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Winter Chores for your Florida Landscape

posted Dec 30, 2016, 11:26 AM by Hernando Chapter Florida Native Plant Society
Suggestions from the Hernando Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society

Now is the time to get outside and tidy up a Florida landscape. Use winter months to assess your plantings and prepare your property for improvements. It’s much more pleasant to take on large landscaping tasks now!  

Know what you’ve got
Annuals live one year and reproduce by seed. Perennials are plants that live more than two years—herbaceous perennials die back each fall and return from the roots in spring. Trees and shrubs may lose their leaves (deciduous) or keep them in winter (evergreen).  Each requires a different type of attention.

Hernando Freezes
It freezes in Hernando County, and some citizens replace plants that aren’t suitable to our region, year after year. Plan now to add plants that will thrive and be more cold-hardy. Perennial plants and shrubs native to Hernando rarely succumb due to a cold snap. 

In your current landscape, you can pull up or mow the spent annuals such as wildflowers once they have seeded. But for perennials, hold off serious pruning until March—even when you have freeze damage. Pruning stimulates the plant to grow new foliage, making them susceptible to damage by a late freeze. When danger of frost is past, prune dead or unwanted branches correctly. Give plants that return from the roots each year a haircut; they may look dead now, but will spring back soon!

Refresh your mulch.
In Florida, when you disturb the soil in your landscape you stir up a hidden seed bed and increase the need to weed! Bury the problem with mulch. Mulch keeps unwanted plants from sprouting up and maintains moisture for those you want. This winter, pile on some more mulch in landscape. (Do keep it away from the base of plants and trees to prevent rot!)  Please avoid cypress mulch. Florida’s native bald cypress trees are harvested to chop up, with bad results for natural areas. Pine bark and straw, FloriMulch (made from the invasive Melalueca tree), or leaves from your yard are all great alternatives. 

Extend your planting beds.
Use this dormant time to expand your planting beds and reduce your lawn. Whether you rip up the some sod or smother the turf with newspaper, you can get the mulch in place now and establish your edges. When it is time to add native plants to new areas, you can just dig a hole the same size as the pot and drop them in, hand watering for a few weeks until established.  No fertilizer or soil additives will be necessary if you've selected plants adapted to your conditions. 

Improve and reduce your irrigation. 
When you replace turf grass with beds of Florida friendly plants, you reduce the need for irrigation, and for equipment. In fact, you can plant species that require no irrigation at all!  Group all plants that require irrigation together, and consider low-cost micro-spray systems that bring water right to each plant. Winter is also a great time to repair existing irrigation and get your rain barrel ready to collect all the free rain of summer. 
Native plants are adapted to the climate and soil conditions of a given area and are less likely to die from freeze, drought, pests or neglect. For more information about  what plants are right for your place, join the Hernando Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society,