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Winter doesn't halt garden chores

GARDEN ACTIVITIES: New Year's resolutions are easy to make and easy to break. One resolution we always try to keep is to spend as much time as possible outdoors, enjoying the great Florida weather. Winter and spring are the best times to do a lot of renovation in the landscape. Deciduous shade and fruit trees can be pruned. Winter and spring annuals are planted for a show of color and hardy plants are added to the landscape.

Even though winter is a dormant period for most hardy plants, they still need to be handled properly to ensure healthy growth in the spring. Many trees and shrubs die before they even get a chance to leaf out because of improper planting. Until new roots have formed and the plants are anchored firmly in their new home, it may be necessary to use stakes or guy wires for support. This is especially true for trees, which are often dislodged by wind. Even if the plant does not fall over, the constant shifting of the root system keeps it under stress.

With proper care, a POINSETTIA plant used for the holidays can remain colorful and attractive throughout the winter.

Keep your plant in a well-lighted location, out of drafts. Water to keep the soil moist and fertilize with any houseplant food every two to three weeks until the colorful bracts fade and drop. The plant can then be cut back and moved outdoors.

Watch for MANGO blooms this month, and be prepared to spray with basic copper. A disease called anthracnose will first appear as small, black, sunken areas on the flower spikes. If left untreated, it can prevent fruiting. Begin treatment when the bloom spikes first appear and continue spraying at weekly intervals until the fruit is fully formed; then spray monthly until June or July.

Did your CITRUS suddenly develop strange, long thorns? If the answer is yes, then you may have a problem. The top part of the tree, which is grafted to a hardy root stock, may have died. If so, all that is growing now are suckers from below the graft. If allowed to grow, they likely will produce sour orange or some other undesirable fruit. The main use of sour orange trees is as grafting stock, but the fruit is often used to make marmalade and orangeade, when sweetened. Sour orange juice is excellent when used in duck a l'orange.

Although the spray for CITRUS PESTS is an optional one, it may be a good idea for those who had a problem with scab, mites or scale last year to go ahead and spray now. Neutral copper should be used for scab control, malathion for scales and Kelthane for mites. Nutritional materials may be added to this mixture. Follow label instructions as to the amount of chemical to use.

Those who planted CAULIFLOWER in the fall should have heads forming. As soon as the heads appear, tie up the leaves around them to keep them pure white. Use rubber bands or string to keep the leaves around the head. There is still plenty of time to get another crop of cauliflower as well as cabbage, broccoli, beets, carrots and turnips.

ROSES should be pruned once each year during December or January in Central and North Florida. This major yearly pruning consists of removing some healthy growth and all of the dead, injured, diseased or unsightly branches. Leave at least half the length of each main cane that is one to three years old. The rose bush should bloom again in eight to nine weeks. Pruning cuts should be made just above a dormant bud; cut surfaces larger than a lead pencil can be covered with pruning paint (optional).

When removing an entire branch, make a smooth cut at the trunk and paint the wound (optional).

_ Compiled by JOAN BRADSHAW and OPAL SCHALLMO of the Pinellas County Cooperative Extension Service. If you have questions, call them at (727) 582-2100.