Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Shear pleasures of Florida gardening



After the cold snap of February, the balmy days are driving the gardeners crazy with planters’ fever – just check out any local nursery if you have any doubts. But is it too soon to be planting and pruning? When is it safe?

Early March can be too soon to prune, says Tisha, a Florida Master Gardener who lives in Lake Sarasota. A plant that’s been cut back too early might suffer injury if another cold spell hits.

“It is not a good idea to prune the dead or dying leaves/branches from the cold until you see green growth in the spring,” Tisha said. “Be careful when pruning flowering shrubs such as azaleas,” she added – “wait until they finish flowering.”

Other fall flowering shrubs that are pruned to promote new include hibiscus, thryallis and plumbago.

Mid-March is probably when this area of Florida is safely out of danger from cold. It’s also a good time to plant annuals like Ageratum, Gazania, Geraniums and Nicotiana. The nurseries have these and many more, says Tisha.

Gazania

Fertilize your landscape plants and fruit trees in February and March. Tisha recommends a general purpose slow-release with nitrogen.

If you’re growing veggies, plan to get bean, beets, cantaloupes, cucumber and lettuce into the ground before it gets too hot.

As for citrus, here’s a good rule of thumb for citrus fertilizer: Use about a pound for each year of the age of the tree. “Make sure that you spread it evenly around the tree, keeping grass, weeds and mulch away from the trunk,” says Tisha.

When planting new trees or shrubs, plant the root ball just about an inch above the ground level so when the rains come, the plant won't sink down, causing it to root rot while sitting below ground level and wet.

Some people can’t get enough from just their own garden. That’s where community gardens come in, offering opportunities to be creative, and to share the earthy passion for growing things with others. Interested? Come to our next meeting, March 13, 7 p.m. and find out more!

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