What to Expect this Winter
As a resident of Florida, you are probably aware of the tropical nature of the area's climate, and how it serves to benefit the horticulture of the area. From the large amounts of rainfall to the extended length of day’s as well as the hot temperatures, these climate factors all play a role in the general health of Turf and shrub life.
The problem, however, is that many of these Florida turfs and shrubs do not do nearly as well in the winter. Winter in Southwest Florida is not nearly as bad as many other areas across the country, but some simple changes in your landscape activities can make a big difference. Simple preparation and knowing what to expect can lead to a highly successful winter season for your Florida landscape.
Even the coldest tolerant tropicals inevitably go dormant during the winter. It is common to see a slowed growth cycle, less nutrient uptake, and lower water requirements. In this case the drier ground of the winter becomes more favorable. You can also expect to see plant material start to thin, foliage begin to yellow and an increase in the prevalence of fungus issues.
When it comes to less tolerant greenery such as Ixora Nora Grant (Note: Not other Ixora variations), Alamanda, and Hibiscus, you can expect to see more significant changes. They will experience the aforementioned symptoms of winter weather, but in near freezing temperatures, foliage will begin to look sickly or even defoliate, due to slowed metabolism. This can lead to the plant not surviving the winter, so be aware if you have these plants or shrubs in your landscape arsenal.
When it comes to winter tree care in Florida, not many changes unless freezing temperatures are reached. Most hardwoods should not be trimmed in freezing temperatures or frost conditions. However, as soon as the temperature is back to normal, feel free to trim away.
After a freeze, Crepe Myrtles should be trimmed with deep reduction cuts to ensure the best chance for spring growth and general recovery. This will also ensure that you get the best flower production come the warmer months.
Turf and Grass Care
- Floratam Turf
Inevitably, when soil temperatures drop, and days begin to shorten, growth in Floratam Turf will slow, and the quick growth of common turf weeds such as: Sedge, Goose Grass, and Mimosa will become more noticeable. Before you (or we) go to every other week mowing, it is best to get these taken care of. Many herbicides are climate sensitive, needing to be applied in cooler weather, so taking care of the weeds in the winter months is a must.
- Grass Care
Common Florida grasses such as Zoysia, Carpet, and wild Bermuda are sure to brown or show other discoloration when temperatures sink to the forties. Commonly mistaken for fungus or fertility issues, this is not the case, so there is no need to worry.
Another important distinction to make in your yard is identifying carpet grass seeping into your St. Augustine or Zoysia lawn. Through spring and summer it is nearly impossible to identify as everything is green and lush, but during winter, it often turns very brown, and when frost hits it may die back to the root. However, when spring comes again, it will grow aggressively and attempt to take over the surrounding turf. As no herbicide is currently available that can kill carpet grass without killing the turf, spray and replacement is the best option for control.
Freezing and Frosty Conditions
If there is inclement freezing weather, or potential for frost, covering your delicate plant and flower material can hedge most of the potential damage. After a freeze or frost, do not attempt to trim your defoliated material, until a professional can let you know what will recover. Lastly, if you are aware of an incoming freeze, turn off your irrigation as this can cause more damage related to the frozen water, and whatever you do, do not mow turf that is still thawing from a frost or freeze.