Groundhog Day is already behind us. How could we have six more weeks of winter when we haven’t had six weeks of winter yet?
In the hope that repetition aids comprehension, here is a quick listing of winter work that can be done now.
If you have magnolias, hollies, oaks or dozens of other plants that could be infested with scale insects, now is the time to give those plants a good, thorough drenching with a horticultural oil to control the scale.
Take a walk around the outside of the house and check the foundation for any soil tubes that might indicate termites. Don’t disturb the tubes if you find them — call the company that carries your termite contract and have them investigate. Termites are not a DIY homeowner job.
Perform an irrigation audit on your irrigation system to make sure everything works and find out what the delivery rates are. Every homeowner needs to know how long his/her irrigation zones need to run to supply half an inch of water.
If you have trees that need to be pruned or removed, this is prime time. Defects are easier to see and get to with the leaves off the tree, and business for most tree service companies has cooled off with the weather. You have a better chance of getting a faster response and a more competitive price now than if you wait for hurricane season.
If your tree and shrub beds have less than a 4-inch thick layer of mulch, top them off with some fresh mulch. Don’t pull out the old mulch that is rotting. We want it to rot and become food for all the beneficial soil microorganisms and soil critters. If your plants are healthy, they will “eat” 2 inches of mulch per year. Without mulch, the carbon is burned out of the soil and your plants suffer.
Any time is a good time to go mole hunting.
If your palms need pruning, now is the time. The popular hurricane cut actually makes the palm more likely to be injured or killed by a tropical storm, not less. It also debilitates the plant over time. A healthy palm tree has a full globe of green fronds. Palm pruning should only remove seed racemes and dead fronds, not green fronds, not yellow fronds, just stone dead brown all the way to the trunk dead fronds.
If the fronds are yellowing, it is because they are not getting enough fertilizer. Not any fertilizer will do. The University of Florida has done the nutritional research and recommends an 8-2-12 fertilizer with trace elements. If it doesn’t say it meets University of Florida/IFAS recommendations, it is not right for palms.
We prune palms in the winter to reduce exposure to giant palm weevil. If the cut ends of your fronds look like somebody shot your tree with a .40-caliber Smith and Wesson, it is most likely giant palm weevil. Palm weevil can eat your palm to death. They particularly like Canary Island date palms, so if you have one of those, now is definitely the preferred time to prune.
We had two weeks of abnormally warm weather the last two weeks of December. The soil has been cooling down fitfully since then. Since the new year, we have had four temperature bounces in our soils, each coming to the edge of triggering summer weeds to germinate. If you have not applied a pre-emerge herbicide to your lawn, there is still time if you act quickly.
Now for a few don’ts. Don’t apply fertilizer to your lawn until May unless you have overseeded your St. Augustine turf. Fertilize lightly to maintain the overseeded grass. Weed-and-feed products are to be used in the middle of the growing season. It is the wrong tool for pre-emergence weed control. If you use weed and feed on your lawn in the summer, don’t deviate from the rate and coverage recommendations on the bag. If you do, you will not put out the right amount of herbicide, which is the major cost of the product.
There is always something to do in the garden.