In the Garden -

What to Do

Be Prepared – A frost is still possible

Until the recent spate of cold, windy, rainy days we have enjoyed a very mild winter. The prolific early blooming of area mango trees testifies to how warm it has been. However, February is usually our coldest month so it might be wise to be prepared and have a frost

blanket or two handy in case of a severe cold snap.

The weather is far less predictable than it used to be. Consider that the thermometer at Miami International Airport read 41 degrees on January 22nd; the lowest mark since December 28, 2010. Factoring in the wind chill, parts of the metro area felt as cold as 23 degrees that morning. If that can happen in Miami, following one of the hottest summers ever recorded in South Florida, who knows what can happen here. At least we’d be spared cold-stunned iguanas showering down from the trees.

Water plants thoroughly the day before a frost is predicted. Pull mulch away from plants so warmth from the ground can mitigate the cold air. It’s a good idea to use a frost blanket on your most tender plants. Walmart and Amazon offer reasonably priced frost protection cover kits by Planket. They come in a variety of sizes and are durable, lightweight, allow plants to breathe and can be fastened to the ground. AgFabric is another good product available through Walmart.

Plant a Tree

This is a good time to add a tree to your landscape because the roots can develop before the drier spring months. For best results select a tree suitable for your landscape, buy the tree from a reputable nursery, plant it correctly and pay close attention to it until it is well-established.

How to Select a Tree suited to Your Site

How to Buy a Quality Tree

It’s Pruning Time

When, the possibility of a freeze ends it’s time to prune, removing terminally unhealthy plants and dead parts of shrubs and trees. This year hibiscus and other flowering perennials, including thryallis and Plumbago, which normally bloom in summer and fall continued to bloom through the winter so wait until February or early March and cut back 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.

The best time to prune bougainvillea is in late winter or early spring after it flowers, or at the start of the rainy season. If you wait until late summer or early fall, the plant may produce fewer flowers during the following winter. Wear long sleeves and protective gloves!

Always disinfect pruning shears and all gardening tools. Use 70-100% ethanol or isopropyl alcohol. It is more effective than many other products, not corrosive, immediately effective and you don’t have to wipe it off. Avoid disinfectants, pine oil and chlorine bleach.

Nourish and Protect Plants

Insects and disease affect plants that are in distress so nurture your plants. Spray vegetables, fruit trees, and all your most loved shrubs and plants with a seaweed formula like Maxicrop. Ideally, spray at least once every two weeks. In the case of tall trees like mango and avocado use a hose end sprayer to cover the lower foliage. The tree will transport the micronutrients throughout the tree. Look into using worm castings and purchase products with beneficial microbes.

HGT Supply, 2975 West New Haven avenue in West Melbourne in the Minton Corners Shopping Plaza, is a great place for getting information and products for organic gardening.On Tuesdays you can take a gallon milk jug and they’ll give you free compost tea. This a liquid, nutritionally rich, well-balanced, organic supplement made by steeping aged compost in water. You can dilute it or use full strength as a foliar spray or drench.

Lawns: Lawns: Apply a pre-emergent weed killer (not a "weed and feed") to lawns late this month to prevent germination of warm-season seeds. Apply when temperatures rise to 65°F for 4–5 days. Timing is important for good control. See Lawn Weeds:

Fertilize lawn grasses to improve color or coverage. Choose a fertilizer (again not a "weed and feed"). A fertilizer with controlled-release nitrogen provides longer-lasting results. By law most fertilizers in Florida do not have phosphorus so the bags will have 0 as the middle number. This is to protect the Indian River Lagoon from pollution.

See Lawn Fertilizer:

Annuals/Bedding plants Rejuvenate ragged flower beds 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 an organic fertilizer. Don’t let plants wilt frequently since water-stressed plants shed their flowers and are more susceptible to infestation by thrips and spider mites. Reduce the chance of fungal diseases by keeping plant foliage as dry as possible. Use drip irrigation in flower beds and allow ample spacing between plants to encourage good air circulation and drying of foliage.

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:

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. Unfortunately, there is no good organic palm fertilizer. See Palm Nutrition and Fertilization:

Avocados and mangos: Disease-susceptible varieties of avocado and mango may require applications of copper fungicide.

Citrus: Fertilize now if not done in January. Frequency and amount of fertilization depend on the age of the tree. See Home Citrus Culture:

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