December Gardening Tips for North Florida
It’s a most wonderful time of the year to garden, if you can find the time. The weather is cooler and the humidity is low. Since December is a dry month, watering your plants regularly is a must. This is especially true if a blast of Canadian polar air reaches this far south. Your plants are less susceptible to the cold and to frost damage when the ground is wet.
Some varieties of mums may still be blooming. After they finish, cut them back to 6-inch stems. They’ll begin to grow again in the spring for another great show next fall..
December is the last chance to plant daffodils in our area. Be sure to select a variety that is appropriate for North Florida. The Florida Daffodil Society has tested many varieties that perennialize well in North Florida. See their website for suggestions. With proper selections, you may enjoy blooms from November through April.
The herbs and vegetable garden you started a couple of months ago should be providing yummy additions to your table. Be aware that some garden pests (caterpillars, cutworms, leafhoppers, aphids, thrips) are still around. Take action to control them so they don’t harvest your produce before you do.
Top Ten Tips for December
O Check irrigation system to assure it is ready if freezing temperatures occur.
O Divide and replant amaryllis that are overcrowded. Add organic matter to new planting areas and monitor their water needs during establishment.
O Enjoy Poinsettias: This popular holiday plant will continue to bloom for weeks (or even a couple of months) when given proper care. Be sure not to overwater the plant. If you are preparing a plant for holiday blooming, discontinue its ‘short day long night’ treatment by the beginning of December. Continue to give it at least six hours of bright light daily.
O Examine plants for pests: While cooler weather generally means fewer pests, some populations actually increase at this time of year. Continue monitoring and treat as needed.
O Monitor for fungal disease, brown patch: Limiting the application of nitrogen and watering at the proper time of day are good preventive measures.
O Mulch your plants: Moving mulch away from young plants prevents the upward radiation of warmth from the soil to the plants. This will make your plants freeze faster during a cold snap. So keep them well mulched.
O Plant bulbs for spring blooms. If you choose crocus or hyacinths, they need six to eight weeks of chill (such as in your refrigerator) before planting them.
O Prevent frost damage: When a hard freeze is forecast, take action to protect your tender plants. Water them well before the time the freeze is expected. Cover your plants with sheets or better yet, blankets or frost cloth. A battery operated lantern or an electric light can also raise the temperature under the cover. Be sure to remove the covers when the temperature rises again. Another option is to run your sprinkler system during a hard freeze until the mercury rises again. This will cause ice to form on the plants, which helps prevent severe damage as the ice acts like insulation. The plant's temperature will not drop below 32°F. Return-stack heaters can be used to prevent frost damage by raising the temperature of the surrounding air (this is the most often used protection by citrus groves during freezes).
O Select some Houseplants: Winter shifts the focus from outdoor to indoor plants. Houseplants are good for you and can improve your indoor environment. When selecting plants, consider the plants’ light, temperature, and humidity requirements to ensuring that they will thrive. Some suggestions are African Violets, Aloe Vera, Cactus, Christmas Cactus, Peace Lily, Dieffenbachia, Philodendrons, and Spider Plant.
O Test your Soil: If your plants did not perform as expected this year or you’re planning new beds, a soil test is a good idea. The results can guide your plant selection and soil treatment. Contact your county extension service for a test kit.
Suggestions for varieties that do well in north Florida are listed below. Flowering plants will add color through the fall and some into winter.
House plant suggestions: African Violets, Aloe Vera, Cactus, Christmas Cactus, Dieffenbachia, Philodendrons, Peace Lily, Spider Plant
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