South Florida Gardening
Gardening in South Florida can be a real challenge, but with that challenge comes some very satisfying successes! It really is a matter of knowing what is best to plant when and what to do with what you have.
The folks at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension have put together extensive resources for gardeners. Here, we will focus on the Gardening Calendar they developed and add in some season-inspired tips from our own Horticulture team.
Remember! The Mounts Botanical Nursery carries a large variety of plant materials — from edibles, to ornamentals, Florida natives, butterfly plants and much more. Our on-site staff is here to help!
CLICK for the UF/IFAS Extension OCTOBER CALENDAR of What to Plant and What to Do.
Tips from the MBG Horticulture Team
Mulching plant beds helps conserve moisture, keeps the weeds from growing so rapidly, and gives the landscape a nice appearance. CLICK HERE to learn more about mulching!
Hot Florida summers are a great time to start preparing your garden for fall planting. South Florida is comprised of mostly sandy soils and can lack the nutrient rich material that healthy plants crave. One way to get a jump start is by getting the soil ready and adding organic matter to improve overall soil composition and health. A variety of soil amendments can be added to the sandy soil base such as animal manure (horse, chicken, and cow), plant manure (yard clippings and leaves), compost, worm castings, peat moss, and wood chips. These additives will improve soil by making its texture and drainage more conducive to water retention and plant health. Organic matter should be at least 3 inches thick on the area to be planted and at least 6 weeks prior to planting season to allow the components to break down and be tilled into the exiting soil base. This organic matter will allow beneficial fungi and earthworms to colonize the area and further improve soil health. Healthy soil equals healthy plants!
Planting by the Sun’s Location
Some people are unaware of the movement of the sun between the winter and summer solstices. The summer solstice happens around June 21st each year. This is when the sun is at its northern most point of the year. This is also the longest day of the year with the shortest night. The sun will be just north of its zenith at noon. This contrasts with the winter solstice that happens around December 21st and has the shortest day of the year. This is the sun’s lowest point in the sky and the sun will ride along the southern edge of the sky during winter. Why does this matter? You can use the sun’s movement to your advantage when planting your garden. Each plant has special conditions to be met for it to flourish. Tropical plants may benefit close to a south facing wall, so they can get all that radiating warmth. We may plant a tree in full sun in June, only to find that it’s in full shade by December. Learn how the sunlight moves through your landscape and plant accordingly.
Garden Pests: The Basics
Plant pests in South Florida are a constant battle for gardeners. Usually the best preventative is to be proactive and make sure the plants you’re bringing home are pest free. Here are a few quick solutions to remedy pests on your plants. Chewing insects such as beetles, weevils and caterpillars can be controlled by physical removal on small plants, but alternative methods may be needed for heavy infestations. Caterpillars are easily controlled with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). Spinosad works well on beetles and weevils, but you may have to use a systemic if they seem resistant. Systemics are best used after a plants flowering period or if flowers can easily be removed (ex. palms). Avoid applying systemics on edible plants, unless you know it will be safely out of its system prior to fruiting (see pesticide label and instruction). Sucking insects include aphids, scale, mealybugs, white flies and spider mites. Releasing lady beetles for aphids or trimming off affected branches are your safest option. Insecticidal soaps and neem oil are organic solutions that may be helpful, but systemics can always be used as a last resort. If you’re unsure of what be affecting your plants, please feel free to call the Master Gardener Hotline at (561)233-1750 or email email@example.com.
The warmer months are the best time to start hard pruning shrubs in the landscape. Make sure all your spring time bloomers are finished; you don’t want to cut off any remaining blooms. CLICK HERE to learn more about pruning trees, shrubs, palms and more! NOTE: A sharp pair of hand pruners will make cleaner cuts that heal more efficiently, resulting in a healthier plant that’s better able to fight disease, insect infestation, and natural stresses. The best way to sharpen pruners is with a diamond file. Well-used but well-maintained pruners should only need sharpening every six weeks.