Unlike other areas of the country, South Florida gardens flourish during the winter months. “Winter is much drier, has a much larger palette of unusual flowers to successfully grow, and is the right season to grow any vegetable you wish,” says Allen Sistrunk, director of Mounts Botanical Garden in West Palm Beach. PBI spoke with Sistrunk about the ins and outs of winter gardening. Have more questions? Mounts’ Master Gardener helpline is awaiting your call. (561-233-1750, mounts.org) —M.M.
PBI: What key factors should South Floridians keep in mind when deciding what to plant in their winter gardens? Sistrunk: Winter is normally our dry season, and having your irrigation system in great working condition is essential. We might think since it’s cooler in winter that irrigation is not as important, but in our climate plants are actually growing year-round and can be stunted, weakened, and even perish from lack of adequate water. This is especially important for newly planted flowers, shrubs, and trees that need a good year of ample water to properly establish. Also, fresh pine bark mulch will not only help conserve moisture but also provide extra nutrition and a weed barrier for those pests that never cease growing in South Florida. What’s your top winter gardening tip? Always observe the “right plant, right place” guideline, meaning sun plants in full sun, shade plants in light shade—and remember the winter sun is much less intense than the warm season. The best thing about winter gardening here is that almost everything will thrive during our winter months, including delphinium, crystal blue
lobelia, foxglove, and English daisies—but these beauties will certainly perish by mid-May, if not sooner. What vegetables can be grown in winter? There is hardly a vegetable, herb, or spice that will not thrive in Palm Beach County during the winter as long as it receives enough light and water and, of course, is not planted in pure sand. Lettuce grows astoundingly easily and many successful crops can be grown. Kales and cabbages also grow with abundance and ease. Pansies and nasturtiums (gorgeous edible flowers) also grow and flower very well in our winter climate. What about herbs? Palm Beach County’s winters open the door to successful herb gardens. Some of our favorite and most desired herbs are very challenged to make it through our hot, humid What soil should summers but grow extremely you use in your winter gardens? well in winter. Some favorites Find out at that will only thrive during palmbeach cooler months are cilantro, illustrated.com/ tarragon, sage, borage, dill, wintergardens and lavender.
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