January Newsletter 2019
January Gardening for the Greater Jacksonville Beaches Area
- What to plant
- What to do
- Plant Focus: Bird’s Nest Fern
- Maintaining Mowers and Tools
- Frost or Freeze?
- Preventing Cold Damage
What’s so amazing about North Florida is that you can always garden. The focus changes throughout the year but there’s always something to do. Except for tropicals and vegetables that like it warm, just about anything can be planted now. It’s also a good time to plan future gardens and use areas. Contact us to inquire about a landscape consultation to develop any size project, whether we create a complete master plan or you simply need guidance on your next DIY project.
WHAT TO PLANT
Although some may stop flowering briefly after a freeze, a great variety of plants can be enjoyed in our area this time of year.
Annuals (Or Grown As Annuals): The most useful annuals in January include supertunias and petunias, alyssum (Lobularia), marigolds, million bells (Calibrachoa), snapdragons, dianthus, lobelia, ornamental cabbage/kale, giant red mustard, ornamental pepper, nemesia, diascia, dusty miller, verbena, geraniums, nasturtiums, pansy and viola. Try to provide at least 4 hours of full sun. Let us put together a container of colorful winter flowers, grasses and ornamental vegetables for you.
Perennials: Usually in late winter, landscapes become more vulnerable to hungry deer and we begin to see more damage in areas prone to this. See our handout Deer Resistant Plants for North Florida for ideas on what to plant if you live in one of these areas. CLICK HERE!
During January you can start seeds of flowers you may have grown in more northern climates such as foxglove, hollyhock and delphinium. Seedlings can be moved into the garden in January/February, protected from freezes and enjoyed in the spring and early summer. In general, perennials can be planted this month, except for cold-tender plants which can often survive our winters but shouldn’t be started at this time. See our handout titled Tropic Life to identify those tender plants. CLICK HERE!
Hardy Perennials would include ornamental grasses, asters, salvias, coreopsis, goldenrod, Russian sage, Texas sage, baptisia, ferns, many succulents, bulbine, African daisies (Osteospermum), milkweed (Asclepias), blanket flower (Gaillardia), dune sunflower (Helianthus), African and regina irises, agapanthus, variegated shell ginger, purple queen (Tradescantia), dianella, society garlic, Asiatic jasmine, Confederate jasmine and passion vine. It’s a good time to plant many of the bulb lilies that grow in this area, particularly crinum, kaffir, amaryllis, spider lily and daylily.
Trees and Shrubs: You can celebrate Florida Arbor Day on the third Friday of January by planting a tree. Remember to ‘Dial Before You Dig’ (811) if the hole will be deeper than your shovel blade. If the winter is dry, be sure to keep evergreen types watered since they are especially prone to winter desiccation.
If you want to build your pallet of hurricane resistant trees, Crape Myrtle, Bald Cypress, Cabbage Palm, Southern Magnolia, Live Oak and particularly Sand Live Oak are good choices. Many sasanqua camellias are blooming, so if you purchase now, you can be sure to get the bloom type and color you want; the japonica camellias will soon follow. See our Camellia Variety List for descriptions of the many cultivars we have available. CLICK HERE! For spring flowers, plant dogwood, Japanese magnolia, Taiwan cherry and redbud. Other shrubs and trees you’ll probably find available this time of year are pyracantha, winter cassia, thryallis, firebush (Hamelia), gardenia, bottlebrush, mahonia, nandina, juniper, hollies, ligustrum, loropetalum, pittosporum, podocarpus, viburnum, Japanese blueberry, Loblolly pine, and many citruses. January and February are the best months to plant deciduous fruit trees, shrubs and muscadine grapes.
Vegetables and Herbs: Grow cool season vegetable crops such as mustard greens, kale, beets, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, collards, swiss chard, English peas and leeks. Protect beets, carrots and cauliflower from frosty nights. Root crops like carrots, radishes and turnips should be started from seed. Arugula seeded in January is ready to harvest in 6 weeks. Irish potatoes can be started from healthy seed pieces. All types of onions can be planted. See our handout Vegetable Planting Guide for North Florida for vegetable growing information. CLICK HERE!
Most herbs do best in the cooler months. Herbs to grow now are dill, cilantro, parsley, garden sage, thyme, mint, chives, and rosemary. Look for an article next month on growing herbs indoors. Also see our handout Herbs for North Florida, for growing and usage information for many of the herbs. CLICK HERE!
Plant Focus: Bird’s Nest Fern
This atypical fern has broad, bold foliage that grows in a vase-shaped rosette. It usually reaches 18 to 24 inches high and wide, but some can grow to an impressive 4 feet. The leaves of some varieties may be flat while others range from wavy-edged to tightly puckered. There is a variegated form and one which branches slightly at the tips to resemble a staghorn fern. Provided with a little humidity, possibly from a tray with water and pebbles or daily misting, Bird’s Nest ferns make easy houseplants which can be moved onto a porch in warmer weather. Keep them in filtered to bright, indirect light and moist but not soggy humus-rich, light potting mix. During the growing season, fertilize weekly or biweekly with weak liquid fertilizer. Don’t put fertilizer pellets in the central cup. Although many sources list one of the most common species as winter hardy to 30° or less, some varieties may not survive less than 40°.
What to Do
Irrigate: Irrigate if extremely dry. Slowed growth calls for less frequent watering. If you need to water, follow the regulations with odd numbered addresses watering on Saturdays, even on Sundays, and nonresidential on Tuesdays, outside the hours of 10 am to 4 pm.
Mow: Continue lawn mowing, if needed, to suppress weeds and prevent leaves and pine straw from accumulating. Never remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade at a time.
Prune: Continue to deadhead old blooms on annuals. Prune to improve form on summer flowering shrubs and trees before spring growth starts as these mostly flower from new wood. Avoid pruning spring flowering shrubs and trees including azalea, dogwood, redbud, Japanese magnolia, spiraea and loropetalum. Prune deciduous fruit trees to open and thin the canopy and remove crossing and rubbing branches. Avoid topping crape myrtles. These trees should be pruned to improve their form by removing excess growth in the interior, and eliminating crossing and rubbing branches, seed pods and any suckers. Remove entire branches and don’t leave stubs. Prune grapes in January or February.
Fertilize: Lawns and most ornamental plants shouldn’t be fertilized now. Herbs and vegetables will benefit from a slow/continuous release organic fertilizer applied every 3 to 4 weeks. Annuals and perennials can receive a 15-0-15 formula fertilizer every 4-6 weeks.
Control Weeds: Use post-emergent herbicides such as Fertilome Weedout (without fertilizer) and Fertilome Selective for spot treatment on cool-season weeds. Dollar Weed Control helps battle Dollar weed, but also make sure you’re not overwatering your lawn and creating conditions favorable for this weed. Choose an herbicide that lists your lawn type on the label. Ryegrass can be over seeded on lawns to provide temporary cover until warm weather arrives.
Harvest: Many citrus varieties are ready to be harvested (and continue over a long time). Harvest herbs frequently to encourage new growth.
Sow Seeds Indoors: Sow seeds of warm season vegetables and herbs indoors as soon as late January to early February to transplant out in March when warm enough, for an early spring garden. Since fennel has a long growing season and prefers cooler temperatures in the 70 to 80° range, its best to start indoors from seed a little earlier in January. It can be transplanted into the garden after danger of frost has passed. Tomatoes, eggplants and peppers need to grow at least 6 weeks indoors before transplanting to the garden. Once these seeds germinate, provide full sun or full spectrum artificial light positioned 2-4″ above the plants.
Mulch: Maintain a 2- to 3-inch layer around established trees, shrubs, and bedding plants to help maintain soil moisture, reduce erosion and weeds, and protect tropicals from intermittent temperature drops. Mulch also creates an attractive unified look and can highlight your plantings. Florida’s warm and often wet weather can lead to rapid breakdown of mulch, so be on the lookout for our preorder mulch deals.
Monitor Insects and Disease: Continue to monitor pests and disease on houseplants, lawns and gardens. A dose of insecticidal soap or Neem Oil (combats insects, mites and fungus) may be needed on houseplants.
Fungal diseases are still prevalent on lawns. Large Patch can be a problem in fall through winter. Bonide Infuse Systemic Disease Control is useful for this.
Infuse Systemic Disease Control
CLICK HERE TO ORDER!
Frequently scout the vegetable garden as insects are easier to control when first noticed. Horticultural soap sprays will control many soft-bodied insect pests and Bt (Bacillus thunbergiensis) is useful against caterpillars. Spinosad is particularly effective on caterpillars and thrips (also leafminers, spider mites, mosquitoes, ants and fruit flies) and lasts up to 4 weeks. Additionally, it is safe for people, beneficial insects and adult butterflies, and safe for bees once it has dried. Apply horticultural oil to citrus, shrubs, camellias and deciduous fruit trees while plants are dormant, to control scale. Many insect problems require a combination of pest management products and techniques. Rockaway has products specifically for all these problems, including products safe to use for your vegetable garden.
Prevent Cold Damage: One way to avoid some cold damage is to refrain from a complete landscape clean up until spring growth begins. Leaving spent vegetation, ornamental grasses and other perennials until spring provides insulation for the plant and others around it (not to mention more homes for wildlife and beneficial insects). Overhead cover from overhangs, porches and even taller plants can be enough protection for marginal plants, especially with extra heat radiating from a building. On a small scale, even a fan can stir up the air enough to mix the higher, warmer air with the colder air near the ground. Moving air is less likely to allow frost to form on foliage. Since cold air settles on flat surfaces parallel to the ground, it may help to bundle up large leaves so that they are either pointing up or down. Group pots together and wrap a blanket or freeze cloth around their base. Freeze cloths need to extend over the ground to catch the heat retained there. If the cloth is thrown over a plant, a string of Christmas lights under the cover can make a difference too. Make sure your evergreens have adequate moisture in winter as they can be desiccated by cold winds. An application of a dormant oil on broadleaf evergreens will not only control scale and mite insects but will also lessen moisture loss through leaves. Harvest citrus if temperatures will be 28° for 4 or more hours, unless the fruit is not ripe. If a severe freeze is predicted, protect citrus trees by banking clean sand around the trunk just above the graft union. If plant damage occurs, refer to our handout Helping Your Plants After a Freeze. CLICK HERE!
Frost or Freeze?
The importance of the difference between a frost and a freeze depends, from a gardener’s perspective, on the effect they have on plants. Freezes are much less under our control and potentially much more damaging, whereas the effects of frosts can be more easily tempered. Freezes kill by causing ice to form within plant cells, rupturing them so the tissue is destroyed. If the air temperature is below freezing at all levels around the plant, that is a true freeze. Damage from frost depends on the sensitivity of the plant, how low temperatures get and for how long the low temperature conditions remain. It can help to understand some of the variations in these events.
Frosts occur on calm, clear nights when the air temperature near the ground reaches or goes below freezing (32°F) but the air temperature higher up is above freezing. As the air temperature falls below freezing, if the dew point (the temperature at which dew forms and a reflection of how much moisture is in the air) is at or below freezing, then ice crystals will form on surfaces. If the dew point is low enough (very dry conditions) and the temperature drops below freezing, then no or little visible ice crystals will form. If the dew point is high (lots of moisture in the air) and the temperature falls below freezing, then the dew which had already formed under those conditions will freeze (so in effect this is frozen dew, not frost). On roads, this is what we call Black Ice. The first condition, where few ice crystals form, is more damaging because frost can be somewhat protective to plants. Newly formed ice tends to stay at about 30-31°F even if the surrounding temperature drops some. Where there is no ice protection, the temperature may get low enough to form the killing ice within plant tissues. However, at very high humidity, if too much ice forms on the plants then its heavy weight can damage more than just leaves, but also entire limbs.
So why can you sometimes see visible frost on your lawn when outdoor thermometers read above 31°F? Frost occurs in localized areas where the temperature is freezing. Surfaces that don’t hold as much heat overnight such as lawns, car windows and roofs may be at a lower temperature than a surrounding area such as a wall, sidewalk or area where a thermometer is located. Frost can occur on surfaces even when air temperature is up to 10° higher.