Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Let's Talk About Gardening in January
January is not typically a month we think about for getting out and working in the garden. But in Florida where there is plenty of sunshine and lots of mild weather-days even the butterflies know how to make the most of winter.
For so many of us much of our garden is brown and (seemingly) lifeless from the early December freezes our gardens sustained. We still have a couple of months left of wondering if we'll be visited by Old Man Winter again. Seeing with new-eyes and admiring with deeper appreciation beautiful bark and deciduous forms of trees helps me wait for spring.
So the first thing to enlist is patience. It is NOT advised to start cutting back all the brown too early. The frost-bitten parts of your shrubs and perennials will actually further protect them should there be more frost and freezing nights in the forecast.
Try instead to engage a new perspective Florida gardeners haven't had to think too much about in the past. What if we learn to appreciate the winter interest all the wilted limbs offer among the existing green. I can tell the birds and wildlife are making use of the haggard limbs to perch and pick around for food. A good reminder that all is never lost.
Right now I'm especially thankful for everything GREEN. Such a soothing hue as it mixes in with this newly-adopted 'winter interest' philosophy. I'll write more about the survivors in my garden later but starting this new year with renewed appreciation for stalwart natives and perennials is keeping me peaceful while I enlist much-needed patience for the next 8 or so weeks.
What We CAN Do
Solidify plans and dreams for spring gardening.
Wintertime is perfect for digging up lawn to enlarge borders or make new ones. Maybe you've always wanted to start a vegetable garden. Now is a good time to begin. With our mostly fabulous weather you'll use lots less sweat equity and energy to get the big jobs of preparation accomplished and you'll be ready to plant when it gets warm enough.
Keep the weeds under control. You'll feel so accomplished when you take a few minutes each time you're out in the garden to pull some pesky weeds. For some reason weeds just keep right on invading this time of year. When spring rolls around you'll be so happy you didn't let them get the best of you.
Don't be afraid to plant some cool-season annuals. Winter annuals that thrive and do well right through March or April include pansies, violas, alyssum, petunias, snapdragons, gazanias, dianthus, and many more.
It will cheer up your container plants (where the soil warms up nicely on a sunny day) as well as your spirits to stop by your favorite garden center and invest a few dollars to brighten the landscape.
While you're there, look around for good sales. I found a few Amaryllis for dirt-cheap before Christmas. They are a cheery patch of color amid the lifeless clumps of brown.
Take a look around your beds for signs of aging or decomposed mulch and be sure to protect the roots of plants with an added layer of mulch. Weeds can pop up easier where mulch recedes and a plentiful layer of organics really is good insurance to keep moisture where it belongs in our sandy soils.
On one of our bright, sunny days with the refreshing cool air filling your lungs and that irresistible urge to be outdoors and get something done in the garden strikes... use it wisely. Bird feeders and birdbaths all need to be cleaned regularly for our wildlife friends. Scrub them with mild dishwashing soap (or not at all) and rinse well. With much of the natural food supply depleted from frost-damage the birds are very happy to visit our gardens for food and water.
While I'm at it I'm going to clean up the garden furniture, too. I'll use a spray of Simple Green and good elbow grease to scrub the concrete bench and wooden chairs. It works beautifully and no toxins involved to filter through the ground.
Don't forget to water only when needed. Often our lawns can survive on once a week or less. Overwatering in winter does more damage than good ~~ encouraging pests and diseases.
Keep adding leaves and kitchen scraps to your compost pile/bin. Or if you don't have one yet this is a good time to start one. Just think of all the damaged shrubs and perennials you'll get to add to it once we start pruning. It's a great way to recycle our winter debris.
Order seeds this month if you haven't already. The beautifully enticing seed catalogs are arriving daily. Many of our warm season vegetables will be planted next month.
Just as importantly as getting the chores accomplished is taking time to relax and refresh in this fabulous Florida winter! When so many of our northern friends are hibernating indoors away from too much snow we have the blessing of be outside reading, chatting with family and friends, and actually enjoying Florida's exhilerating gardening weather.
Can you think of more to add to this short list of possibilities? In a year-round gardening environment there's always something we can be doing to enjoy our gardens.
Here's to making the most of EVERY season no matter what it brings in 2011!
All photos taken in my garden. For more information on each photo ~~ if clicked ~~ will redirect to my web album for better descriptions in the caption. It is necessary to back-click to return the blog.