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Month-by-Month in North Florida: What to Plant in December

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Yule or whatever you celebrate this holiday season. No, you can't plant poinsettias in North Florida this month, but what would December be without them?

Garden Diary - November 18, 2018: Starting Over From Scratch

Cranberry Hibiscus in Bloom
As those of you who have been reading this blog since I moved to this apartment know, my gardens here are an ongoing experiment. At first, I planted anything I could get cheap or free or grow from seed, but as seems to always be the case with my experiments, this one has not worked out too well.

Too Many Large Perennials for a Small Garden

When I moved here, I planted what I had; amaryllis, pigeon peas, canna indica, and confederate rose. Along the way I picked up brugmansia, more cannas, and grew a yellow dwarf poinciana from seed. I already had three large tropical hibiscus in one bed, so I made that my shade garden, with a groundcover of green and purple wandering jew and peacock gingers. When I got here, there was already a  huge elephant ear and a banana, so those were allowed to grow as well. My thought was that I needed to create shade for my tropicals, but that didn't work out too well either.

I ended up with too many large plants in too little space. They shaded out the flowering plants I wanted to thrive, and forcing other plants to grow out of control trying to get to the sun. Also, two of them refused to bloom, so I just have these two huge green plants in the garden, with no benefits whatsoever.

Christmas Cassia (C. bicapsularis)

Insects, Lizards, Birds and Toads

I wanted a butterfly garden, so I planted voluminous amounts of butterfly weed in one garden, and it grew like mad. Unfortunately, I did not get one single Monarch from all the caterpillars that hatched there due to the critters eating all the eggs and larvae. It broke my heart. I know this is just nature, but it's hard to accept nevertheless. The same story went for the cassia planted for the Sulphur butterflies. To top it all off, the butterfly weed didn't even bloom well this year. So that experiment is coming to an end. From now on, I'll plant nectar plants for butterflies, and not worry about the larval plants at all.

Permaculture Fail

I wanted a permaculture garden, and I worked so hard at it. I raked leaves to use as mulch, layered chop-and-drop cuttings around the plants in the garden, composted all my kitchen scraps, and didn't use any fertilizers or insecticides. The problem is, I got a lot of green and no flowers or fruits. Yes, the earthworms loved it, and I do love my earthworms, but I want flowers. In the future, I'll keep mulching with leaves, but I'm also going to use fertilizer to get more flowers. I used just a bit this past spring, and was shocked at how fast everything grew in the summer, but still, not enough blooms.

Desert Rose

A New Growing Plan

I'm going to rip up almost everything in the gardens and start over. I'll be growing a lot of annuals from seed to attract pollinators and try again to grow a few edible plants that can take partial shade. Plants with colorful leaves will mingle with marigolds, zinnias, and other bright annuals. The Four-o'clocks will be gone, because I want things that bloom during the day. I'll also be growing more plants for the hummingbirds.

I don't know what to do about the critters, but I'm sure that once they find no butterfly larvae to eat, they'll be moving on to greener pastures; at least I hope so. I like lizards and frogs for keeping the roaches and other baddies away, but I don't need this many of them.

Back to Semi-Organic Gardening

I'm going to use systemic insecticides to stave off my usual horde of whiteflies on the hibiscus. I'm determined to get the Confederate Rose to bloom, and the whiteflies and thrips ruin it every year. No more! I've tried every organic means of control I can find, and sometimes, you just have to pull out the big guns.

Before I tried permaculture, I was always semi-organic. I used some organic methods, but was not against using chemicals when warranted. Here, I've found that I need some judiciously applied chemicals for pest and fire ant control. I'll use the chemicals judiciously, so as not to harm pollinators, but I want things to grow and bloom, and I want to spend less time fighting with the baddies.

White vinca, Sun Coleus and Little Ruby Alternanthera

Away With the Invasives

There were things I planted that I thought would be great ground covers, but they've turned out to be so invasive that I consider them pests now. One of them is sweet potato, and the other is Little Ruby alternanthera. They have to go! The Little Ruby will be especially difficult to get rid of, because it reseeds prolifically and one little node left in the ground grows another plant, so this is something I'll have to just keep at.

The sweet potatoes are another problem altogether. Where I originally planted them, they grew into and around oak roots, so I can't dig them out. I'll just have to keep pulling off foliage until the tuber finally dies. I pulled up a lot last year, but I still have work to do.

The perennial hibiscus are a bit invasive, but their seedlings are easy enough to pull, and I can also sell those, so that's not so bad, but I am going to only have one of each in the future.

Only the Cold Hardy Can Stay

With the exception of a few favorite houseplants and tropicals, I'll be getting rid of anything that isn't cold hardy. That doesn't mean the things that die down and come back, That means things that I have to overwinter indoors, such as coleus. I love them, but using my LR as a greenhouse is just no longer feasible. With the switch to mostly annuals, I shouldn't need to overwinter cuttings to start the next spring. If it can't survive the lower 20s, it has to go.

So that is the new plan in a nutshell. I'm going to make the gardens more pollinator-friendly and less work overall.

The courtyard is another story entirely. Stay tuned for more about that.

Garden Diary: September 30, 2018 - A Garden Out of Control and How to Tame It

Peacock Gingers and Wandering Jew under the Hibiscus
This was the first year I used fertilizer on my gardens, and I wish I hadn't. I was committed to growing organically, but things didn't seem to be growing quickly enough, so I said "why not?" and applied some mild, timed-release bloom fertilizer. 

Then the rains started.

The fertilizer, which was supposed to last "up to 4 months," was washed into the soil within weeks by the heavy rains, and the gardens went WILD. Now I'm stuck with a jungle in the courtyard that I can barely walk through and beds that are so overgrown that some things just won't grow or bloom due to the competition for nutrients.

I wanted to wait until fall to start cutting things back and then take things out in the winter, but it seems fall is never going to get here, and everything just keeps growing. I need to act soon.

The Courtyard

Just a Few of the Potted Plants Ready for Sale in the Courtyard
I started repotting and dividing some plants for sale back in the spring, and now they are growing and taking over the courtyard. I need to have my sale soon to clear some space. i can barely walk in there!

I'm also thinking of selling some "you dig" plants just to get rid of them and prepare myself for moving into a 2-BR apartment. The sister complex where I'll be moving is mostly shaded, so I won't be taking many of my plants with me. Plus, there just isn't room around those apartments to garden, so I'll be mostly restricted to the courtyard, which is a bit smaller than the one I have here. 

It's not like I don't have enough shade plants! i've been complaining for years that I don't have enough shade here, so a shady spot may be a relief. 

The Gardens

Sun Coleus Among a Tangle of Overgrown Plants in the South Garden
The outside gardens have just gotten to be a mess! Despite all my careful planning, they are so overgrown they don't look like gardens at all, and they have no form or function. The butterfly garden was a huge bust, so it has to all come out. I won't have any trouble selling the butterfly weed as "you dig" plants, because people love that stuff. If I can get the shrimp plants to bloom, I might be able to sell those too, but they haven't ever bloomed in 3 years, so I'm not counting on it. I think those will just be tossed or given away to someone who wants to give them a try.

The south-facing garden is overcrowded and downright ugly. I plan to take out everything but the bulbs and perennials and redo that completely this winter. If i move, I may just do a you-dig sale and get rid of it all. 

The hibiscus bed is doing o.k., but the morning glories didn't take off like I had hoped, and one of the hibiscus died, so I planted an elderberry and an angel trumpet in there, but neither is growing very fast. The peacock gingers are very pretty this year, and have multiplied like mad, so I need to thin those and pot up some to sell. 

As for the new front beds on the hill, they will all come out this winter, except for the corner garden with the Christmas Cassia in it. Everything else will be removed, and the cassia will be cut back drastically, and maybe even moved back further into the corner, so that it can stay after I move. 

Paring Down and Moving On

The Butterfly Garden Didn't Turn Out As Planned
Once the gardens are under control, I'll start my plans on which plants go with me and which ones stay. I do have some caladiums, gingers and bromeliads that can go to a shady spot, and of course, my tropicals and succulents need all the shade they can get. I honestly have some pretty nice plants that need shade. Unfortunately, some of my sun-loving plants won't like it there, but there's nothing I can do about that. I think I'm going to enjoy being able to grow impatiens again. I do love them so much, and they are such faithful bloomers. Also, I miss my shade coleus. The ones I have now need sun, so they'll have to go, but there are sooooooo many beautfiul coleus that grow in shade, that I won't be wanting for color.

I really have created a monster here, and I don't think I'm going to miss all the work it takes to maintain it. Once I'm down to the minimal number of plants that can fit in the courtyard, I may even try my hand with growing mini African violets under lights again.

Garden Diary: September 24, 2018 - Yard Crew Weed Killer Disaster, and a Sign of Hope

My beautiful hibiscus, which was killed back to the ground by the freeze this past January, has finally put out its first bloom. What a beautiful site after the disaster I have been faced with since last Wednesday.

The yard crew for my apartment complex, which is an outside contractor, has not been doing its job this summer. I was patient, because of all the rain, but

Garden Diary - September 2, 2018 - Potting, Repotting and Cleaning

The sun comes up later now , but the mornings are staying cooler longer,
which allows me to get much more done. Yesterday, I had an orgy of transplanting rooted cuttings and repotting potbound plants.

Month-by-Month in North Florida: What to Plant in September

Beautiful calla lilies are wonderful container plants for spring blooms.

September is the main planting month for fall/winter crops in North Florida, so get out your shovels and get to work! All the cole crops can be planted this month, and you still have time to plant bush/pole beans and winter/summer squash although this is the last month to do so. This is also your first month to plant lettuces.

Mid-September is the time to start planting strawberries, in fact,

Garden Diary: August 2, 2018

South Facing Garden

I know I should keep up with this blog better, but there is just so much gardening to do, and work, and housekeeping -- there never seems to be time to get in here and give updates.

As you can see in the picture above, the rain has caused the gardens to go berserk. I always have a plan, then that plan always goes to hell

Month-by-Month in North Florida: What to Plant in August (UPDATED for 2018)

The main garden season has finally arrived in Florida, and here in the northern part of the state, we are already planting our winter crops. Since we have a shorter growing season than Central or South Florida, we plant a lot of our cole crops and leafy greens in August. Yes, I know, it seems it would be too hot, but somehow they survive until it starts cooling a bit in September.

Garden Diary: July 4, 2018 Fat Plants, Skinny Plants, Plants That Grow on Rocks

Got this gorgeous white pentas on half price sale at Lowe's.
It really stands out in the garden. 

Hello again. I've been so busy gardening, I haven't had time to post. I think about it a lot, but then I end up just going over to the Florida Gardening Forum on Gardenweb and posting there.

The Saga of the Unruly Banana

The other day I noticed a small green leaf on my window sash. I thought it was just a piece of banana leaf torn off during a thunderstorm, but it didn't dry up and die, it got BIGGER!

Upon further inspection, it turns out that a pup from one of the large banana plant had grown up between the siding and the concrete block wall. YIKES!

I had to do something about it, so I looked at the situation, and found I would have to take out it's mother plant to get it out of there. Not a problem. I was thinking of taking the bananas out anyway.

After taking out the basket hanger and moving a lot of containers to clear the way for it to fall, I pulled it out of the ground by

Garden Diary - April 5, 2018 - Creating a Pollinator Paradise

I'm determined to attract more pollinators to my garden this year. I had planned to plant a bunch of annuals, but missed my chance in the fall, and now I'm just changing gears on that.

I cut back all my milkweeds during the freeze, but most survived and are growing strong with many more branches. I rooted about 25 cuttings in water

Month-by-Month in North Florida: What to Plant in April (UPDATED for 2018)

April is the last planting month for many vegetables in North Florida before the heat of summer comes. There are actually very few vegetables you can still start from seed, but you can still use starter plants for some, and there are oh so many

Cheapskate Gardening - Lining Wire Baskets, Worm Poop, and Homemade Potting Soil

As most of my gardening friends know, I'm the cheapest of cheapskate gardeners,, and I'm not averse to dumpster diving or curb shopping for gardening supplies. So I decided to do a series on some of my cheapskate gardening methods that let me garden for next to nothing. Enjoy!

Using Available Resources and Buying Cheap

I used to buy bags of compost and mulch, and now I just use what nature gives me by mulching with leaves as well as layering them in potting holes to feed the earthworms, who in turn

Month-by-Month in North Florida: What to Plant in March (UPDATED FOR 2018)

This is one of our prime planting times in North Florida, the time when we plant most of what people consider summer annuals and vegetables. There are still a few hardier winter crops you can plant, but

Garden Diary 2/12/2018: Better Health and a New Garden Plan

So my last post was terribly depressing. My health was so bad then that I was going to give up on gardening completely. Since then, my health has much improved, thanks to medication and a regimen of handfuls of vitamins and supplements every day. With warm weather hereat last, I'm feeling much better about my gardening.

I lost a lot in the freezes, so the last couple of days I've been clearing out