guide
St- Augustine grass – Excellent information on the turf grass most of us have. (http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/lawns/turf-types/st-augustinegrass.html)
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 new buds set. See: Pruning Landscape Trees and Shrubs
Palms and shrubs: Fertilize palms and any other ornamentals not fertilized last month. See: Fertilization and Irrigation Needs for Florida Lawns and Landscapes, Soil Test Information Sheet, and Fertilization of Field-grown and Landscape Palms in Florida
Irrigation: Check sprinkler systems for efficient water use. See: How to Calibrate Your Sprinkler System
Citrus - Fertilize citrus trees starting this month. Use an 8-8-8 citrus fertilizer with minor elements. These days very few fertilizers contain the essential minor elements. Your best bet is to use a really good palm fertilizer such as a Lesco product. Mature trees can have up to about six pounds of fertilizer broadcast under the branches and out about ten feet or so. Remember, for citrus to produce excellent fruit, they must be regularly fertilized and deeply watered every 7-10 days (with one inch of water) in the event of no rain.
Maxicrop Liquid Seaweed –is great stuff; an emulsion made from seaweed harvested off Norway’s 12,500 mile coastline, where mineral-rich mountain waters, the Gulf Stream and Artic waters come together to produce the perfect conditions to grow Ascophyllum nodosum seaweed. It is not a fertilizer but a mineral rich supplement that supplies plants with the micronutrients lacking in our sandy Florida soil. Most Ace hardware stores have it or buy it online. Spray it every other week on citrus and fruit trees, vegetables, and any plants that need a boost.
Citrus Information http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/edibles/fruits/citrus.html
Citrus Greening Update – Good News! Working together researchers in Brazil and California have identified a molecule that attracts the Asian citrus psyllid, the insect carrying the pathogen that infects citrus trees with lethal greening disease. Within a year or so they expect to have a synthetic chemical substance to use as a trap the insects. And University of Florida researchers have isolated a small protein found in a second bacterium living in the insects that helps bacteria causing citrus greening to thrive and spread. Their goal is to develop a spray that would kill this bacterium. It may be too late for the citrus industry in our state where almost 100% of mature trees have been infected, but it will be a tremendous boon for Brazil and for dooryard citrus tree-lovers everywhere.