December is a good month to add or transplant trees, shrubs and other plants and to divide perennials. You can add new cold tolerant fruits to the landscape but delay tropical fruit plantings until spring. Because of the cool weather, water loss through foliage will be low and above ground new growth minimal. This is a good time to plant herbs and most vegetable starts and start flower transplants.
The days are warm and sunny; but as you know a sudden cold front can sweep in and wreak havoc on the landscape if you haven’t taken the precautions listed below.
WHAT TO PLANT
Annuals/Bedding plants: To add color to the winter garden, plant masses of petunia, pansy, and snapdragon. Hardy annuals that will provide color include alyssum, calendula, cleome, dianthus, pansy, petunia, phlox, salvia, snapdragon and verbena. Remove faded blooms to extend flowering. See Annuals
Bulbs: Amaryllis is a popular plant for the holiday season. After they bloom you can plant them in the garden where they should bloom and multiply. See Bulbs for Florida
Herbs: Herbs that thrive in cool weather include parsley, thyme, sage, dill, fennel, and cilantro. See Herbs
Vegetables: Cool-season veggies include celery, cauliflower, lettuce, cabbage, and carrot. See Vegetable Gardening in Florida
WHAT TO DO
Soil Testing - Have you had your soil tested lately? Before spending money on new plants, fertilizer, or amendments test your soil so you can make informed decisions about planting. See more here
IFAS Soil Testing Information
Turf - Shorter days, cooler temperatures, and less rain allow lawns can be cut every other week and watered once a week. The grass isn’t actively growing and can’t take up nutrients so there is no need to fertilize. In fact, fertilizing in winter can lead to nutrients leaching into the nearest waterbody. An application of iron or a minor nutrient spray will green up yellowing turf areas.
Plant Ground Cover It’s time to replant hard-to-mow and shady areas with Florida Friendly ground covers.
Consider rooting sweet potato vines for ground cover in sunny areas. All you need is a healthy sweet potato, toothpicks, water and a jar. Stick toothpicks into a tuber about 1/3 of the way down from the end with the stem scar. Suspend the tuber in a jar so about half is underwater. Change water as needed. Sprouts will appear in a few weeks. Break them off and pot them when they reach a length of 2 to 3 inches. They will take root and the potato will make new sprouts so by spring you’ll have a good supply of young sweet potato seedlings to use as ground cover.
Continue fertilizing hardy annuals and container grown plants monthly. Discontinue fertilizing other outdoor plants except vegetables.
Delay any major pruning until after winter except for deciduous trees and shrubs, which can be pruned after they drop all their leaves. Renew mulch to conserve water and control weeds.