January is full out gardening season in this part of Florida. An occasional cold front will blow through dropping the temperatures briefly, but veggie gardens are growing fast, and winter flowers brighten the day. Trees and shrubs are still growing, and they and the lawn need attention. Here are a few tips, tricks, suggestions, and busted myths for consideration.
Even though cooler weather has reduced the population of pests in yards and gardens, there are many that can and will cause damage. Vegetables are rapidly growing this time of year and have tender, susceptible new leaves and fruit. Pest scouting is an activity worth the time.
When working in the garden or taking an afternoon stroll, pause a moment to turn over a leave or two, take note of changes in leaf color and growth and use the every-present phone camera to record changes. Some of the pests to keep an eye open for include corn ear worms, tomato horn worms, aphids, leaf miners, squash
Bugs, and cabbage worms dining on your veggies. Whiteflies, scale, and mealybugs as well as aphids and leafminers are possible on landscape plants.
The turf is growing even though the weather is cool, mowing is still required. Use sharp blades and mow so to remove no more than 1/3 of leaf height. In other words, when maintaining St Augustine grass at 3 ½ – 4 inches high, which is a must do, mow when it is 4 ½ to 5 inches tall, this is usually every 2 -3 weeks in the winter.
Avoid pruning trees and shrubs this time of year unless absolutely necessary. Pruning forces new growth which is tender and soft. If a strong cold front pushes through bringing with it frost or freezing temperatures, new growth will be more susceptible to damage from the low temperatures.
A thick layer of organic mulch applied to the complete root zone of trees and shrubs (at least 1.5 to 3 times the width of the canopy) will help keep roots toasty. Mulch moderates the soil temperature and can re-radiate warmth on a cold night. On a very cold night, mulch can be placed over the plant and piled against the truck; however, this mulch must be removed as soon as the cold weather passes to prevent damage to the plant.
Annuals to plant for color during the cool months include alyssum, baby’s breath, bachelor’s button, calendula, carnation, candytuft, cleome, dianthus, dusty miller, forget-me-not, geranium, lobelia, nasturtium, nicotiana, ornamental cabbage and kale, petunia, scabiosa, snapdragon and stock.
Get out and plant a few veggies and flowers, it good for the body and the soul.
This column first appeared in the Treasure Coast Newspapers.