What tips do you have for Central Florida Gardeners?
What sorts of tips are you after?
In general I would say be flexible, willing to experiment and willing to take some losses. Also, remember the value of pure foliage plants. They can do a lot of the heavy lifting for the garden when the flowers are in transition.
Use the climate to your advantage. I plant backbone shrubs and perennials with lovely foliage which I know will survive my area and then fill in with whatever selection of gorgeous annuals will thrive in whatever season we are experiencing. I also tend to use a lot of the perennials I loved in NY as annuals down here instead. That way I have a dynamic space always full of color and things I love.
Remember that although summer is WET, winter is DRY and plan your plantings accordingly. I tend to keep the things which prefer to dry out between waterings in raised beds (or, I raise a section of the bed and let them sit a couple inches above everything else).
Oh, and ADD TONS OF ORGANIC MATTER, do it initially and do it often thereafter. Florida soils can be very sandy and nutrient poor. Mulch with things that will break down like bark chips, use organic fertilizer and lots of compost.
Add lots of bark, it breaks down slow, but in the mean time it provides lots of aeration and water retention. Remember to take advantage of our two warm seasons (feb-jun, and aug-nov) and realize that our cool season overlaps these (oct/nov-jan/feb depending on the weather). For perennials, try growing natives if you really have no clue, then take what you learn and apply it to other plants.
After many years of failure growing spinach in Tampa, I found out how to. Now, I take a pack of spinach seed, put it in a paper towel, wet with a little water, put that in a zip lock, without closing the zip, put it in the refrigerator for about 12 days. By then they will have germinated and will be ready to plant. Since using this method, I have plentiful spinach every year. I plant two varieties a month apart starting in early October. For a small garden, one could plant half a pack at a time. Renegade and Space have done well for me.
1. Don't plant wedelia; it looks pretty it looks nice with those yellow flowers but it takes over your yard.
2. Don't use too much mulch. I was of the mind that if one is good, two is better. Too much mulch gets soggy, holds water and can injure your plant or tree.
3. Read the label. I bought a fruit tree and getting home, noticed it was for a zone way, way north of me.
I don't know what pesticides to spray on my citrus trees, orange, lemon, and tangerine. I am afraid to spray or put granules down and then eat the fruit? What do I use and how much and how often?
I also have an avacado tree that for 12 years gave NO fruit. Then one year we had 6 or 7 and the next year we were taking baskets to our neighbors. After that we've had NO fruit again... Any thoughts
Also, to the OP, even though the label says that a plant can take "full sun", that may not actually be the case in the central and south florida heat. Have a good nursery that won't lie to you to sell plants or look for plants whose labels say they are grown for Florida sun.
All posts here are 2 years old. Are will still active? I am primarily a vegetable gardener. I do try and plant "summer" crops and even those struggle. Hoping September will bring a little break to the heat, as the cukes and toms are sprouted and ready.
I have found after 22 years in Tampa that nothing grows in a central Florida summer but dollar weed and electricity bills. If only those utility bills came with a nice fragrance....I digress. Vegetables (most) and northern annuals are pretty much done by late June. Between the super intense heat and daily rains and hot nights, most just wither away and dissolve. In the beginning I used to go to Home Depot and Lowes and ask advice. I found out the hard way most employees in the garden center worked in plumbing the day before. Very rare you will find a very knowledgeable gardener. Also, just because the big box stores sell it, does not mean it will grow down here. I laugh when I see the big bearded iris and peonies and spring bulbs for sale. Even gardenias, so many are sold not grafted and unless you plan on potting them up, they will die once planted in the ground. I tried to tell an unsuspecting couple that who were asking a rep in the nursery. Of course, the wrong answer was given and when I told them why grafting is important the employee looked at me like I had two heads. Once September rolls around we see the return of all the fall annuals...which would be Spring plantings up North. I call this time of year the Summer Doldrums as nothing is really for sale in the nurseries. Where you have the October thru April dead season up North and bitter cold, we have the June thru September dead season here with the intense sun and rains. And of course, nothing is worse then when you have an amazing fall garden and then you have a really bad cold front come dropping temps to mid 20's. Then it is time to start all over....funny place down here...
>Also, just because the big box stores sell it, does not mean it will grow down here.
And even if it is something that will grow here, the odds are good that it's the wrong variety for your area at the wrong time of year.
It's very important to understand your microclimate, too. I live right across from the ocean and while there are enough chill hours for the FL versions of stone fruit inland from here, for example, it's a rare year when we have enough cold out here.
Your soil needs everything but sand and nematodes. Container growing is the best option.
Gardening (Landscaping-wise) in Central Florida largely depends on developing the right micro-climates. During the summer the best things to grow are tropicals. During the winter it's the more temperate plants. But it's hard to keep the tropicals alive through the winter and the temperates alive through the summer. But what I'm figuring out, if you work on the structure of your yard, you can create micro-climates where the northwestern winds are blocked during the winter and small bits of shade can be found to give the temperates a short break during the day. The temperates will not thrive during the summer, but they should survive to give their best during the cooler months.
Shade has been a hard part for me as my lot has little to no shade to speak of. The only shade I do get is from an oak to the south of me and that is only during the winter months, when I don't need it. But what I have figured out is that if you put a temperate plant next to something a bit more tropical, when the cooler plant shrinks back in the summer, the warmer one grows up and gives it a bit of shade. My first few years here, I also lacked a way to block the western winds, but I planted some dense shrubs (Walter's 'Whorled Class' Viburnums, Wax Myrtle and Simpson's Stopper) and they're finally getting to the size where they should add some relief from the winds. Positioning in regards to your house helps as well. Plants on the eastern side of your house are going to have a better time than plants on the northwestern side. My northwestern bed has been the hardest for me to figure out, but I think I have come to a happy compromise of using evergreen shrubs to provide structure during the winter with semitropical annuals that reseed themselves to provide color during the summer.
On a last note, Florida Natives are a huge help with building both structure and appeal in the landscape. They are the most adapted to living with these temperature fluctuations and really help with building the micro-climates to help the more sensitive exotics.