Research what to grow
Check UF/IFAS suggested planting dates to plan to get an early start for spring. Most warm season vegetables can be placed outside when they are 6-8 weeks old and after the danger of the last frost passes. The average last frost for Flagler County is around the second week of March. It is also important to do some research on what will grow well in the area. The University of Florida has conducted trials of different varieties of vegetables to determine which selections have the right genetics to withstand common pests and diseases found in our state. Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV) is an example of a common pathogen found in Florida. Growers should select varieties that have been shown to have resistance to this virus that affects tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, other crops, and even weeds in the solanaceae family. If searching online seed catalogs, try to focus on plants that are well suited for the South East. It is great to experiment with a few new things each season. However, to ensure good yields the majority of the plants should be tried and tested for our challenging growing area.
Don’t guess, get a soil test:Get a baseline on your soil’s pH level. UF/IFAS Extension, Flagler County provides free soil testing for Flagler County Residents. The pH is the measure of acidity or alkalinity in the soil. A pH of 7 is considered neutral, lower than 7 is acidic, and above 7 is alkaline. Most flowers and vegetables thrive in soils that are between 5.8 and 6.3, or slightly acidic. Soils that are between 5.5 and 7.0 do not require adjustment. Contact your county extension agent for information on how to adjust your pH.
Choose the right location: Vegetables and flowers need a lot of sunlight to grow, so choose a sight that receives light most of the day. Consider choosing a location with a water source conveniently located nearby. Most plants need good drainage to support healthy roots. Sites that have standing water after rains may be better suited for a rain garden. If soil testing indicated a problem with pH consider site amendment to adjust pH or creating a raised bed filled with garden soil and compost.
Draw up a plan: Make a full list of needed supplies and draw up a plan including desired plants and spacing. Be sure to include special consideration such as trellising support structures. Allow enough space in the plan for harvesting from all sides and movement between rows. Try to anticipate possible pests that may be attracted to ripening vegetables and construct appropriate barriers including netting.
Follow suggested planting dates: Check UF/IFAS suggested planting dates to get an early start for spring. Most warm season vegetables can be placed outside when they are 6-8 weeks old and after the danger of the last frost has passed. For Flagler County our average last frost date before spring is the last week of March. You can start transplants indoors under artificial lights to supplement natural light near a window. As the day approaches to transplant seedlings into the garden, begin to harden them off by leaving them outside in a sheltered location to experience some cooler temperatures. This will help them acclimate to outside temperatures and toughen them up to increase survival during transplant into the garden.
Mix it up:Try to practice crop rotation by avoiding planting plants in the same family in the same location year after year. This is important because pests rely on the same type of plants for food and their populations can grow over time due to continued supply. Crop rotation can be especially challenging in a small yard with limited space. It may be a good idea to give the garden a break occasionally or add new amendments to revitalize the soil. Plant parasitic roundworms called nematodes that feed on plant roots also build up over time, reducing yields and making gardening frustrating. Solarization is a technique that can be used to temporarily reduce nematode, pathogen, and weed seeds in soil by heating it up. The technique utilizes clear plastic to trap the sun’s energy.
For more information please visit https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in856 “Introduction to Soil Solarization”, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh021 “Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide”
What to Plant:
Herbs: To plant from seed this month include parsley, dill, fennel, oregano, and sage. For more please visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_herbs “Herbs”
Vegetables: From seed plant quick finishing cool season vegetables including broccoli and salad crops such as arugula, lettuce, and spinach. Start warm season vegetables from seed.
Winter Annuals: Plant snapdragons, alyssum, calendula, delphinium, dusty miller, and ornamental cabbage. For more information please see Gardening with Annuals in Florida: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg319 “Gardening with Annuals in Florida”What to Do:
Lawns: Grass is growing more slowly this time of year. The roots of warm season grasses “slough off” this time of year making them less able to utilize nutrients from fertilizer. Fertilizer application is not recommended until March. For more Information please visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep236 “Homeowner Best Management Practices for the Home Lawn”
Continue to water 1 day per week during Eastern Standard Time (November through March) Odd number addresses irrigate Saturdays, even numbered homes irrigate Sundays. For more information please visit http://www.palmcoastgov.com/government/utility/water-conservation, City of Palm Coast, Water Conservation Ordinance Information
Deciduous Fruit Trees: Now is a good time to plant dormant trees to allow them to develop roots before warm, dry weather of spring arrives. It is also a good time to prune established dormant fruit trees. For more information please visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/HS/HS36500.pdf “Training and Pruning Florida Peaches, Nectarines, and Plums”
What Not to Do:
Don’t trim your azaleas, the flower buds have already set. Harsh pruning will remove flowers that will appear in spring. Pruning should be done soon after flowering is over and not after the fourth of July.
Sol Looker Horticulture Extension Agent, Flagler County.