Gardeners looking for color can select from three reliable favorites. Even when we are subject to frosts and freezes pansies, petunias and snapdragons are survivors. Whether you add them to baskets, pots or beds, they bring out the color in local landscapes.
One petunia set in the center of a hanging basket is going to fill in blooming in just a few weeks. Actually many come with blooms but they may take a little time off to produce winter growth. Then, these flowers can continue the color through spring. Here is a secret. As long as you can, do what we call dead heading. That is picking off the faded blooms so the plants do not go to seed. Then as they grow lanky stems, cut these back and you should see lots of new growth.
All three flowers grow well in containers or beds. Give them a little room so they can fill will new flowering shoots. Here is another secret. Keep them moist but not wet and apply a slow release fertilizer found at your local garden center. Follow the application rates listed on the label. One or two applications may be all you need to keep the plants in bloom through the months ahead.
Pansies and their relative violas, have one problem. They do not like hot weather so they fade away by early March. But the good news is, they are the most hardy of all winter flowers. Pansies make good cut flowers as do snapdragons. Using the blooms for decorations keeps more flowers coming.
Lawns are taking a break but not the weeds. If you have a pretty much weed free lawn you can relax and only do an occasional mowing to even up the blades. If you have weeds, you may want to do some spot weed control using one of the liquids made for your lawn type. Note any temperature restrictions and apply the product according to the label. The time for weed and feeds is over until late February or early March.
Winter is a good time to fill in bare spots in especially St. Augustine lawns. If the weather is warmish, these lawns can continue to grow. Use sod or plugs to fill in the bare spots or areas where weeds are growing and need to be removed. The new grass should root down quickly and help complete the lawn by spring. If growth slows, apply a light application of lawn fertilizer.
Winter resistant plants can be added to the landscape at this time of the year. You may need a new cluster of shrubs or replace one or more that have declined. Some of my go to plants are dwarf yaupon hollies, loropetalum Plum, dwarf bottle brush Little John, Indian hawthorn, dwarf camellias and dwarf powderpuff. Many can be planted from containers to their new site while the weather is less stressful for you and the plants. Now is a good time to also add hardy trees where you need shade plus perennials in flower beds.
Some planting tips include making sure the root balls are moist and the plants are not pot bound. If the root balls are dry at planting, they are hard to rewet and may decline. If the root systems are tightly interwoven, the plants may be slow to grow or they may never send a good roots system out into the surrounding soil. When root systems are dry soak them in a bucket or tub of water. If they are root-bound, scrape off the outer layer of roots. When planted keep the soil moist by hand watering for at least several months.
- Lawns have a good green look but need water during the drier months ahead.
- Operating a sprinkler systems is limited to once a week in most areas.
- Dry spots can be moistened as needed with a hand-held hose where permitted.
- Repair bare spots left from piles of hurricane debris with sod or plugs.
- Fall is a good time to install new lawns or patch large areas due to weeds or insects.
- Feeding time is over but iron or minor nutrients can be applied to keep the lawns green.
- Brown or large patch has been spotted in St. Augustine & zoysia; control with a fungicide.
- Use chemical weed controls for patches of weeds that cannot be controlled by mowing.
- Mowing can be reduced to every other week in most landscapes.
- Over seeding with ryegrass is normally not needed except for a temporary winter lawn.
- Warm season crops may linger through fall due to late plantings.
- If crops stop producing or are affected by cold replant with the cool season crops.
- Soils were compacted by torrential rains; loosen and add organic matter before replanting.
- Small but successive vegetable plantings guarantee continual harvests.
- Tomatoes, peppers & eggplants stop producing during cool weather; replant in March.
- Continue herb plantings in ground or in containers; they love the cool weather.
- Harvest herbs frequently to encourage fresh growth; preserve or share extras.
- Caterpillars and mites are frequent fall pests; control with natural sprays.
- Start seeds of the cool season crops as needed to have transplants available.
- Trellis peas and similar vining crops to harvest the most from garden plots.
- Gardeners with limited space can grow their favorite vegetables in large containers.
- Use clean containers and fresh potting soil to reduce pests and encourage growth.
- Feed vegetable gardens every 3 to 4 weeks with composted manure or a general fertilizer.
- Feed container plantings every other week or use a slow release fertilizer as labeled.
- Delay deciduous fruit tree prunings until next month; citrus pruning until mid February.
- Lots of twigs are hanging in trees; remove or let them gradually fall.
- Remove large limbs that may fall to damage property or injure residents and visitors.
- Wood chips from fallen trees are best added to compost piles to decompose before use.
- Thick layers of fresh wood chips bind up nutrients that inhibit plant growth.
- Fresh wood chips can be used as walkways and once decomposed in planting sites.
- Fall and winter are a good times to replace lost trees.
- Replant with a majority of hurricane proof trees and shrubs.
- Shrubs heavily damaged by wind and debris many need pruning to near the ground.
- Revive dreary looking landscape with cool season color.
- Consider fresh color combinations like pink petunias, dusty miller & snapdragons.
- Avoid planting the same flowers each year in the same spot to reduce pest problems.
- Incorporate organic matter with older annual beds and sandy soils to encourage plant vigor.
- Add holiday poinsettias to the landscape in their pots to easily remove during extreme cold.
- Fertilize annual flowers monthly or use a slow release fertilizer as labeled.
- Apply a slow release fertilizer to container plantings for a winter feeding.
- Pruning time is over for most plants; out of bounds shoots can be removed as needed.
- Feeding time is over for all trees, shrubs and vines.
- Water new plantings plus annuals and perennials frequently to keep the soil moist.
- Divide and replant perennials.
- Move container grown plants in landscapes, susceptible to cold, to a warmer location
- Remove yellow leaves from plants already affected by cold and give a warm spot to regrow.
- Look for poinsettia selections with new bact colors to display in the home.
- Give holiday plants a cool bright location away from air vents.
- Over watering Christmas & holiday cactus can cause them to rot; wait until the surface dries.
- Delay fertilizing holiday and foliage plants until the warmer weather returns in late winter.
Vegetables: Beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards, horseradish, lettuce, mustard, onions, peas, radicchio, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips.
Flowers: Alyssum, baby's breath, bacopa, begonia, bush daisy, calendula, California poppy, candytuft, carnation, chrysanthemums, delphinium, dianthus, dusty miller, foxglove, geranium, goddetia, hollyhock, Iceland poppy, licorice plant, lobelia, million bells, ornamental cabbage & kale, pansy, petunia, salvia, shasta daisy, snapdragon, statice, stock, sweet pea, verbena and viola.
Herbs: Anise, arugula, basil, bay, chives, cilantro, coriander, dill, fennel, garlic, lavender, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, sweet marjoram, thyme and watercress.
Bulbs: African iris, amaryllis, anemones, bulbine, crinum, day lily, paper white narcissus, ranunculus, society garlic, spider lilies, rain lilies; refrigerate for future planting - Dutch iris, tulips, daffodils and hyacinths.