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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Basics of Spring Gardening

Spring is that much-anticipated season when life in the garden comes alive with supreme vigor and vitality. I can vividly remember as a young adult, before I had my own garden, excitement would fill my soul just taking a drive down the freeway on any March day in Florida. The sight of bright green leaves flushing out en masse on the limbs of roadside tree clusters signaled a certain assurance ~~ much like the rising or setting of the sun. Still, to this day, I look forward to that very sign of life which in the simplest way gives me a solid sense of peace. With all the wonder and awe of this glorious season comes inspiration. Revitalization to conquer the garden. Even the will to accomplish some of those much anticipated projects visualized and dreamed up in our minds. Personally, I admit that I count on the mid-winter days in January and February to tackle some of my biggest design ideas. (All the grass you see in the above photo has been removed. More on this project to come later.) This year winter fooled me! The weather (consequently the soil) warmed up very quickly at the start of February. Which of course signaled ornamentals to begin their spring growth. Then the gardener guessing-game began. Will we get another cold snap? Should I cut back dead growth now? Should I wait? How long do I wait? 'Officially' we're advised to wait until the last frost date to prune back damaged limbs on ornamentals and woody shrubs. For my Central Florida garden that date is February 25. Last year was way out-of-the-ordinary with record-setting-consistently-cold temps into March. As my Florida cohorts know well~~ it created a bit of shyness this year for NOT jumping the gun on spring pruning. SO! if you live in Florida and you haven't already done it~~ it is past time (but not too late) to assess your garden and make determinations about what needs to stay and what needs to go. Pruning removes the old, lifeless decay or damage and encourages new growth. All you need to know about pruning is available in this document link. Turns out this year it would have been safe to cut everything back the second week of February. And to be truthful I did just that on a few perennials. The pentas and grasses that I knew would return or I wouldn't mind replacing were sheared very early. Photo from February... no my azaleas do NOT look like this now. Be sure to wait until your azaleas have finished their flowering before pruning ~~ but do it before July. You won't want to remove next year's flowers. Here's a link for detailed instructions. This is a do as I say not do as I do moment. I've been so busy with new projects there are two significant plants I have procrastinated in cutting back. It's appauling I know. But just to confirm I'm just as human as the next should know the pagoda flowers are still standing sticks and dripping dried berries. Not a visual you expect to see in spring. And the goldenrod (not shown) that are taking over my wildflower garden are littered with tall brown spikes of dead flowers. I'll get to it ... maybe this week... but late pruning won't deter the growth of either plant. Too bad. It is just an ugly sight for now. Oh, let's get back to the bright greens of spring that speak of all things new and fresh. I've been amazed at the rapid growth throughout the garden this season. Not only do we need to cut back and clean up from winter but another good thing to do this time of year is refurbish your beds with mulch. Always add mulch to newly planted materials after water has been thoroughly applied. While you're at it refresh the rest of your beds making sure to apply a maximum of 2-3 inches of a good, organic mulch. Be sure not to cover the root ball of each plant with mulch as you want to leave it exposed for air and water. Consider creating a manageable plan for Integrated Pest Management and feeding schedules for your garden. Fertilizer can be applied to lawns and shrubs in spring. Here's a guide for Florida lawn fertilization. One of the most vital pieces of information is how to properly mow your lawn. Just about every flowering perennial shrub and tree is putting out buds and flowers early this year. No question I'm enthralled with everything green! But flowers are also a thrill.

I'll stop chatting away and wish you a very happy spring. You are always welcome to click on any photo which will take you to the web album and an appropriate caption. (You'll have to click the back button to return here). Stay inspired ... spring will not last long enough. Here's to all the strength and health you need to get every job accomplished. Meems ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ** This was not meant to be a comprehensive outline of everything to be done in the spring garden. Just the VERY basics in a VERY general way.


  1. Don't you just love spring? I love getting up early and getting out there as soon as it's light out.My neighbors must think I'm nuts!
    Love that you're removing more grass(I consider it a weed!).I've been in that process all winter.Finally,have the back down to being done with a weed eater!Now,I'm on to the front.
    Can't wait to see what you accomplish...

  2. Well, it looks like my comment didn't post the first time. So... I'll try again.

    I'm waiting with eager anticipation to see more of your lawn replacement project. You've really been stringing me along with a hint here and a hint there. Can't wait.

    Your photos are full of spring sunshine and really inspire me to get outside. Right now though we are getting an all day rain. I'm sure our gardens are loving it. The rain barrels are full again and soon, I'll be outside in the sun again.

    Enjoy this spring while it lasts. We know the heat will be here soon enough. BTW, I hopped over to your Lowe's blog - love it!

  3. Gosh Meems we are having unusually cold weather here. I can't wait until the warmth comes back and I can get some more done in the garden. The soil is so wet I can't hardly do anything out there. You have some great advice here.

  4. How 'bout all that rain yesterday! I'm so glad the pollen is washed off and now the garden looks shiny and clean!

  5. Less lawn is a good thing. I envy you being able to rid yourself of the stuff.

    Funny, but I don't think of you as one who tries to "conquer" the garden. You're more like a female version of a "green Midas" who creates beauty in the garden with your magical touch.

    Hope you got lots of that gorgeous rain yesterday! I was one happy camper!

  6. I love those hardy begonias! I wonder what variety they are? We're just a bit behind you here...just on the cups of a real spring explosion.

  7. It did warm up so quickly this year that my crocus did not finish blooming and the ranunculus plants and blooms are much smaller...great tips! Is that variegated ginger in the first photo? Whatever it's foliage is gorgeous. Thanks for recommending my blog this week.

  8. We cannot always be expected to follow our own advice. Besides, it makes good writing for later on to talk bad about ourselves. Shows character!!!

  9. Hi Meems...Oh, you are so right about the amount of work involved in the spring garden. Fortunately for us the weather is so wonderful that it makes it all a pleasure. And, besides creating a new garden is one of the greatest pleasures of gardening. Can't wait to see what you're planning in your new "grassless" spot. Yesterday's rain was definitely a blessing. Enjoy!

  10. Like you, I started my cutting back way too early (according to the frost Gospel for us, which I have as March 15.) I've been cutting and amending since early February and finally, FINALLY, had a day of puttering and planting yesterday. Yup -- in the rain. Nirvana!
    I like grabbing the neighbors' curbside oak leaf rakings to add to the mulch, but those darned acorns are a pain. I don't like pulling up little oak trees. And it doesn't take themm long to get stubbornly rooted. Anyone have a cure for that? (Aside from hand-culling,which helps but is no cure.)

  11. Meems, Your tropicals must really be loving this rain. Are your caladiums coming up yet? Can't wait to see your new project completed. Janis

  12. Chris,
    You have been a busy girl this winter/spring. I do love taking an early morning stroll around the garden ... everything is so fresh and inspiring first thing.

    Amazing rains this week. Emptied the gauge at 4 this afternoon when it let up for a few minutes and had 4 inches since last night. Lots more fell since... so much for our usually DRY spring. Thanks for visiting the Lowe's entries... that is so sweet of you. See you tomorrow. :-)

    It looks like winter has come back in up there for hopefully her last hoorah! Warmth can't be far behind for you...

    Rain has been a welcomed blessing. Kept me from some projects I was trying to finish up this week but I'm not complaining. It is a wonderful treat to have rain in March.

  13. Ah, Daisy,
    If only it were THAT easy. You make me smile though! There's always another part of the garden to conquer!

    Hey Leslie,
    The tag said Hardy Star Begonia, Begonia heracleifolia... they are planted in the ground back in the tropical pathway. The huge leaves retreat in the cold but the blooms shoot out in mid-winter. They are stunning.

    It is canna 'bengal tiger' in a cobalt blue-glazed container. I LOVE the brightness of it.

    It's kind of distressing that I've been too busy on 'new' projects to take care of the 'old' stuff. I WILL get to it this weekend. :-)

  14. Susan,
    If all I spent my time on was gardening... life would be GRAND. But it is not possible so of course time management is of key importance. It will all get done eventually. I was kind of counting on it being cold longer because that's the way I like it. :-) Cooler drier air for the weekend (yay) after all this glorious rain. Hope all is well over there for y'all ... there was some wicked lightning and wind today, too.

    I have so many oaks already and the acorns are naturally everywhere. It seems the laurel oak acorns take root really easily and they are like weeds having to pull them out. No great answers here about how to rid them. Sorry.

  15. Meems, yes, I'm certain that's the same critter. I recognize it from the striped antennae. So pretty! That katydid is the only bug I know with those antennae. My photo didn't turn out so well, but guess what? Yesterday, I finally fixed the backfocus problem. It was a spot on the menu called "AF Fine Tune" where I needed to put in a negative value to bring the focus forward. Who knew I would have to calibrate a lens that is made for the camera? Anyway, I tried to comment on this post, but Blogger kept crashing on me every time I tried that day.

    I know what you mean about being gun-shy. I was looking through some old family photos the other day. I found an awesome photo. It was from my Pre-Blogging Era when I didn't take so many photos of the garden. We had a luau here about three years ago, and I had taken a pic of all the "young people." In the background was the enormous old Areca palm looking oh-so-beautiful. I actually have proof that it looked that way at one time. I knew I wasn't crazy. There really *was* a time when we weren't hit by devastating freezes year after year.

  16. Janis,
    So sorry you can't go with us tomorrow... we'll plan something for a Saturday soon. A few of my caladiums have started coming up.I think it is the fact the soil has warmed up with all the 80's temps. I wish they'd wait a month so they'd last longer. :-)

    You are going to be an expert with that fancy camera before you know it. My photos would probably be a mess if I had such a good camera. :-) I'd never have known that was an instar katydid. Now I need to go back to your post to see if it was a good bug or bad bug???

    Oh, I can remember clearly~~ we had many years in a row without a freeze. Not one. My neighbor and I would joke about it wishing the temps would get low for a couple of nights to rid us of 'some' of the bugs. And I remember it by the fact we didn't get to where sweaters or jackets enough.

    I bet your areca was lovely... I used to have them, too.


Have a blessed day,

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Tropical Pathway