Spring is Here! So is the Dry and Windy Weather.
Many gardeners new to Florida begin to think about starting their spring planting this month. Up in the northern states it is time to begin planting vegetable gardens and annuals. But in most of Florida it is already too late for that since the climbing temperatures, dry weather, and insects will make fruitless even your best efforts. But if you insist on trying your hand at it, there is a list of best bets for what to plant in your garden this month down below.
Many Florida gardeners ask if they should begin pruning this month and if so, how much should they prune? For most plants, March is a good time to begin pruning and at the same time taking cuttings of those plants for propagation. How much you prune your plants depends on which of the two pruning techniques you will use.
Many plants are busy now putting out new green growth, flowers or both. Now is the time to feed your plants so that nutrition may be put to use to form healthy new foliage, abundant flowers and healthy fruit.
Always apply fertilizer at the rate recommended by the manufacturer then water the fertilizer in to get it into the upper few inches of soil where the plant's roots can absorb it. If your plants are mulched, simply apply the fertilizer on top of the mulch and water it in.
Do not neglect to feed your potted plants. The best fertilizers to use on potted plants are either soluble fertilizers (such as Peters) or a time release type that will continue to feed for several months.
Also be aware that different stages in a plant's growth will require the use of different types of fertilizers. Plants that are producing foliage will benefit more from a fertilizer high in nitrogen -- the "N" value of the product. Nitrogen is used by plants for the normal healthy growth of green plant tissues such as leaves and stems. Be careful though as too much nitrogen will cause rapid growth of leaves and soft stems which tend to be an open invitation for attack by pests and diseases. Plants in bloom will benefit from a high "P" value. "P" stands for Phosphorous. Phosphorus is responsible for good root development, disease resistance and flower and fruit production. The "K" value -- Potash* also helps to promote disease resistance in plants as well as encouraging higher fruit production.
*Potash is expressed as "K" on the label as it is an oxide (K2O) that is converted to the element Potassium in the soil and used by the plant.
Our high phosphorous Seabird guano is the best source of readily available organic phosphorous as well as some nitrogen and a wealth of trace minerals and soil microbes. Flowering plants will dramatically increase the amount and size of blooms when Seabird guano is used by mixing with water and applying from about mid-season through blooming. It can be used year round in any soil, for any plant. It helps bind soil particles, aids nitrogen fixation, and greatly enhances stimulation of beneficial bacteria. Water soluble, Seabird guano is a great foliar spray when filtered and goes right to work. 5 lb. box.
Two techniques are used for pruning shrubs. These are called heading and thinning.
Heading -- By this method, branches are cut back to healthy buds. This leaves a cut close to a bud from which new growth develops.
Thinning -- By this process, a shoot or branch is completely removed either back to ground level or back to another main branch or trunk. No prominent stub remains.
Making the cut
When heading back, always make the cut above a healthy bud. A cut on a slight slant, 1/4 inch above the bud is the correct method. The top bud should be located on the side of the branch that faces the direction preferred for the new growth. Some plants will have two buds opposite each other on the stem. When such stems are cut, it is often desirable to remove one of the buds. If both are allowed to grow, a forked and often weak stem may develop.
Be sure to Mulch!
During this terribly dry weather it cannot be stressed enough how valuable mulch is. Six things that mulch does are:
- Preserves moisture in the soil.
- Protects the soil from the intense heat of the sun.
- Provides a constant supply of organic material.
- Prevents the quick drying of the soil during windy and dry periods.
- Gives some protection to plants against root knot causing nematodes.
- Improves soil texture.
Best bets for starting a garden this month are:
Vegetables: Cantaloupe, Collards, Cowpeas, Mustard, Okra, Papaya, Peanuts, Pole Beans, Pumpkins, New Zealand Spinach, Sweet Potatoes, Turnips (for tops), and Watermelons.
Tropical Vegetables: Boniato, Calabaza, and Malanga.
Herbs: Dill, Fennel, Garlic Chives, Marjoram, Mint, Rosemary, Sage, and Thyme.
Flowers: Achimines, Amaryllis, Balsam, Cosmos, Cockscombs, Forget-Me-Nots, Gaillardias, Gladiolas, Gloxinias, Lilies, Petunias, Portulacas, Salvia, Scabiosa, Strawflowers, Zephyranthes, and Zinnias.
Sources: Florida Home Grown; Florida Gardening Month by Month