Thursday, January 21, 2010

Freeze Damage Update

All over Florida and along the Gulf Coast I am sure, gardeners and homeowners are seeing delayed evidence of just have severe the freeze was....Tampa is amazingly brown as thousands of palms, citrus, bougainvillas, hibiscus and countless other tropicals and subtropicals are now revealing just how much dead plant tissue they are burdened with. But in most cases it is a good idea to wait until possibly early March to begin hard pruning for a few reasons:

1.Waiting until spring to see where new growth emerges from on branches will show you where to prune......damage might not be as severe as it seems on woody shrubs and trees. Pruning now, you might prune too hard.

2. Pruning now might trigger new growth that could be zapped by followup frosts and freezes.

3. Waiting until spring will also allow dead leaves to be shed by all these plants to contribute to your mulching and sheet composting efforts.

I AM pruning now my zapped herbaceous ornamentals and food crops. Since I planted my pentas, crinums, and dwarf allamandas and other perennial flowers deeply, they should come back from the base below ground this spring, so I am cutting off the unsightly, completely dead above ground portions. Since my true yams (Dioscorea species) and cassava have already formed underground a huge harvest (hundreds of pounds I am sure) of their edible roots, and the above ground portions are completely dead since they are non-woody plants, I am cutting them to the ground and piling up the debris along my east, west and south back fences since that is where I grow many of my yams and my citrus, bananas and other fruit trees. As these piles decay next summer, they will do wonders to feed those crops.

In March I will be feeding my soil heavily to help with the regrowth. If you are comfortable with chemical fertilizers, I would suggest 40 lb. bags of Sunniland Palm 8-6-6. It is loaded with trace elements, and the extra nitrogen will help with top growth. I am currently fermenting 55 gallons of manure tea to which I have added about 3 five gallon buckets of dead fish from the freeze. By spring that "tea" will be diluted with water and splashed at the bases of all my fruit trees and plants. I will also be spreading a few loads of horse manure from the nearby stable at Ballast Point called Hunter's Oaks as they do no spray their stalls with pesticides.

In the meantime, BOY do I have a LOT of pruning to do!!! John

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