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A cold, dry spring is serious for gardeners

February 21, 2014
By H.I. JEAN SHIELDS - Garden Club of Cape Coral , Cape Coral Daily Breeze


The cold, dry spring we have been experiencing could be worse, however it does prove to us that Mother Nature has the final say on what type of weather pattern we will be working with.

Dry and cold this year, however, wet and hot would not be that great either. So we learn to be versatile and go with the flow. The fact that we have plenty of plants that can thrive in unexpected weather patterns is one of the reasons we do so much happy gardening here in the southwest.

As a new gardener or boater, in this area, you soon learn that the weather station is your best friend.

I guess I should say the weather forecasters on the weather station are your best friends. There are several local stations with multiple forecasters - you will soon settle on your favorites. Their educated guessing will see you through many trying times with our every changing weather patterns.

I am saying that weather predictions are subject to change, sometimes on an hourly basis, a morning prediction may change by noon or evening.

A good forecaster will base his or her predictions on information he or she is constantly receiving and their ability to accurately predict and or guess what we should expect. Nothing wrong with a correct educated guess. Think health care decisions.

What you need to understand is that Mother Nature is fickle and we need someone dedicated to be helping us, even though sometimes our information is not exactly correct off and on.

The one prediction we do not have to worry about is a report of impending snowstorms. This area seems to be free of that kind of weather. We do have some pretty heavy frosts out in the southeast Cape, and I am sure that during the recent several frosty mornings my lawn in the southwest looked pretty frosty. I was not interested enough to go out and make sure it was actually frost.

I have seen snow in Florida. In the 1950s while living on Eglin Air Force Base, we did have a lovely afternoon of swirling snowflakes. The flakes melted as soon as they touched the ground. That is one reason we did not stay in the Panhandle of Florida. I also remember wearing ear muffs while walking on the beach of Pensacola, however, you can't beat that beautiful gulf water up there.

I really do believe that the closest we will come to snow, right here, is some of those days when we have heavy gray clouds hanging over us that do have that snow look.

I am going to carefully start trimming some things that are showing some frost damage. When you make the cut and see nice healthy color at the cut edge, you will know you have trimmed enough, unless you really want to change the shape of your plant or bush or whatever.

I have a large frangipani tree that seems to be slow starting this year, some of the tiny new tips were actually dark and crisp so I flipped them off, carefully. A banana tree is happily producing, more of a conversation piece thing for me. I give the racks of bananas to my lawn cutter so he can give them to a friend who feeds them to her birds. That is really re- cycling or re-gifting, whichever you prefer.

Orchids are happy, I have mainly Phalaenopsis and they like a cold snap. Actually a "snap," not a week. I tucked them behind the storm shutters on the lanai a couple of nights, just to be safe. Weeds are starting to grow well. Still have two decent poinsettias setting out front in a dry birdbath. From the road they look good; close-up, I should probably toss them, but always hate to be rid of them. I'm not planting any in the soil this year.

Amaryllis are a little slow except for one new one that I picked up for sale; just can't resist those things. I have them in pots to move around and some in soil.

If you have some in soil, brush away some of the soil and notice how large those bulbs have become - amazing after a couple of years.

I have one great surprise; in a pot of soil with a new Sansevieria re-pot I have a very nice begonia bloom coming out the bottom opening of the black plastic pot. I think it is a Bodorata "Alba" that is a white. I do not always do well with begonias, tending to over-water or under-water. This one certainly thrives on neglect.

This weekend should be a beautiful time for doing anything outside. Pine Island will be having its annual Garden Club plant sale gala - a very good place to browse and buy very good stock. Go to Stringfellow Road and look for the signs. Also, the Cape Borrowing Owl event will be at Rotary Park on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. - always a good time there.

Weekends are full of things to do, get out there and choose something. Garden during the week.

Happy gardening till we meet again.

H.I. Jean Shields is a past president of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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