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Resist the urge to prune too soon

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By The Staff

In north central Florida, our winters are mild but we can have weeks of killing frosts. The fierce, relentless wind can wreck even the stoutest misplaced shrub.

January can be a crazy quilt of weather: warm, cold, windy, rainy. Usually it’s cold in the morning and warms up nicely during the day. Some days it doesn’t warm up at all.

All the tender green has virtually disappeared and the garden is all sticks. Other plants, especially the tropicals, have perhaps “burned” with the frost and wind. Succulents and cacti have turned to mush.

Keep your plants watered, even if they’re burned. Don’t let plants become dehydrated. Deep watering prior to a freeze will help prevent dehydration and damage.

Spring can come early but it is very important that you resist the temptation to prune. We can still freeze right into the middle of March.

Waiting until March to prune and trim is almost too much to ask. I know – I can hardly contain myself in February, but I try to keep busy and productive in my garden with other chores for January.

It is good to go outside, just to get some fresh air. And some chores will take your mind off pruning.

3 Weed. There are always plenty of weeds to pull.

3 Clean your birdbath, bird feeders and water features. Clean your pots and containers. Use a scrub brush with a mild bleach solution and let them dry in the sun.

3 Amend your soil with leaves and compost.

3Clean and sharpen your tools.

Think about what new stuff you will be growing in your nice, clean pots. Think about planting vertical gardens, maybe a trellis in a pot, maybe a flowering vine by your entry way, and most of all, dream, dream, dream. It’s good for us.

Although starting plants from seeds is a dominant trait in my DNA, I try to control myself. The husband would say it’s a genetic disorder, but I can’t resist purchasing seeds from at least two catalogs each year.

You need to know that not everything in seed catalogs will grow well here. Make sure you check suitability for our zone (8b-9a).

I start my seeds in any container I can find, usually a hole-punched croissant or strawberry container. Select a soil-less medium that contains nutrients so you don’t have to worry about fertilizing and perhaps burning your little seedlings.

I keep my watered seedlings in an area protected from frost and rain that gets sun and near enough for my attention.

January is a good month to visit botanical gardens, nurseries and nature centers. There are no crowds, and it is not hot.

May I suggest the Butterfly Rainforest Exhibit in Gainesville, Kanapaha Botanical Garden in Gainesville, Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando, Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Morningside Nature Center in Gainesville (good for kids) and USF Botanical Gardens in Tampa.

So layer on the sweaters, folks, and get out there – but leave your pruners inside.

For more information about gardening practices in Central Florida, call Marion County Master Gardeners at 671-8400, or visit their office in the Cooperative Extension Center, 2232 N. E. Jacksonville Rd.