Spring represents renewal and change. In Central Florida, it also represents the start of longer daylight hours and a welcome period of comfortably warm temperatures before summer’s intense heat. For gardening enthusiasts (regardless of your level of experience), it’s time to get the pruners, shovels, and fertilizers ready to work! Much like you would “spring clean” your home, the same idea applies to your yard and garden. March is the ideal month to get your slice of Florida paradise in shape so it will thrive throughout spring and summer!
Spring Cleaning in Your Central Florida Yard – What to Prune and Fertilize
Pruning is essential to not only the appearance but the overall health of shrubs and some trees. According to the University of Florida IFAS Extension, prune shrubs when new growth begins after the end of the dormant season. To guard next season’s blooms, begin pruning after the last flowers fade but before the new buds set.
UF IFAS Extension offers maintenance instructions for hedges and shrubs. For informal hedges (closely planted shrubs that are allowed to develop into their natural shape), annual pruning involves thinning and shaping just enough to maintain desired height and width. For formal hedges (those with a hard outline of foliage from the top of the hedge to the ground), clip while the new growth is green. Avoid the common mistake of trimming such shrubs into a uniform “box” shape. Instead, trim so the top is narrower than the bottom. This allows sunlight to reach all of the plant’s leaves so that the lower branches don’t thin out and die.
Don’t forget your flower beds! Gardening expert Doug Jimerson writes the following for Costa Farms: “Rake leaves and mulch away from garden beds to allow the foliage of spring-flowering bulbs and perennials to poke through. During the winter, leaves can pack down, forming an impenetrable barrier to new growth. Plus when you pull back the mulch, the soil will warm faster because it’s exposed to the sun. Use a plastic leaf rake when you remove mulch. Metal garden rakes with sharp tongs can rip tender foliage from emerging plants.”
As for fertilizing, Jimerson advises: “Fertilize camellias and azaleas after they finish flowering. Use a commercial camellia/azalea granular fertilizer sprinkled around the base of the plants. Be sure to read the label for application rates. Feed monthly through August for best growth and flowering. In the fall and winter, use a 0-10-10 fertilizer to help build next spring’s flower production. That mixture of nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium will also increase your plants’ ability to tolerate cold weather.”
Although not as obviously sandy as the soil in Florida’s coastal counties, Central Florida’s soil lacks certain nutrients – making fertilizing necessary to achieve optimum growth and beauty in your plants. The types of plants or trees you have determine how often they should be fertilized. Look for a brand that contains a slow release of nitrogen and potassium, and has a nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium ratio of 16-4-8. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for use for the best results. Fertilize palms, azaleas, and camellias as needed. Re-mulch after fertilizing. This locks in the fertilizer and keeps moisture better through the dry season. Now is also the time to plant new shrubs.
Great Annuals and Shrubs to Plant in March
Now it’s time for the fun part – deciding what to plant! Let’s go back to the flower beds you’ve cleared of spent winter annuals and replace them with varieties that will bloom into the warmer months. Tree Care by Robert Miller recommends planting bulbs like caladiums – which will grow well throughout the spring and summer. Consider planting daylilies, which come in early-, mid-, and late-blooming varieties to guarantee months of blooms. It’s also important to consider where you are planting your flowers. Look for plants that will do well in specific areas in your yard. Some plants will thrive in the sun while others need more shade.
If you’re looking for a low-maintenance, long-lasting, and colorful addition, caladiums are the perfect fit for your spring garden. Caladiums are unique when it comes to their foliage: no leaf is like the other! Although their leaves are stunning, they are easily damaged by a strong wind, so make sure you plant them in a protected area. For more spring flower varieties, our blog post – “Spring Flowers You Want In Your Central Florida Garden” – provides many other colorful options!
For shrubs and ornamentals, Tree Care by Robert Miller recommends gardenias, which bloom many months out of the year and are easy to maintain if you choose the right type. FYI: Prune for shape more than anything else. However, this should be done lightly and after the plant has finished blooming. Fertilize gardenias in early spring and fall.
Herbs and fruits are also a great addition to your garden. The plants themselves are lovely, and give you fresh ingredients for your favorite recipes! Popular herbs to plant for spring include:
- sweet basil
Strawberries and raspberries are perfect for an early spring garden bed or container. Be sure to place them in well-drained soil and provide at least six hours of sunlight.
In March and April, plant warm-weather-loving vegetables such as:
- sweet corn
Always make sure to use quality seeds and plants zoned for your area. Central Florida is zone 9b. In late April and May, you can begin introducing heat-loving plants such as okra, southern peas, and sweet potatoes.
Other Lawn and Garden Tips for Spring
- Water is a precious resource. If you have an irrigation system, it’s important to check it now. Look for broken heads or inefficient spray patterns that can waste water. Also, adjust your timer so you aren’t watering your yard during the rainy season.
- If you are aiming to create an environment for native wildlife, consider adding a pollinator area to your garden. A pollinator garden helps attract pollinators such as bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. Also, planting native Floridian plants helps reduce the need for fertilizing and heavy watering.
- Most lawns and gardens require an inch of moisture a week. If you are unsure of how much water you are providing, set a coffee can in the yard and measure what it catches.
- Keep a light blanket or grow cloth handy just in case the temperatures drop unexpectedly. Cover your plants at night if it drops below freezing. We still get some cold nights just when we think winter is behind us!
- For strawberries and raspberries, plant both everbearing and June-bearing types to gain the maximum amount of fruit over a longer period of time.
- Sow radishes, spinach, beans, and peas in wide rows instead of single file. You’ll get more produce per square inch if you scatter seed in a 6- to 10-inch wide band.
- Spray your trees before they leaf out with a dormant oil spray. It’s an effective method of reducing insect pests organically (follow label directions when you apply).
- Use a plastic leaf rake when you remove mulch. Metal garden rakes with sharp tongs can rip tender foliage from emerging plants.
As you can see, there’s a lot to keep you busy outdoors in March! If you need help with any aspect of lawn and garden care, call Daniel’s Lawn Service & Pressure Washing! Our experienced team can work with you to achieve your goals and bring your vision to life! We also provide landscape design, tree installation, tree trimming, yard maintenance, pressure washing and so much more. Contact us today!