Cooperative Extension Service 
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Hendry County Extension, P.O. Box 68, LaBelle, Florida 33975-0068   Phone (863) 674-4092

Hendry County Horticulture News

January 2001 - Cool and Dry

The first month of the year is typically cool with weather patterns marked by the fairly regular passage of cold fronts which cause temperatures to dip sharply for a day or two before rising back to comfortable levels.  January is normally quite dry as well although fronts may be preceded by showers.

Short days and cool dry conditions have reduced the growth of most plants to a minimal level and it may seem we are in the depths of our Florida winter.  Although many vistas look drab and brown, bougainvillea and orchid trees are in full bloom this month and brighten up the landscape with their bright colors.  Azaleas are also in bloom and should be more widely considered  for shady sites.  Be sure to use care when purchasing azaleas to obtain varieties that are adapted to south Florida conditions.  Cultivars developed for more northern conditions will not receive adequate chilling to induce flowering in most seasons.

Although January is often our coldest month, it is the first month of "spring" in our area.  The changes are subtle to be sure, but look around and you will see the reddish new leaves on the red maples, cypress and willow buds swelling with new growth and the live oaks beginning to show their yellowish flowers.

January may bring frost and for this reason it is wise to avoid major pruning and fertilizing of trees and shrubs to avoid inducing tender new growth which would be most susceptible to freezing temperatures.  If frost is predicted, covering sensitive plants is the surest means of protection.

Lawns should be irrigated once or twice a week depending on the weather to maintain them in good condition.  Remember that grasses are growing slowly now and avoid over watering which can encourage weeds to invade turf areas.   Although your grass may not be growing enough to warrant mowing be sure to run the mower over turf periodically to maintain grass height and to control weeds that may be present and prevent them from seeding.

Bare or brown areas in turf can be over seeded with rye to green up lawns in poor condition. Be aware that this fix is temporary as the rye is a cool season grass and will fade out by May as the weather begins to get hot.

Plant a tree to celebrate Florida Arbor Day which falls on the third Friday in January.  Here in Hendry County we are blessed with a wealth of trees.  By planting a tree you will help assure that our children and their children's children will enjoy this rich heritage.

January is a good time to move trees and shrubs in the landscape.  They are relatively dormant now and will suffer less shock than at other times.  Large specimens should be prepared several months before hand by root pruning to create a manageable root ball. Containerized plants can be transplanted at any time.  It is dry now, be sure to water in transplanted material thoroughly and water daily until established.  Astute gardeners will recall the old adage for success in planting trees and shrubs.  Better to prepare a one hundred dollar hole for a twenty five dollar plant than to put a one hundred dollar plant in a twenty five dollar hole.  Dig a hole that is a least three time the diameter of the root ball of the plant that you intend to transplant and mix the soil taken from the hole with a healthy amount of compost, peat or other organic amendment

January is a good time to start papaya seeds.  By planting now, you will have six to eight inch transplants ready for planting out at in March, when warmer weather comes around.  Papaya plants set in the ground at this time and provided with generous fertilization and water will produce a large six to seven foot tree bearing fruit by fall.

With many of the northern based seed companies beginning to mail out catalogs for spring plantings - it is tempting to sift through the fanciful and tempting  glossy photos and part with some hard earned cash for a new perennial or vegetable or some other colorful addition to the garden.  While most gardeners are savvy enough to check the climatic zones and certify that a selection is indicated for planting in zones 9-10, this is often not enough and has lead to a lot of disappointment as a number of other factors, such as humidity and soil type in addition to temperature zone must be considered.  If you are uncertain,  feel free to contact the Hendry County Extension Office for assistance in making your choice.

Most annual flowers and vegetables can be planted this month.  Fall crops are in decline and should be renewed with fresh plantings.  Vegetables that can be planted  this month include beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards, cucumbers, eggplants, peas, kale, lettuce, mustard, onion sets, parsley, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, spinach, squash, sweet corn, Swiss chard, tomatoes, and turnips.  Hold off with cantaloupe, cucumber and watermelon until at least month's end for best results.

A wide variety of flowers including alyssum, baby's breath, bachelor buttons, balsam, calendulas, carnations, cosmos, cockscomb, daisies, forget-me-nots, gaillardia, impatiens, larkspur, lobelia, lupines, marigolds, morning glories, nasturtiums, pansies, periwinkles, petunias, phlox, pinks, poppies, portulacas, salvia, statice, stocks, strawflower, sweet peas, sweet William, and verbena can be planted now.  Bulbs to plant this month include amaryllis, blood lilies, caladiums, crinum, iris, spider lilies, and zephyranthes.

Good luck and good gardening and wishing you all a happy and productive New Year. Good luck and good gardening!

Gene McAvoy is the horticulture agent with the Hendry County Extension Service.  Direct your horticulture questions to PO Box 68, LaBelle, FL 33975,  e-mail - or phone 863-674-4092 or  863-983-1598.  You are also welcome to visit the Hendry County Extension Office at 225 Pratt Blvd., LaBelle.   Office hours are from 8:00 - 5:00.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an Equal Employment Opportunity - Affirmative Action Employer authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap or national origin.

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