Decembers Tip’s & Tricks for South Florida Landscapes

As another growing season comes to an end, we should look back at our landscape area and address areas that did not do well. A soil sample of that area may be be needed to be taken in order to determine if there was a nutritional problem in the soil or just bad plant selection. It is best recommended that new landscaping should be put off until March when the chance of cold weather freezes is no longer with us. The following is a helpful check list of the things we can still do in our gardens and enjoy doing it because of the beautiful weather.

Trees: No major pruning of hardwood trees should be done this month unless necessary. Removing of major branches leaves open wounds to the tree. December, January & February are the coldest months and a possible freeze could cause major long term health problems for the tree. Palm trees when pruned up to the “nine & three” and removing only dead limbs will not effect the health of the tree.

Pests: While cooler weather  generally means fewer pests, some populations actually increase at this time of the year.  Watch for brown patch and large patch, fungal diseases that cause areas of grass to turn brown. Since treatment is difficult,prevention with proper cultural practices is key. Now that temperatures are lower, use dormant oil sprays to control scale insects. Monitoring the garden for insects and disease should be done on a monthly basis. Not all insects cause damage, some are beneficial and eat damage causing insects. If you are not sure, hire a Florida certified pest control operator.

Irrigation: South Florida Water Management water restrictions are still in place allowing for watering twice per week with the exception of new landscape installation allowing for thirty days.  Most residential & commercial properties have automatic sprinkler systems and should be tested monthly. Rain sensors (automatically shut off during rain) to irrigation systems should be checked and adjusted to lowest setting. To much water will cause fungus & disease in our landscapes & turf. Plants may need irrigation if the weather continues to stay warm & dry.Plants need less supplemental watering in cooler weather.  Monitor for signs of stress and water only if needed.

Lawns :  To prevent cooler weather weeds from growing set mowing heights at the highest recommended heights,  St. Augustine & Bahia turf @ 4″,  Dwarf St. Augustine @2.5″. Mulching the cut grass will add nutrients back to the roots and soil. To prevent or minimize disease in turf, proper cultural practices should be used.

Plants:  Poinsettias are one of the most popular holiday plants. Enjoy it now and after the holidays plant it in the yard  to rebloom next year. Deadheading of flowering shrubs should be done to encourage new blooms. Major pruning of shrubs should not be done at this time because of the possibility of a freeze could damage them.Wait until the spring to cut them back. 

Annuals: To add color to your entrances, mass plantings of begonia, geranium and new guinea impatiens will do the job.

Vegetables: Cool season vegetables to plant this month include cabbage, celery, carrots, cauliflower and all varieties of lettuce.

Herbs: Plant herbs that thrive in cooler weather. Some to try include cilantro, parsley, dill, sage and fennel.

Holiday Trees: Consider enjoying a live southern red cedar and then plant it in the landscape when the holidays are over.

Plant Protection: Falling temperatures may require cloth protection of tender orchids, annuals and tomato plants in your landscape.

I hope the list we have prepared for you helps you with tips to improve your gardens & landscapes. If you need help regarding your landscape, we at Garden Services are fully licensed & insured to handle all of your irrigation, landscaping, lawn maintenance and tree service needs whether it’s a residential, commercial or homeowner association property  If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have. Special thanks to UF/IFAS extension offices for some helpful information provided to this post.