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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.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Winter Wonderful

You thought I didn't realize it was the first week of spring with my title. Truth is, I admit, I started writing this blog several weeks ago.

It WAS a wonderful winter and I also realize I have been absent from this blog. Not at all absent from gardening. Honestly, could Floridians have asked for a more beautiful winter season?  Winter is probably the time of year I love most. It's so refreshing when the temperatures drop into the 40's at night and the daytime temps rise to high 60's. Dream weather for me.

Although there isn't nearly the maintenance to keep up with in the garden during winter there are still plenty of gardening days to keep a Florida gardener busy. The weather is so inviting with all that beautiful sunshine and less humidity, it makes you want to find ways to be outside,
This year I sprinkled baking soda on some of the winter weeds growing within the lawn and discovered it killed them without killing the grass. It mostly worked on the one pictured and the Oxalis that invades during winter.
FYI: It didn't faze the more difficult weeds like dollar weed. I know. That would have been too good to be true. 

Weeds and more weeds right? Weeds you don't even see during the other seasons. They pop out because it's also their favorite weather. Cool nights, warm days. Rather than let weeds go all winter and collect them all at once when it warms up, I feel so far ahead of the seed heads that can spread the weeds when I'm diligent to pull them along and along. You will love your garden much more when it's time to trim back in spring if you aren't scurrying around also managing winter weed control. It's so much easier to pull weeds when it's cool anyway.

Florida has so many months of hot, sweltering heat that the cooler months inspire me to get in gear on new projects. I wait for a cold winter day to start new planting beds. This year that meant a mid-January weekend. I watched the weather and in anticipation of a day staying in the 50's F (no sweating on that day) I had potting soil and mulch delivered to be ready for my project.
The southwest end of the front garden. It needed a bit of a balancing refresh. The northwest end (next to the driveway) is all plants. I've been thinking since we moved in here that this end needed plants instead of grass.

For over a year I've been mulling over a solution for this corner of the front garden. The grass needed to go, but there are two pine trees that shed badly above this space. If you have pine trees you know how messy they are. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the needles for mulch. But those same needles get caught in every branch of every shrub and literally layer on top and through the branches of underplantings beneath the trees. It's a catch-22. Love the pine needles to collect for mulch; dislike them hanging in the Azalea shrubs and drowning out the smaller ground covers. In the end I've decided to keep the pine trees and make the best of it.
This photo is taken from the opposite view as the one above. The end of my property line is a couple of feet beyond the cardboard. A strip wide enough for one mower swipe.
First I put a layer of thick cardboard/newspaper over the grass, then a layer of approximately 10-12 inches of potting soil (not top soil which is too heavy), then a layer of 2-3 inches of mulch. This combination will smother/kill the grass in 8-10 weeks (quicker in summer with heat and rain.)
In this photo (taken from the street) it isn't finished, but a good start with perennials and low-lying shrubs.
You know I was chopping at the bit to plant it, but I wanted to make sure the grass and weeds were DEAD before I broke through the cardboard with my shovel. It saves me lots of heartache over the long haul when I wait long enough for the smothering to do its duty.

Making decisions about what to plant in this spot has been interesting. I knew for certain I wanted to add Agapanthus. My elderly neighbor supplies me with an extremely hardy and vigorous variety that we haven't been able to find in garden centers. There is a good number of these beautiful lilies planted at the northwest end opposite of this. It should look pretty great when they all bloom at once. That probably won't happen this year. For some reason Agapanthus like to hold out on me for a good year after being transplanted. I dug up about 20 of them from my neighbor's yard to transplant here and so far they all seem to be adjusting pretty well. I just cut off the leaves that yellow from the shock of dividing the bulbous roots.
This was the best BEFORE photo I could find taken in early January.
From the street you can see the entire corner is entirely lawn. It has a gentle slope toward the street/rocks.
From the street you can see the entire southwest corner of my front yard is entirely lawn. It has a gentle slope toward the street/rocks. You can also see the two 50' pine trees on either side of this space. Again, pine needles make beautiful mulch, messy plants.

Photo taken the first day of spring, 2016,  from the street. See, I really do know it's not still winter in spite of my title.
I'm not quite finished with it because, of course, there will be Caladiums.  So far, Agapanthus, 'Little John' bottlebrush shrubs, Coonties, Dystilium 'Blue Cascade' (a new shrub for Florida/me), Foxtail ferns, Giant Apostle's Iris and bromeliads. Every plant choice is low growing (below 4'), drought tolerant, cold hardy, Florida Friendly or Florida native and they all do well in high-shifting shade. Low maintenance was the primary goal!

Another view of the front garden this week with some of the Azaleas deciding to peak for spring's arrival. We like this patch of lawn that breaks the expanse and gives the eye a rest between gardening beds.

I've removed a lot of grass in this new garden already, but mostly in the back yard. I don't have plans to remove anymore in the front after this. Do you remember my front yard projects from my old garden? There wasn't a blade of grass left in that front yard by the time I took out one section at a time. 

The weather this week in West Central Florida? A surprisingly cool front came through making the beginning of spring feel a bit more like Florida's winter wonderful! I'm loving every minute of it. Happy spring.

Happy gardening,

* I post to my Facebook gardening page almost daily. If you'd like to join us there to keep up with Hoe and Shovel Gardening here's the link: Hoe and Shovel on Facebook  or if you need to copy and paste

*If you've just arrived to this page as a new gardening friend or perhaps missed the back story about how we moved from our home and garden of 30 years to the house next door you can catch up here. 

All material (text and photos) © 2007-2016 is authored by Meems for Hoe and Shovel Gardening Blog. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.


  1. So good to see you again Meems. I'm not on FB so can't follow you there.

    Your place is oh so lovely and I love what you've done with the front.

    It's another gorgeous day here today, but I'm not feeling very good, so just resting.

    Happy Spring and Happy Easter ~ FlowerLady

    1. Hope you're feeling stronger soon.

    2. Thanks for always visiting Lorraine even when I've gone missing. Happy Easter and I sure hope you are on the mend and back to normal soon.

  2. Another gorgeous transformation. It makes my heart happy to know that you can cover over as much grass as you like (can't do that here with the HOA). I'm living vicariously through you. ;0D

    So glad you are enjoying spring in all its glory. Continued blessings...

    1. One of these days you will have your dreams come true and your HOA will be a memory, Daisy! Happy Easter!

  3. That's a beautiful transformation, but I wouldn't expect any less from your talented green thumb!

    1. Ha! Thank you, Robin. I'm doing my best to keep this garden fairly low maintenance.

  4. I always love to read about your garden projects. I am one season behind you here in Australia and looking forward to "winter". I have just removed the last of my grass, and do it the same way that you do!

    1. Thanks so much. It's always so hard to imagine you being so far away that your seasons are actually different. Good for you removing all your lawn. I think I'm finished taking out grass here... maybe. :-)

  5. I enjoy seeing your projects. They always look so Florida. Inviting and lush.

    1. Hi Lisa. So nice to see you. We DO love our Florida winters Lisa mainly because we get to keep our plants. There's something very refreshing about living and gardening where the world stays GREEN. Thanks for visiting. :-)

  6. Finally ... the very long awaited blog post :) :) :)

    Hani Sophea

  7. ok question...u said u put down cardboard and 12 inches of potting soil and then mulch. when u finally add plants you cut threw cardboard? the plants arent in the 12 inches of soil above it??? im confused.


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September 2010

Back Garden: October 2010

Louise Philippe: Antique Rose

Tropical Pathway