Tips for Florida Gardeners throughout the Year Part two: The cool months: October to March

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Yes, it does get cool in Florida and even sometimes cold, as low as freezing. Over the years there have been many frozen citrus crops and grass that turns completely brown. While the number of cold days may be few, the overall cooler season still makes for some changes in Florida gardens. Here are some tips for gardening during those colder months:

Lawns: October is the last month to fertilize until March. Weed killer can be used sparingly through mid-December. Gradually drop watering to no more than twice a week by February and water in the morning, so the grass dries quickly. Watch carefully during the cool months that the lawn doesn’t stay wet as too much water promotes disease. As the weather isn’t cold long enough to kill insects you will need to keep an eye out for mole crickets, white grubs, and cinch bugs. In the fall months caterpillars can also be a problem. The grass will not need to be cut from mid-November to March. February is a good time for new sod.

Palms: Finish your fall fertilizing in October and don’t feed again until late February. Insects and disease can continue to be a problem all through the cool months so keep an eye out for them and treat them right away. Date and Queen palms are susceptible to manganese deficiency. Plant new palms in March and expect to begin to see rapid growth. High winds and storms will usually not adversely affect palms as they are designed to move with the wind and shake off the rain. However, should there be damaged fronds, remove them promptly.

 Ornamentals: Cooler weather is probably the hardest on ornamentals. As fall comes, the annual summer flowers begin to fade away. There are, however, many lovely ornamentals which can be planted in the fall, and if the winter does not get too cold, will continue to bloom. Chrysanthemums, impatiens, begonias, geraniums, petunias, salvia, dusty miller, and periwinkles are good examples. Insects continually need watching, particularly aphids, whitefly, and scale. Don’t fertilize or prune past November until late February or March. During colder months many plants and shrubs will shed leaves, sometimes these leaves turn yellow. Shedding is due to the slowing down of the ornamental’s growth. Shrubs such as gardenia, jasmine, hibiscus, croton, oleander, and Ixora can be planted in the cooler months but watch for freezes from December through mid-March. During freezes plants in pots can be brought inside. Shrubs and flower beds can be covered with protective coverings to help keep plants from freezing.

Citrus: Citrus trees require more attention than most other garden plants and lawns. October you can fertilize and also watch for whiteflies and aphids. November may bring poor fruit as flavor and sweetness may have been leached out during heavy fall rains, especially if there has been tropical storms and hurricanes. Fertilizing won’t help. Leave the fruit to sweeten in the colder weather of winter. Light pruning can be done in December and watering should be reduced to once every two weeks. Keep watching for insects. Fertilize in January. Be careful not to overwater as the soil does not dry out well in winter and root rot can develop. No major pruning is to be done in February even though there may be a lot of leaf shedding. Spring is just around the corner and March is when you can plant new trees. This is the month the trees will complete their flowering, and the small fruit of the new crop of citrus will be set. Some fruit may fall, but this is normal.

As a side note, September is a good month to start your fall vegetable and herb garden.

So, we have taken you around the year with lawns, palms, ornamental, and citrus. Whether you are a novice or master gardener, the care and nurturing of your landscape is a year-round responsibility. If at any time you find you need help with your chores, and live in the Ocala, Florida area, Best Cut Lawns and Landscaping can work with you. The business started over 25 years ago and has many success stories to tell. To schedule a free estimate and to answer questions please call (352) 216-0512.

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