Even though plants in Central Florida stay green during the winter, they are still dormant. Many plants
will grow very slowly or not at all during our coolest months. You will find that grass will not need to be mowed but
every two to three weeks and will require less water. Watering every two weeks is sufficient. Grass that is allowed
to grow a bit taller is less likely to suffer damage if there is a heavy frost or freeze. Fertilizer should not be applied
during the winter months either.
Many culinary herbs thrive in Florida's cool winter weather.
Some to try are parsley, thyme, sage, dill, fennel, garlic chives, rosemary, and coriander (cilantro). Herbs prefer
well drained soil and not much fertilizer. Try growing them in large pots close to the door near your kitchen so that
they are conveniently available when you are cooking. Some of you, like me, would love to grow lavender. You can
sometimes find lavender plants already in bloom and they will grow quite well during the winter and spring months. But,
it is best treated like an annual plant because once the hot, humid summer arrives, along with lots of rain, it will succumb
to fungal diseases and should be discarded. For mor information, access Herbs in the Florida Garden on
the internet at : http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh020
You still have time to grow some vegetables in pots this winter. I have a tomato, sweet
pepper and some herbs growing on my pool deck inside the screen to protect them from deer and other critters. Consult
the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide at: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh021 for planting dates and varieties suitable for our climate.
It is easy to
forget that cold weather might be just around the corner. See my earlier post for cold protection information or access
Cold Protection of Ornamental Plants at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MG025
Winter and spring annuals make a colorful addition to the winter landscape. Pansies, petunias,
sweet alyssum, snapdragons, million bells and pinks are a few nice ones to use in flower beds or in baskets and containers.
All of these will survive forsts or freezes and keep on blooming. Other annuals that are a bit more sensitive
to frost, but are good to plant now are impatiens, geranium, and begonias. Remember that impatiens are deer candy, so
they are best kept in containers out of the reach of hungry deer. If you can find plants of fox glove and/or delphinium,
they can add a tall punch to either large containers or flower beds. To keep all of these plant blooming into spring,
remove spent blooms periodically, and provide a light application of slow release fertliizer at planting and then every two
Citrus fruit must be fully ripe when
harvested since the sweetening process stops once the fruit isis picked. Many varieties of citrus have a long season
in which they can be left on the tree and gathered as needed, usually about three months. After this time, if the fruit
is left on the tree, the quality declines as the fruit dries out.
Near freezing temperatures are predicted for Pinellas County, FL this coming Monday
and Tuesday nights (January 6 & 7). Frost and freezes are always possible in January and early February. Protecting
tender plants is advised. Watch the weather reports for more temperature information.
Common plants which require protection in home landscapes are copperleaf, banana, papaya, poinsettia, hibiscus, ixora,
dwarf schefflera, croton, allamanda, sea grape, bromeliads, tropical fruit trees or any other tropical or semi-tropical plant
you might have outside. Orchids should be brought into the house or garage for protection. Remember that tomato
and pepper plants are also sensitive to cold.
Covers offer the most
practical cold protection. Old sheets, blankets, boxes , newspaper or plastic can be used. When using plastic,
build a frame over the plant so that the plastic does not touch the plant's foliage. Any covering should continue to
the ground. This will trap heat rising from the ground and keep the interior three to four degrees warmer than the outside
air. Apply the cover late in the afternoon while the soil is at the warmest and before the temperature starts to drop.
Plastic covers should be removed the next morning after the temperature is above freezing, but before the sun's rays
become warm enough to cook your plants. Cloth or paper coverings can remain over plants for two or three days if more
frost is predicted. Covers might not effectively protect plants if temperatures fall below 30 degrees for several hours
or more. Watering landscape plants before a freeze can help protect plants. Well watered
soil can absorb more heat from the sun than dry soil. Additional information can be obtained from the University of
Florida on the internet at: http://indian.ifas.ufl.edu/hort/Cold_Protection_Orn_Plants.pdf