Master GardenerGardening Bench: Cool Weather Gardening

Cool Weather Gardening

By Joy Derksen, Master Gardener 2007

Gardening chores?  Of course!  This is Florida where we garden all year round.   Cooler weather frees us from some insect pests and makes gardening less sweaty.

Vegetables

There is still time to get your vegetable garden up and running for cold weather.  Buy transplants or seeds from local vendors to be sure of getting varieties that do well in our area.  Choose a sunny location for beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, collards, celery, peas, eggplant, lettuces, peppers, radish, spinach, tomatoes and turnips.  Herbs that do well in the winter include parsley, fennel, dill, and basil.

Flowers

This is also the time to plant flowers that are cold tolerant and colorful.  Pansies, nasturtium, snapdragons, alyssum and petunias are some northern summer favorites that can only be grown now in Manatee County.  Geraniums do especially well this time of year, as do impatiens, torenia and phlox.  Don’t forget mums for their burst of front porch color.  You can try and replant your mums after blooming – cut them back, wait and see if they thrive through our summer heat and hurricanes.

Lawns

Lawn care becomes easier now.  Most lawns need mowing only once every two weeks. Once very cold weather sets in, lawns do not need fertilizer.  If your lawn is being invaded by cool season weeds, you have time to apply a broadleaf weed selective week killer (Atrazine) before temperatures become too cool for good results.  Remember to spot treat only where there are weeds.  St. Augustine lawns, in particular, are stressed by the application of Atrazine.

Maintenance

Stop pruning tropicals and semitropicals.  The tender new growth that results can be killed by cold weather.  Broken or dead branches, however, can be pruned at any time. Deciduous trees should be pruned now while they are dormant.  Citrus plants are starting to produce.  The fruit is sweeter when allowed to stay on the tree until night temperatures dip below 55 degrees.  If you are not impressed with the quality of your fruit, remember to fertilize more regularly next year with a special citrus fertilizer.  Call the Master Gardeners for a schedule or go online for publication https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs132

You should be prepared for cold weather before it arrives.  When you know a frost is heading for the area, water your plants thoroughly.  Often cold weather comes with strong winds that can cause the most damage by drying out the plants.  Get ready to take container plants inside or under the protection of a porch roof or garage.  Physically protect other tender plants in the landscape by covering with newspaper or cloth.  Keep some bricks on hand to anchor the covering in strong winds.  Use stakes or make a frame around trees or shrubs that aids in keeping the protection on during windy nights.  Do not attempt to irrigate during the freeze.  This is a very tricky way to save crops that requires constant water flow, constant supervision and constant temperature monitoring, and is not suitable for homeowners.

Resources

For gardening with annuals in Florida visit:

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg319

For vegetable seasons visit:

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh021

For cold protection visit:

https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg025