Columbia County Gardening Calendar


UF/IFAS Extension Columbia County

 

 

January

Lawn

dead leaf floating on waterRake fallen leaves and add to your compost pile or use for a natural mulch.  If left on the lawn in a thick mat, the underlying grass can suffer from fungus problems and a lack of sun light. 

Garden

yellow bell pepperWinter vegetables planted in the fall will be ready for early harvesting.  Add a mulch around your vegetables to keep the Winter weeds under control.  Many weed seeds require light to germinate.  The shade of the mulch will prevent their sprouting and conserve soil moisture.

Landscape

flower potThe Winter months are ideal for transplanting shrubs and small trees.  Larger specimens would benefit from root pruning in the Fall before transplanting them.  Container grown plants may also be planted during the Winter months.  Be sure not to set the plant below the level it was growing in the pot or the roots may suffer from lack of oxygen.

gardening booksOther Activities

This is an ideal time to request and read garden catalogs and books of interest.  Check your local library for a variety of books, magazines and video tapes that are available.

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February

Lawn

soilConsider getting a soil test analysis for your lawn (and garden) areas.  The results will tell you if you need to add lime to adjust the soil pH.  Some people ask if they should lime their yard to kill the weeds.  I do not recommend this since too much lime can harm your lawn grass.  Test first.  Use a herbicide or mow frequently to keep the weeds under control.

Garden

flower seedsFebruary is an ideal time to start your own transplants for the garden.  Flower and vegetable seeds may be planted 4 to 6 weeks early to get a jump on the cool weather.  Place your seed flats or containers in a sunny, warm location.  Keep a close eye on them to be sure they do not dry out.  Give your sprouts a liquid fertilizer (half strength) once a week after they have been up for a week or so.

Landscape

oak leafContinue cleaning up fallen leaves and twigs in the landscape.  If you are having problems with plant diseases or insect pests, one of the best things to do to reduce these problems the next year is to clean up fallen debris.  This removes the fungal spores and insect eggs that are waiting to hatch in the Spring.

Other Activities

beetleIf you routinely have a problem with beetle grubs or mole crickets in the lawn, consider using a granular insecticide this time of year.  These insects eat grass roots and can stunt the grass or kill patches of grass if their populations are too high.  You can use a shovel to turn over a square foot of sod to get an idea of how many insects you have.  More than a couple in a square foot could be damaging to the lawn.  The alternative to using an insecticide would be to let the lawn go natural and enjoy the free aeration and dethatching service from the moles and armadillos that are sure to visit your lawn to eat the grubs.  I enjoy watching the local toads eat my beetles and other insects.  I have even witnessed various birds in the lawn eating some of the baby toad population.  The food chain continues in my little ecosystem!

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March

Lawn

watering canLater in the month of March is an excellent time for the Spring fertilization.  Use a lawn fertilizer with slow release nitrogen.  I recommend using half the rate recommended on the bag and coming back in late Summer with the other half of the fertilizer.  An iron treatment in the middle of the Summer can give your grass a green up without over doing the nitrogen.  If you irrigate your lawn, it is better to water once a week putting out 3/4 to one inch of water than to water every day giving just a sprinkle.  Watering deeply will encourage a stronger root system and reduce disease problems.

Garden

Many of the Fall planted vegetables will be nearing the end of their harvest now.  Let a few plants go to seed if you want to save some seed for next year.  Realize though that if the plants are tomatohybrids, your seeds may not have the same quality or characteristics as the original plants.  Select the healthiest plants to give you seed. 

Avoid the urge to plant summer plants too soon.  Tomatoes, for instance, if planted into cool soil will stay stunted until the weather warms up.  You would do just as well to wait for warmer days unless you will planting a few early plants in containers so they can be brought in during cold nights. 

Landscape

geranium flowerAvoid the urge to pull up snap dragons, dianthus, geraniums and other plants that seem to be under achievers.  The warmer weather of March will bring these plants back out for a Spring bloom and flush of growth.  Dead head your pansies if you have the patience and a good knee pad.  This will give them an extended bloom cycle.

Other Activities

Get the lawn mower and other lawn and garden equipment tuned up for Spring.  Grass mowing is just around the corner now.  Have a spare blade for the mower ready.  Change the spark plug and oil as well as the air filter to give your equipment a performance boost.

Begin fertilizing your citrus and other fruit trees lightly and monthly during the growing season.  Check your fruit trees for spider mites and scale insects.  Use an insecticide spray or horticultural oil spray to keep these pests under control.  Follow the label instructions and clean yourself up after using any lawn and garden chemicals.

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April

Lawn

Many cultural lawn problems such as lack of water mimic insect damage.  Confirm the damage is being caused by insects before applying a pesticide.  Apply fertilizer no sooner than mid-April after new growth has started and the lawn has been mowed at least once.  Choose a fertilizer with no or nery little phosphorus unless a soil test indicates a need for it.  A fertilizer containing slow release nitrogen will give longer lasting results.  Mow lawns at the highest recommended heights.  * St Augustine and Bahia:  3-4”  
* Centipede: 1.5 – 2.0”   *Dwf St. Augustine: 2.5”

Garden


Continue planting warm season crops such as okra and cucumber.  Mulch well to prevent weeds and provide irrigation if rainfall is lacking.  Plant heat-loving herbs like basil, oregano, sage, Mexican tarragon and rosemary.  Monitor the garden for insects and diseases,  and manage outbreaks before they become problems.

Landscape


Monitor tender growth on plants for aphid populations.  Deadhead flowers to encourage another round of blooms.  Planting season is here and there are many shrubs that can be added to the landscape now.  Many beautiful trees are in bloom.  Consider planting fringetree, Carolina silverbell, or redbud.  New varieties of coleus provide vivid colors and patterns and will do well in the sun or shade for months to com. 

Other Activities


It’s a good time to plant bulbs such as blood lily, caladium, or canna.  Loisiana iris makes a beautiful cut flower and thrives in most soil types although they prefer moist soils with high organic matter content.  Divide perennials, bulbs, and ornamental grasses now to expand or rejuvenate garden beds or pass on plants to friends.

 

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May

Lawn

watering canYou can help avoid or minimize lawn disease problems by scheduling your watering and irrigation for the early morning hours instead of in the evening.  Water only when the grass starts to show signs of stress such as when the leaf blades start to fold up (not every day).  Set some small cans or jars out under the sprinklers to see how long it takes to collect about three fourths of an inch of water.  That is how long your sprinkler system should run for each watering.  Keep your mower blades sharp to reduce the frizzle ends of the grass blades where fungal diseases can get started.  Spot treat with liquid herbicides as needed to control summer weeds.

Vegetable Garden

peasPlant heat loving crops such as southern peas, okra and eggplant.  If saving your own seed from winter/spring crops, let the seed pods or fruit ripen fully, pull them at maturity and let them dry before removing the seed.  Watch for leaf blight on tomatoes.  When the lower leaves get spots and start to die, remove them and discard.  Use a fungicide spray to protect the remaining foliage.  Mulch your tomato plants to reduce the splashing of soil on the leaves and fruit.  Add gypsum to the soil to reduce blossom end rot problems with tomatoes. 

Flower Beds and Shrubs

mulchUse mulch to conserve soil moisture and suppress weeds.  Use a fungicide spray to extend the life of zinnias and other annual flowers or just let nature take its course and plant with something else when they die back.  Remove old blooms (dead head) to extend the blooming season.  Consider leaving old blooms on some plants to produce seed for next year.  Fertilize monthly (but lightly) to encourage healthy growth.  Prune spring blooming shrubs now to shape them, then avoid pruning them the rest of the year to allow development of next year’s bloom buds.  Later in the month is a good time to divide Spring flowering perennials or to rework the beds with soil amendments.

Herbs

basil and seedsHarvest your herbs as needed for fresh use.  With vigorously growing herbs or those that are about to bloom, harvest larger quantities of the leaves or tender stems and spread them out on a paper towel to dry.  Store the dry herbs in an air tight plastic bag or jar for use later when fresh herbs are no longer in season.  Let a few plants go to seed for sowing next year.

Fruit Trees

orangeSome fruit drop is normal on fruit trees in late Spring.  Fruit drop may be caused by an overabundant fruit set, environmental stress or insect damage.  It is better to fertilize fruit trees monthly with a light dose than to give them one heavy fertilization in the Spring.  Water your trees as needed during dry weather.  Spray tender fruit monthly with an insecticide and fungicide combination as a preventative measure paying attention to the label instructions regarding the time to quit spraying before harvest.  Add mulch to conserve soil moisture.  Prune only lightly to remove dead or rubbing wood or to train a young tree to shape.

For the Wildlife

zebra butterflyTo encourage butterflies and birds into your yard, provide water and food for their particular needs.  Various feeders and seed combinations are readily available for bird lovers to add to the landscape.  Add leafy plants for butterfly caterpillars to eat and blooming plants for the adult butterflies.  Adult butterflies seek out specific host plants to lay eggs on so the resulting caterpillars will have the necessary food.  Check with the Extension Service for a list of host plants that support local butterflies.

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June

Lawn

watering canThe summer heat inspires many people to turn on the irrigation sprinklers.  It is a good idea to watch your grass for signs of water stress.  This is when the grass blades start to fold together to conserve water or when the grass seems crunchy when you walk on it.  Most of our lawn grasses can tolerate some water stress and will revive nicely when you irrigate or with the next rainfall.  When you do water the lawn, it is better to give it about an inch of water each time.  You can put out a can to catch the water and measure the depth.  Watering less frequently but thoroughly will encourage deep root growth and reduce fungal disease problems for the lawn.

Vegetable Garden

summer peasIf you have not already planted them, you can still plant heat tolerant crops such as summer peas and okra.  Start rummaging through the seed catalogs and garden centers for fall season seeds if you plan to start your own transplants.  If you have nematode problems in the garden you can solarize the soil in the rows that do not have a crop growing.  This involves tilling the soil, watering it well, and covering the area with clear plastic.  Leave the soil covered for a couple of months during the summer heat and it will “cook” the nematodes and weed seeds.  There are no chemical options for the homeowner to kill nematodes so this is the best option.

Flower Beds

mulchWeeds and moisture stress are common this time of year.  Consider using a weed blocker of some sort under a mulch layer.  Weed blockers come in various styles from woven fabrics to fiber mats.  A few layers of newspapers can also be used as a temporary weed barrier under mulch.  After a few months it will decompose and add organic matter to the soil.  There are also several options for mulch materials.  Rock, pebbles, and recycled tire chunks are good for permanent beds that will not have seasonal changes to the plantings.  Organic materials such as bark, leaves, pine needles or compost will eventually break down and need replacing but add organic matter to the soil in the process.  Plant heat tolerant flowers such as curcumas, zinnias and marigolds for summer color.  If you are so inclined, watch your flower beds and wildflowers and harvest the seed pods at they start to dry on the plant.

herbsHerbs

Some herbs will be going to flower at this time.  For most herbs, the rule of thumb is to harvest them before they bloom for the peak condition.  Consider drying your harvest if you have a bumper crop.  I dry herbs and use them in tea year-round.  Of course, if you intend to harvest your own seeds, let some plants go through the blooming stage to full maturity.  This is also a good time to propagate some herbs from cuttings.  A little rooting hormone powder can improve the success rate.

Fruit Trees

peachMany trees will drop young fruit as the season progresses.  This can be caused from an over abundant fruit set or stresses such as not enough water or too much fertilizer.  Watch for pests and diseases and use a combination fruit spray as directed by the instructions.  You can also try Neem oil, or copper sulfate plus horticultural oil but be sure to observe any temperature restrictions before you spray.

For the Wildlife

Many of our song birds have stopped visiting the feeders since they have migrated to other areas or they’re foraging for their own on insects and seeds.  You can probably reduce the amount of seed you put out unless you just enjoy watching Mr. Squirrel steal the seeds.  Some wildlife in the garden are not welcome visitors and can be repelled with stockings of hair or cheap perfume.  A good fence may be needed for rabbits and other small critters.  Deer will jump most fences if they can see the wires.  Try some fishing line strung in front of or above the top of the fence.  They will feel it but not see it and may not try to jump over.

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July

Lawn

watering canRecent rains have increased the probability of fungus problems on our lawns.  Watch for brown patches of grass surrounded by a light green to yellow ring of dying grass.  Treat these areas with a fungicide labeled for lawn use.  Granular fungicides with imidacloprid as the active ingredient have given good results.  Too much water and too much fertilizer can also increase the occurrence of “take all” root rot in Saint Augustine lawns.  Fungicides have only limited benefit in this case.  Reduce irrigation and withhold fertilizer to toughen up the grass and make it more resistant.  Give your lawn a treatment of liquid or granular iron instead of fertilizer to give it a summer green up.

Vegetable Garden

summer peasThe heat of July may take its toll on your vegetable garden.  Use mulch and irrigate as needed.  Consider planting a summer cover crop such as vetch or summer peas to add organic matter and nitrogen to the soil.  Watch your plants for diseases and insect pests and treat them as needed.  You can extend the season for some plants such as tomatoes and sweet potatoes by making cuttings of your existing plants and rooting them in pots.  Once established, plant them in a row for a Fall crop.

Herbs

mulchRefresh the mulch around your herbs to help keep the roots cool and moist.  Some herbs will be blooming and setting seed at this time.  If you want the seed, let the seed mature to the point of being dry or let the pods just start to open before harvesting.  Pick the seed or pods and let them dry indoors before storing the seed in an air tight bag in the freezer.  Consider adding a pot of Rosemary to the back porch to have handy when grilling pork or fish.

Fruit Trees

persimmonsContinue fertilizing citrus trees monthly with a citrus special fertilizer.  Avoid over fertilizing persimmon trees or they may drop much of their fruit.  For blueberries, use a fertilizer for acid loving plants.  Azalea fertilizer works well.  Add an iron supplement such as liquid iron or granular “Ironite” around blueberries if the new leaves start turning yellow between the veins.  Other fruiting plants would do well with a moderate does of an all purpose fertilizer such as 10-10-10.

For the Wildlife

bird bathThe summer heat affects wildlife just like it does us.  If you have bird baths, butterfly puddling stations, or other water provisions for wildlife, be sure to check the water levels and change the water out regularly.  Do not let the same water set too long or you will be breeding mosquitoes.

Personal Protection

glovesIf you are actively gardening this time of year, you may find it necessary to use gardening chemicals to control weeds, plant diseases, and pesky insects.  Be sure to follow the label instructions and observe the proper personal protection measures.  Wear chemical resistant gloves when appropriate and clean your hands well after using these chemicals.  Protect yourself and your environment by using the least toxic product or method to control the problem.

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August

Lawn

 

Garden

 

Landscape

 

Other Activities

 

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September

Lawn

 

Garden

 

Landscape

 

Other Activities

 

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October

Lawn

 

Garden

 

Landscape

 

Other Activities

 

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November

Lawn

 

Garden

 

Landscape

 

Other Activities

 

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December

Lawn

 

Garden

 

Landscape

 

Other Activities

 

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