Now is a great time for “spring cleaning” in your landscape! You can achieve a beautiful landscape and help the environment at the same time by following the conservation-based principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™! So, gather up gloves and tools and consider the following spring chores:
Prune back cold-damaged foliage. Cut back to green growth (scratch the bark to look for green). Check your shrubs for overall shape, removing any crossing branches or suckers to create the desired height and shape of your plant. Remove any discolored foliage in your landscape that is aged and unsightly. Prune azaleas after blooming.
Don’t be guilty of “crape murder”! The practice of severely pruning back crapemyrtle trees is not recommended. (See University of Florida publication, “Crapemyrtle Pruning”, for more information.)
An important principle of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ is “FERTILIZE APPROPRIATELY”. Over-fertilizing can lead to increased pests and diseases in plants, as well as adding to pollution of our water resources.
Examine your plants. In general, trees, shrubs and other garden plants that appear healthy with good new growth do not need routine fertilizing.
For your turfgrass areas, March is the month to apply your first fertilizer application of the year. Follow the guidelines for your turf species. Be careful not to apply more fertilizer than the rate listed on the label. Seek fertilizer labeled “slow release”, and with a low or “zero” middle number. (See UF publication, “Your Florida Lawn”, for a complete review of Florida-Friendly lawncare.)
Evaluate organic mulch in plant beds. Break up old compacted mulch. Rake away mulch that has settled around the center of all plants. (Mulch should never be piled up against tree trunks or center of any plant, as this leads to increased pests/diseases.) Maintain mulch at a depth of 2-3 inches.
Ways to conserve water:
Locate plants with higher water needs such as container and/or vegetable and herb gardens near a garden hose to hand-water during dry periods.
Consider installing microirrigation systems for plant beds.
Choose drought-tolerant plants for your landscape.
Author Molly Griner is a Florida Master Gardener in Polk County. She has been active since 2003.
For more information, contact UF/IFAS Extension Polk County at (863) 519-1041 or visit us online at http://polk.ifas.ufl.edu. The Plant Clinic is open Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm to answer your gardening and landscaping questions. Visit us in person, give us a call, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.