Floridata Article

A Gardener's Resolutions for 2006

Snowflakes & Palm Trees: The only type of snow we're likely to see in northern Florida. Photo by Ginny Stibolt
Palm Trees: The only type of snow we're likely to see in northern Florida.

When I lived in Maryland, at this time of year I'd line up my seed and garden catalogs and start planning while I waited for spring. Here in northern Florida, I still have my seed catalogs, but I don't have to wait: there are many items on my gardening to-do list that I can work on right now. Today, as I write this on Jan. 2, 2006, it is 78 degrees!

My Gardening List for 2006

- Get my yard certified as Wildlife Habitat

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has a program encouraging people to create wild spaces that provide cover and food for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. NWF provides guidelines and resources as part of this initiative. This is a great project, and the critters will repay your efforts with the pleasure of their company in your yard. Here's the link where you will find a form to fill out either online or to print out and mail in: Garden for Wildlife. What better way to start the New Year than to become certifiable? (Update: Read my article on my process of certification: Backyard Habitat.)

- Prepare the vegetable garden for better crops

The back flowerbed on the western side of the house was too hot in the summer for the shrubs the former owner had planted there. We transplanted the shrubs to cooler spots and turned this bed into a vegetable plot, because tomatoes and other vegetables do well in hot, hot spaces. We prepared the soil to some degree by adding mulch and composted manure under each plant. Our tomatoes did okay, the green peppers were disappointing, but the basil did amazingly well. We knew we needed to do more work to amend the sandy soil. So before it's time to plant tomatoes again in March, we need to dig out some of the sand, add more mulch, compost, and composted manure over the whole bed and not just where the plants are. Even after removing some of the sand, we'll probably raise the level of the bed by four inches or so and install 4x4s or blocks to keep the soil in place.

Last year our tomatoes stopped producing long before the end of the season: we must have used "determinate" tomato seeds with a predetermined life cycle. We will buy "indeterminate" tomatoes this year to take advantage of our long growing season. This wasn't much of a concern in Maryland with its relatively short growing season. The adventures of transplanted gardeners never stop. I'll keep you posted on the process and progress. (Update: Of course, I found out later that most tomatoes don't do well in Florida's hot summers because of a wilt fungus and the fact that most tomatoes stop setting fruit when nighttime temperatures average above 70 degrees. Also, see my article, Composting for your garden, to see how I rebuilt the edble beds with layers of compost.)

- Reduce the lawn some more

While it's not too hot, I'll work on taking out more of the lawn especially where it's not doing well. See my article on Less Lawn.

- Expand two of my rain gardens

I constructed four rain gardens last year to absorb the runoff from various gutters and French drains. They've worked well to slow down the rainwater and the plants have thrived, but there's room to increase the holding capacity for two of them. I'll expand the basins and introduce some more plants. This will also coincide with my goal to reduce the lawn area. My article on Rain Gardens includes links to websites with good rain garden plant lists and specific instructions.

- Reduce the invasive alien plant species on our lot

As much as I hate to chop down trees, or remove pretty plants, this is for the good of our native plants and the regional diversity. We have Chinese Tallow Trees (Sapium sebiferum), Creeping Daisy (Sphagneticola trilobata), and other invasives that I will remove from the yard. There is also a large collection of Water Hyacinths (Eichhornia crassipes) in our finger of the lake that I'll remove and turn into mulch. Cottage industries have started that turn Water Hyacinths into liquid fertilizer. Wow, I can get mine for free! See my article on Florida natives.

Snake by a Bald Cypress knee. Photo by Ginny Stibolt
Black Ribbon Snake by a Bald Cypress knee at Ravines Garden State Park, Palatka, FL. This photo was taken 1/1/06.

- Visit more parks, forests, springs, and other great habitats here in Florida

There's a long list of natural or near-natural* places my husband and I plan to visit this year. And when we do, we'll take it slowly and watch for birds and other wildlife that may be missed by most folks trooping through areas. I loved it when we spotted this little snake next to a Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) knee next to a pond at the Ravines Garden State Park in Palatka, FL.

* Near-natural parks are leftovers from an era when park developers planted all types of imported species. They apparently thought that the natural environment needed enhancement to better entertain the public. If only they had known what would happen. Maybe we're smarter these days.

So what's on your gardening list for 2006? Have a green garden New Year

Ginny Stibolt moved to northeastern Florida in 2004 and even though she's a botanist and lifelong gardener, Florida gardening was a shock. She started writing The Adventures of a Transplanted Gardener columns for the Times Union newspaper in Jacksonville. This is one of those columns archived here on Floridata.com for your enjoyment. Now she's written three Florida garden books published by University Press of Florida: Sustainable Gardening for Florida, 2009; Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida with Melissa Contreras, 2013, and The Art of Maintaining a Florida Native Landscape, 2015. Check out her blog for the latest news and articles: www.GreenGardeningMatters.com

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