Weird Winter Weather

What’s a gardener to do? On the one hand we advise not to feed or prune when there is still a possibility of frost looming. On the other hand, your garden is probably in full bloom (or something approaching full bloom) Right now in early February! While this particular set of winter circumstances may be different for you, one thing you can always count on: Zone 10 Florida Gardening is always Fascinating in Winter. Notice the use of the term “fascinating” where many of you might be inclined to use the term “frustrating”. THIS is the difference between Black Thumbs and Green Thumbs! Approach your winter gardening efforts with a sense of curiosity and interest, and you will discover insight you didn’t even know you were capable of!

This is where our Pinder’s Mantra comes into play:

A plant is a living organism, responding to an ever-changing environment.

Use this as your guide to decision-making when it comes to determining what your plant needs, and you will be one step ahead of the game.  So let’s examine the effects of this winter’s remarkably mild temperature environment on your garden.

Have you noticed blossoms on your flowering trees? In Apopka this week Marvin & I were amazed by streets lined with Golden Tabebulias in full bloom! Huh? In January?? Fascinating!

Are you allergies worse than usual? My car is littered with Oak bloom every morning! Fascinating!

New growth emerging on your everything? Ugh! Lord help them if an arctic blast does make its way down here! Fascinating!

Feel better? Fascination is a great cure for frustration! Now that your mind set is poised for success, let’s talk about what your plants will need from you. This creative flush of new growth and bloom has been incited by unusually warm temperatures. We have had many days in the high seventies this winter and several above 80 degrees. This triggers mechanisms in the plants to bloom. The problem lies in the fact that the plant is not well-poised to sustain this effort. You see, plants use sunlight and their leaves to produce chlorophyll, which is in essence their “food”. Well, it is February, and the fact is both leaves and sunlight are in short supply! So the bloom you are seeing is not likely to be sustainable by the plant.

So given the current environment that our gardens are responding to, I have to say that some sort of nutritional support is required. I would recommend organic fertilizer for this purpose because the slow release of organic nutrients allows for the plant to pick up the nutrients as the demand presents– that is to say, when the temperatures rise. Liquid chelated nutritional sprays applied to the foliage will also work well. These products are designed to allow for the translaminar (through the leaf surface) absorption of the nutrients and therefore will compensate for root uptake that is slowed by cooler soil temperatures.

If you are little reluctant to feed in the midst of what ought to be our cool season, I understand. But do your garden the favor of at least applying SuperThrive to those plants that are flushing and/or blooming. This blend of vitamins and hormones is truly amazing in its ability to boost the plant’s immune response!

The other unusual condition this winter has been the humidity. We are unseasonably damp, which has led to many problems in the fungus categories- with Downey and Powdery mildew the most prevalent culprits. Water early in the day, practice impeccable sanitation, and consider using the beneficial microbe, Bacillus subtilus (the active ingredient in Serenade) which is known to make lunch out of the mildew spores.