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Last Update 12/22/13
December in the Florida Garden

 The South Florida Vegetable Growing Season is in Full Bloom

December is the most wonderful time of the year to garden in the Sunshine state. There are many reasons for this. First, the weather is much cooler and the humidity tends to be lower. Most all of the flowers that we loved to grow up north now can be grown down here (at least for the next couple of months before the heat and humidity return). And almost everything seems to be in bloom (especially orchids)!

If you began your herbs and vegetables a couple of months ago you should be now, or shortly will be, seeing the fruits of your labor. But be careful of garden pests, such as caterpillars, cutworms, leafhoppers, aphids, whiteflies, thrips and other critters making plans to harvest your produce before you do.

The hurricane season has finally ended. Which is good news. The bad news is that December is a dry month, so you must be sure to water your plants regularly. This is especially important if the rare blast of polar air should make its way down here from north of Canada, as had happened in 1961, 1977, 1983, and 1985. Believe it or not your garden is less susceptible to frost damage when the ground is wet rather than dry. So be sure to water your plants well the night before a hard freeze is expected. In fact, if you turn your sprinkler system on during a hard freeze, and keep it on until the temperature begins to rise again, ice will form on your plants which helps to protect them from being severely damaged by the cold. The ice acts as insulation and prevents the plant's temperature from dropping below 32F.

More freeze protection tips include moving mulch away from young plants since mulch prevents the upward radiation of warmth from the soil to the plants and will make your plants freeze faster. Putting sheets over your most tender plants works as well as keeping your sprinkler system running all night during the freeze. Return-stack heaters can be used to prevent frost damage by raising the temperature of the surrounding air (this is the most often used protection by citrus groves during freezes). Some large-scale farms even go to the extent of hiring helicopters to fly low over their crops to keep the air stirred-up so the colder air does not settle too long near the ground and do damage to their tender plants.

 

Best bets for starting a traditional garden this month are:

Vegetables :  Beans, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chinese Cabbage, Collards, Cucumbers, Endive, Escarole, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leek, Lettuce, Mustard, Onion Sets, Parsley, Peas, Peppers, Pumpkins, Rhubarb, Romaine, Rutabagas, Spinach, Squash, Strawberries, Sweet Corn, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, Turnips and almost any other vegetable you desire.

Herbs:   Anise, Basil, Borage, Chives, Chervil, Coriander, Fennel, Garlic, Lavender, Marjoram, Mint, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Sesame, Sweet Marjoram, Thyme and most other herbs.

Flowers:   Amaryllis, Asters, Baby's Breath, Bachelor's Buttons, Balsam, Calendulas, Callas, Candytufts, Carnations, Cosmos, Cockscombs, Daisies, Dianthus, Forget-Me-Nots, Gaillardias, Gladiolas, Globe Amaranth, Hollyhocks, Lace Flowers, Lilies, Lobelias, Lupines, Marigolds, Narcissus, Nasturtiums, Pansies, Poppies, Salvias, Scabiosa, Snapdragons, Statice, Stock, Strawflowers, Sweetpeas, Sweet William, Verbenas, and other cool season flowers and bulbs.

Sources: Florida Home Grown; Florida Gardening Month by Month

 

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