Welcome to Florida!
The land of abundant sunshine and a more varied climate than you may think. From the occasional near freezing temperatures every few winters to summers full of heat, humidity, and rainstorms, Florida is quite a unique place. With such variety, a few tips will help get you started and ensure a successful garden or landscape in Central Florida.
Tips for gardening in Central Florida:
Right Plant, Right Place
- Start with the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principle of right plant, right place. Choose plants that are suitable for the site conditions (light, soil type, soil pH, soil moisture, and space available). You can access the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design to help you find plants appropriate for your site.
- Part of “right plant, right place” is also knowing the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone. Here in Polk County, the hardiness zone is 9B. That means that we can receive average annual minimum winter temperatures of 25-30°F. However, for temperate fruit requiring chill hours or a certain number of hours at 32-45°F, like peaches, we only get between 100-200 hours on average. Look for temperate fruit varieties or cultivars with low chill hour requirements for successful fruit production.
- Florida’s rainy season typically runs from June through October, and we can receive around 40-60 inches of rain per year. While this is great news for plants, there are a few things to keep in mind in relation to rainstorms. Adjust irrigation to avoid overwatering with so much rain. Reduce stormwater runoff by directing gutter downspouts to lawn and landscape areas, installing rain barrels, adding a rain garden, and using permeable surfaces. Also, do not fertilize before a heavy rainstorm. You will just be wasting your time and money and contributing to the pollution associated with stormwater runoff, one of Florida’s top water quality issues.
- Protect Florida’s water resources. Adhere to the nine principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ and if you do live on a body of water create a 10-foot maintenance free zone between your yard and the water that avoids mowing, fertilizing, and pesticide use.
- Watering restrictions are year-round. We all can help conserve our water resources from overuse & pollutants. Check with your water utility or the water management district for details.
Wintertime, Trees, and Edible Gardening
- During the winter (or cool season), plant growth slows down in Central Florida. Skip winter fertilizer applications and always know your local fertilizer ordinance. This also means you can skip a week of watering and only water if needed every 10-14 days.
- Take advantage of fall leaves to use as mulch or add to compost. You can also prune deciduous trees and ornamental grasses while they are dormant.
- Avoid “crape murder” or improper pruning of crapemyrtles. Check out this article for more on proper care and maintenance of Crapemyrtle trees.
- Know your edible growing seasons. Vegetable plants can be grown year-round, but timing is key. The Vegetable Gardening Guide is a great resource for setting up an edible garden and also includes charts with timing for different vegetables along with varieties that perform best in Florida.
Know Your Plants
- Be aware of invasive plants. Invasive plants are not native and can have negative impacts on the environment. You can utilize the UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas to search for plants or contact the Polk County Plant Clinic for help with identification. Choose Florida-Friendly non-native and native plants species that are the right plant for the right place.
Another great resource for new and even experienced Central Florida gardeners is The Your Polk Yard, a 12-Month Garden Guide & Journal. It features monthly tips and reminders for the edible garden and landscape. It is also perfect because it was written by UF/IFAS Extension Polk County Master Gardener Volunteers!
Additional resources on gardening for part-time and new residents:
- Florida Gardening for New Residents
- How To Start Gardening
- Watering Your Florida Lawn
- Month-By-Month Irrigation Checklist
- Part-Time Resident’s Water Conservation Checklist
- Protecting Florida’s Water Resources
- Working in Your Florida Soil
- Vegetable Gardening in Florida Series
Zhang, Meijing , Young Gu Her, Kati Migliaccio, and Clyde Fraisse. 2017. Florida Rainfall Data Sources and Types. AE517. Gainesville: Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/AE/AE517/AE517-10033997.pdf.
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