Gardeners arriving from other areas of the county are sure to wonder what is different about Florida. Do you follow the same garden rules as you did back home or do you need to do gardening a bit differently?
One thing you are sure to notice is there is now sand in your shoes. Yes our major soil is sand. Even our State soil is a white fine sand. Just like you did with the clay soils and other poorer soils back home, add lots of organic matter. This helps build better soil structure and regulates nutrient availability.
Now, the next thing you might notice is our planting dates may be a bit different. We can grow something to eat or enjoy in bloom year-round. But the time to add each to the landscape or garden may be a lot different. For example, instead of planting tomatoes in late spring we add them to the garden in late winter and late summer. Also, we grow cabbages, broccoli and collards during the winter. You are sure to need a planting guide for Florida to stay on schedule.
Following is my list of ten differences you are likely to notice about Florida. The sooner you familiarize yourself with each of these the more successful you will be as a Florida gardener.
- Most of us are growing plants in sand
- Planting dates are different for most vegetables and flowers
- We can grow something to eat outdoors year-round
- Most of our rain arrives during the summer
- Lilacs, forsythia and most bulbs that need a chill do not grow here
- Much of Florida can grow the tropical fruits and flowers
- We can grow palms throughout the state
- The most prominent grass is St. Augustine
- Much of the state still gets occasional periods of cold - even frost or freezes
- Foliage plants plus orchids and bromeliads are commonly used in landscapes.
- Hurry to plant the warm season vegetables so they mature before cold weather.
- Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants should be the first crops planted.
- Caterpillars and leaf miners have been affecting young transplants; control with natural sprays.
- Improve sandy soils with lots of organic matter.
- Clear weeds from garden sites and till compacted soils prior to planting.
- Remove plastic covers from solarization treatments and plant without tilling.
- Keep new plantings and seedlings moist; water older plantings when the soil begins to dry.
- Apply a first feeding 2 weeks after adding transplants or seed germination.
- Only allow healthy older tomato plants to grow from spring into the fall.
- Rejuvenate herb gardens in late September and add fresh fall plantings.
- Harvest sweet potatoes when the ground swells with thick roots at the base of the plants.
- Provide trellises for tomatoes, cucumbers and similar growing crops.
- Use mulches to conserve water, control weeds and keep soil off leafy crops.
- Remove side shoots to root from pineapple plants to increase the planting.
- Add vegetables and herbs to containers for patio and balcony gardens.
- Clean containers and start with fresh potting soil each season.
- Use large containers for the taller growing crops including tomatoes.
- Keep container grown tomatoes uniformly moist to avoid blossom-end rot.
- Most lawns flourished with the help of summer rains; begin fall care at month's end.
- Check local ordinances to determine when lawn feedings can begin.
- Fall lawn feedings begin in late September where permitted.
- Regreen lawns with a hungry look, with an iron or minor nutrient product until feeding time.
- Patch pest damaged or weedy areas with new sod, plugs or seed.
- Grassy weeds are hard to control; often it's best to remove the weeds and add sod.
- Complete seeding of bahia turf in early September.
- Begin sodding lightly shady areas when drier weather returns.
- Sod webworms may continue feeding; treat lawns only when chewing damage is noted.
- Chinch bugs usually continue into fall; treat at first sign of turf decline.
- Fire ants are frequently found in lawns; spot treat mounds then treat the entire lawn.
- Test your soil acidity and adjust as needed.
- Begin fall weed control treatments at the end of the month.
- Continue mowing at recommended heights but periodically change mowing patterns.
- Fill declining heavily shaded turf areas with an ornamental ground cover or mulch.
In the landscape:
- Trees & shrubs may have grown out of bounds; start end of summer pruning.
- Prune declining fronds and flower stems from palms but leave the green.
- Sterilize pruners between cuts when trimming palms with possible diseases.
- Avoid planting palms with prevalent disease problems.
- Weeds have made good growth too; hand pull or spot treat with herbicides.
- Edge beds and walkways to keep the landscape attractive.
- Remove declining annuals and perennials; replant with a warm season selection.
- Caladiums may start to decline this month; remove declining portions as needed.
- Scale insects, mealy bugs and aphids have been active; control as needed.
- Sooty mold grows on the excreta of insects; control both with a horticultural oil spray.
- Check container plantings for plugged drainage holes; repot as needed.
- Cool season flowers may arrive at garden centers; wait at least another month to plant.
- Groom perennials to remove old flower heads and out of control shoots
- Reduce root rot and similar problems at planting by adding new soil to container gardens.
- Till flower beds and add organic matter or garden soils to sandy sites.
- Consider using more long-lived perennials to reduce landscape costs.
- Chrysanthemums make attractive fall flowers but they only last a few weeks in the heat.
- Give poinsettias a final pruning in early September; continue feedings.
- Renew mulch layers with top-dressings as needed.
- Divide perennials and replant in the garden.
- Feed palms through October or use a slow release fertilizer 3 to 4 times a year.
- Begin late September shrub and perennial feedings for fall.
House & foliage plant care:
- Flowering orchids make good indoor displays; move outdoors to the shade after flowering.
- Groom foliage plants growing outdoors to prepare them for the move indoors.
- Control pests including scale, mealybugs, thrips and mites with natural sprays.
- Gradually reduce feedings and waterings of Christmas and holiday cactus for fall.
- Decide which plants to bring indoors for the cooler months.
- Transplant foliage plants needing new containers to prepare for cooler fall weather.
- Feed foliage plants monthly or use a slow release fertilizer according to the label.
- Make cuttings to increase the foliage plant collection.
- Replace declining plants with new selections for fall.
- Obtain amaryllis and paper white narcissus bulbs for fall forcing.
Flowers: Ageratum, angelonia, begonia, blue daze, butterfly weed, cat's whiskers, celosia,
cleome, coleus, coreopsis, cosmos, garden mums, gaura, gazania, gerbera, goldenrod,
gomphrena, heliotrope, impatiens, jacobinia, lantana, marigold, melampodium, nicotiana,
pentas, periwinkle, ruellia, salvia, sunflower, sweet alyssum, torenia, verbena and zinnia
Vegetables: Early plantings include lima bean, snap bean, corn, cucumber, eggplant,
pepper, southern pea, rhubarb, squash, and tomato; End of the month crops include broccoli,
cabbage, celery, collard, endive, lettuce, mustard, onion, radish, strawberry and turnip
Herbs: Anise, basil, bay laurel, borage, chives, coriander, dill, lemon balm, lavender, Mexican
tarragon, mint, parsley, rosemary, sage, sweet fennel, sweet marjoram and thyme.
Bulbs: African iris, agapanthus, amaryllis, blackberry lily, bulbine, calla lily, crinum,
crocosmia, day lily, gladiolus, kaffir lily, narcissus, society garlic, spider lily, rain lilies and