Happy New Year! A new year finds me grateful to be here in Celebration and out of the cold northern climate. We have Azaleas, Camellias and Silk Floss trees blooming now and many can be seen at Leu Gardens and Bok Tower Gardens. Give these wonderful gardens a visit if you want a nice pick me up someday.
The Celebration Garden Club has been busy this last month. We sold over 400 nice, large florist quality Poinsettias online and at the Celebration Farmers Market, we had our annual holiday luncheon at Artisan Clubhouse and we took a field trip up to DeLand to see the Stetson Mansion Christmas display.
The January Club meeting will be on the 19th at Heritage Hall beginning at 9 a.m. Our speaker will be Ed Thralls, a retired Extension Service horticulturalist and he will be speaking on planning and planting spring vegetable gardens. Ed has many years of experience with gardening and is an encyclopedia of information regarding vegetable gardens.
Our field trip will see us visiting Leu Gardens where director Robert Bowden will take us on a tour of their vegetable and pollinator gardens. This trip will be on January 28. Cost for the trip is $12.
Anyone wishing to join the Club is welcome to come to a meeting to see if you would be interested in joining. Dues are $30 a year and you can join by visiting our website at Celebrationgardenclub.com.
This time of year can see some cold snaps here in Florida. Be sure to keep an eye on your outdoor plants and bring them into protected areas if the overnight lows get below 40 degrees. Your plants will be happier. Many plants up north can handle cold snaps and temperatures down near freezing, but our tropical plants just don’t handle the cold as well. Many of our outdoor plants will die back during a cold snap and then spring back later with new growth, so don’t dig up your plants right away if there is die back.
This month’s focus is on mulch. Mulch is certainly a valuable and necessary addition to your landscape. It is useful for water conservation, erosion control, weed suppression and for suppressing heat buildup in soil. Best of all, it improves the soil. It not only adds nutrients as it breaks down, but it also improves aeration, aids drainage and increases the soil’s ability to hold nutrients. It can even help to prevent some plant diseases.
What types of mulch should you consider? First on the list is pine bark. A by-product of the forest industry, it comes in large nuggets or in finer pieces. The fine variety is less likely to float away in rain, retaining 2/3 of its original depth after a period of two years.
Pine straw, also used as mulch, comes from pine plantations which produce paper and wood products. It is not likely to wash away but does break down fairly quickly. This is not totally bad, as it also provides nutrients to the soil more quickly. We like pine straw a lot.
Another type of mulch which is not recommended for ornamental garden or veggie garden use is the utility mulch, which is also of questionable origin. It is generated by the county from whatever they happen to chop up. The problem with it is that it can bring weed seeds, invasive plant seeds and various pests into your gardens.
A last type of mulch is getting a lot of attention lately. Melaleuca mulch is not very attractive to termites, is long lasting, does not float away during heavy rains and is visually attractive. Melaleuca mulch is safe to use in your gardens, due to treatment with high heat, which prevents seeds from germinating. The finely shredded form is the best. What about allergies from Melaleuca mulch that you may have heard about? There are major issues with live trees, mainly from blooms and possibly from leaves as well. The melaleuca can cause respiratory problems, headaches, and a skin rash in some people. However, the mulch has been found to be harmless. It is worth using whenever suppliers are carrying it. It appears that there will be an endless supply of melaleuca trees, so hopefully the mulch will continue to be available to consumers. This tree is a fast growing, invasive tree in southern Florida and large areas of land are covered with the trees. It is nice to have a use for this tree as it cleared from the landscape. Since there is a profit to be made in the clearing of this tree the incentive is there to harvest this tree more quickly.
All mulch should stay at least 12 inches from your house, to prevent an invitation to subterranean termites.
How much mulch should we use?
A covering of three inches is the max. When it becomes less than two inches, a thin layer can be added. Mulching too deeply can harm plants and can even block rainfall if too thick. At a thickness of 3", one cubic yard of mulch will cover 108 square feet. This is an area of about 10 feet long and wide.
Lastly, here is a list of vegetables you can plant now. Asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collards, endive, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onion sets, peas, potatoes, radicchio, radishes, roquette, rutabagas, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips
Thank you and have a great month gardeners.