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Tom's Monthly Gotta-Do's


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Gardeners are hearing lots of new buzz words these days. Some like sustainability, going green, organic and eco-friendly are being tossed about by anyone who wants to join the environmental movement. But you know, I think gardeners for the most part have always been caretakers of the environment.

Just growing plants that purify the air and reduce run off is a big help to the environment. And what gardener doesn’t know about compost? Many of us have made compost and others obtain this ‘brown gold’ from their local county recycling facility - often it’s for free. Also what would a garden be without manure? It’s a recycled nutrient supply most of us think of first when preparing soils for planting.

Most gardeners are also now going the next step in becoming good environmental stewards by conserving water to protect this valuable resource. Who thought Florida, known as the land of flowers, would ever be running out of usable water? But we are – and it’s now time to select plants that need less water and refine our irrigation techniques.

Now is the time to develop landscape plans that include drought tolerant turf, trees, shrubs and flowers. Most landscapes already have lots of these so take the time to learn their real water needs and then adjust your irrigation schedules.

Even St. Augustine lawns that have been called ‘water hogs’ can be trained to use less water. Use the spring months to help this and other grasses develop a deep root system by watering only when the leaf blades start to curl and show signs of drought. Then water enough to provide one-half to three-quarters inch of moisture. Most well trained lawns can go a week or more without water. Trees and shrubs can usually go much longer without irrigation.

Now is the time to get your landscape ready for the good growing months ahead. Check my Gotta Do’s list to what else you might be doing to keep our environment green and beautiful. Also, plan to raise a few fresh from the garden things to eat.


Tom's Gotta Do's for March, 2017:

Lawn care:

- Most lawns show little winter damage, have stared to grow and are ready for spring care.
- Rake out the brown blades as needed or wait until spring growth regreens the lawn.
- St. Augustine, bahia and bermuda lawns are ready for spring feedings.
- Delay feedings of centipede and zoysia lawns until April when they begin growth.
- Weed and feeds can be substituted for normal feedings; apply when the grass is growing.
- Weed control only products for your lawn type can be used if only fertilizer was applied.
- Crabgrass has started growth; use of a preemergence for control may be of little value.
- Hurry to remove patches of brown weeds or surviving crabgrass and resod these areas.
- Have persistent weeds identified to determine the best control.
- Mow lawns at their normal height; there is no need to change blade height for spring.
- Due to the warm winter, chinch bugs may get an early start; apply an insecticide as needed.
- Fire ants are active; use an insecticide to treat the entire lawn following label instructions.
- It’s seeding time for bahia and centipede lawns.
- New watering rules begin March 12 with the arrival of daylight-saving time in most areas.

In the landscape:

- A mild winter means plants are starting growth early; begin your spring gardening soon.
- Complete needed pruning: trim or remove unwanted limbs before growth begins.
- Trim declining fronds and old flower stems from palms but leave the green.
- Do wait to prune spring flowering shrubs until the blossoms fade.
- Prune camellias and azaleas as soon as flowering is over.
- Give climbing roses a light trimming to remove out of bounds portions after spring bloom.
- Prepare flower beds for new plantings; add lots of organic matter to sandy soils.
- Both warm and cool season flowers can be planted but it is too late for pansies.
- Check the bulb displays; many are Florida favorites that make great landscape additions.
- Add trees, palms, shrubs and vines to the landscape.
- Water new plantings frequently until they grow roots into the surrounding soils.
- A warm winter has kept the weeds growing; control now before they become too plentiful.
- Renew mulch layers and consider use of a preemergence herbicide to prevent weeds.
- Trim poinsettias to within 12- to 18-inches of the soil and begin feedings.
- Apply a spring slow release fertilizer feeding to palms, shrubs and perennials.
- Established shade and flowering trees normally do not need special feedings.
- Warm winter weather kept the insects active; check regularly for pests.
- Divide and replant perennials.
- Trim and divide ornamental grasses before they begin spring growth.
- Divide outdoor orchids and begin every other week feedings with a fertilizer solution
- Feed container gardens with a slow release fertilizer following label instructions.

Vegetable and fruit care:

- Gardeners who don’t mind a little risk plant tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, March 1.
- Still, winter is not over until mid months so keep covers handy for cold protection.
- The mild winter let some warm season crop survive; these may grow your next spring crops.
- Devote most of your garden to new warm season crops.
- Rework old gardens by tilling in lots of organic matter with sandy soils.
- Beat nematodes by removing some of the soil in infested sites and add fresh potting soil.
- Plant short rows of seeded crops every few weeks to extend the harvest season.
- Use bush forming crops instead of vining types in crowded gardens.
- Herbs flourish during the warmish weather; almost all do well now.
- Spring is a good time to add fruiting trees and shrubs; make sure they are local varieties.
- Have your soil tested for blueberry plantings; they need a very acid soil.
- Complete all deciduous fruit tree pruning and learn how to thin the peach crop.
- Learn the type of grapes you are growing to obtain proper pruning and care information.
- Pineapples start flowering this month; maintain a good care program.
- Feed all fruit bearing trees, shrubs and vines at this time.
- Citrus needs special care: provide a spring feeding and a minor nutrient spray to new growth.
- Control Asian psyllids; apply an insecticide labeled for citrus at each flush of growth.
- Add a mulch to all but citrus plantings.
- Fertilize vegetables lightly every 2 to 3 weeks or use a slow release fertilizer.
- Train vining vegetables to a trellis to save space.
- Sprout sweet potatoes to produce transplants.

Foliage & indoor plants chores:

- Some outdoor foliage plants may have been affected by cold; trim and increase care.
- When the weather warms begin reviving foliage plants by moving them outside.
- Gift plants of orchids and bromeliads would love a spot outdoors under a tree.
- Trim Christmas and holiday cactus then begin more frequent waterings and feedings.
- Repot plants filling their containers with roots.
- Consider a systemic insecticide labeled for soil application to treat severe pest problems.

March 2017 Plantings

Flowers: African daisy, ageratum, alyssum, bacopa, balsam, begonia, black-eyed Susan, blue daze, bush-daisy, celosia, cleome, coreopsis, cosmos, dahlia, dahlberg daisy, diascia, dusty miller, four o'clock, gaillardia, geranium, goldenrod, impatiens, Joseph's coat, licorice plant, marigold, melampodium, million bells, moon vine, morning glory, nierembergia, salvia, strawflower, torenia, verbena, vinca and zinnia.

Vegetables: Bean, calabaza, cantaloupe, cassava, chayote, corn, cucumbers, dasheen, eggplant, Jerusalem artichoke, jicama, luffa, malanga, New Zealand spinach, okra, pepper, pumpkin, southern peas, squash, tamarillo, tomato, and watermelon.

Herbs: Anise, basil, bay laurel, borage, cardamon, chervil, chives, coriander, costmary, dill, fennel, ginger, lemon balm, sweet marjoram, Mexican tarragon, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme and watercress.

Bulbs: Achimenes, African iris, African-lily, amaryllis, blood lily, bulbine, caladium, canna, crinum, crocosmia, dahlia, daylily, eucharis lily, gingers, gladiolus, gloriosa lily, Louisiana iris, rain lily, tuberose and walking iris.

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