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Add new colors to garden; protect against frosty weather

This is a great time to garden in Florida.

Plant growth slows down, but you can still add color and texture to your garden.

Now is a good time to concentrate on adding some inexpensive color to the landscape.

You may have lost some or all of your annuals to the December cold, so try buying a few packets of seeds and sprinkle them about.

The soil will need to be kept moist, but that is about the only requirement. Try those seeds that normally like the cooler weather such as alyssum, calendula, carnation, dianthus, dusty miller, foxglove, geranium, marigold, snapdragon, pansy, petunia or Johnny Jump Up.

The investment is minimal, so if more damaging cold weather passes through there won't be much disappointment.

Prepare the soil for the seeds by adding compost, then fertilize lightly after planting. Keep seeds and newly emerged plants watered until established, then water when needed.

Try a mix of seeds and plants. Using seeds helps keep your cost low and gives you the opportunity to try more plants. Germination and growth of seeds will be slow this time of the year, but it tends to be very successful.

Perennials such as blue salvia, chrysanthemum, coreopsis, day lily, gaillardia, gazania, Shasta daisy, stokes aster or yarrow can be planted now. Some will provide color this winter. Others, such as the day lily, will provide spring and summer color.

Although botanically perennials are plants that grow more or less indefinitely from year to year and usually produce seed each year, in Florida some may be short-lived. Some perennials may have to be replanted each year.

Don't forget veggies

Don't forget the vegetable garden. Plant — or plant more of — beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage, collards, lettuce, mustard, onions, peas, radishes, spinach and turnips.

Watch for bugs and hand pick when possible. If using chemicals, follow label instructions carefully. It's been breezy this winter, so be careful of drift if spraying chemicals. Fertilize every other week with a weak water-soluble mixture or use compost tea.

Add some herbs; try garlic, chives, coriander, dill, oregano, thyme, sage and parsley. The cold weather may have killed the basil, so wait a few weeks before replacing it.

Amend the soil

You can never add too much organic material to plant beds. Anywhere there is bare soil is a good spot to add soil amendments. Working straw, compost, peat, topsoil, stable waste, or chemical-free lawn clippings into the soil is best. If you're afraid you'll damage the roots of established plants, just heavily mulch with the organic material. It will make its way into the soil.

If you cover plants with old sheets or blankets when cold weather comes, remember you are just protecting from the frost, not a heavy freeze. You can buy frost clothes in the big box stores, but most just protect from the frost also.

The cover must be insulated to help protect against cold weather, or add lights, such as Christmas lights, under the cover to raise the temperature around the plant.

Watch weather reports so you don't get caught unexpectedly by cold weather, and continue a leisurely pace of garden maintenance through the winter.

Mary Collister can be reached at hillsnews@sptimes.com.

Add new colors to garden; protect against frosty weather 01/13/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:54pm]
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