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Spring is almost here ... start planning and preparing

March 14, 2014
By H.I.JEAN?SHIELDS - Garden Club of Cape Coral ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

One more week and it will really be spring. I hope that means no more 49-degree early mornings. I know new residents and tourist think that temperature is just fine. I have been here 19 years and that temperature is not just fine for me.

I also fuss about the time changing every spring. I am not a real spring forward person on any morning so not happy; however, it is nice to have a longer evening of daylight.

It is a matter of choice, just like gardening. You have a choice to get started right now and prepare soil for planting or wait until the end of March and make sure no more actual soggy or cold spells appear to threaten new plantings.

It is pretty unlikely we will have very much soggy weather for a few more weeks, however, who knows. The weatherman knows, kind of. The weathermen and women are pretty good at untangling all the weather patterns coming at us. Everyone in this region needs to have a favorite weather forecaster or two.

Living on the west coast, or any coast in Florida, means keeping track of weather patterns. Why do we need a couple favorites? Because these forecasters have a habit of running off to other areas to work, have babies, have surgeries and yes, even to have a special night off.

They are human; you need to remember that, not just making time between forecasts so they can ruin our sunny outings and barbecues.

Mother Nature can be whimsical as well as deadly. Looking at the Monday evening forecast does not mean that the next 4 or 5 forecast days will actually remain true to the pattern expected.

Boaters are especially mindful of not only standard local forecasts but of the possibility of what may be coming downwind, maybe.

The more attention you pay to weather the better you will be at understanding words like dew point, heat index and the big one, humidity.

As simmer approaches, you come to realize there is a big difference between a hot, humid 90-degree day and a dry 90-degree day. Everything you plant will also notice the difference.

A night of dry, cold temperatures is not good; a humid, cold night not as bad and then you have to figure in the winds, which can make temperatures several degrees lower. Hopefully we are done with that for now.

You can cover up just about everything on a winter's chilly night, but it takes a little practice to figure out what cover works for which plant.

All of these more often than usual low morning temperatures are OK for any orchids that I grow. They even like a one night stand of coolness this time of year. I used to worry about them and bring them into Lanai behind the storm shutters at 50. Now I know that mine are safe at 49 as long as they are not dried out and they do get some warm sun during the day. I do not set them out in the sun, just the same sun they are used to will warm them up.

You will need to ask or read about your orchids, or talk to the nursery or wherever you buy them. When you do this you will save money because you are not replacing them so often.

Flowers or plants in the soil are a little more protected as long as they are not swimming in a pool of rainwater after a downpour. No one out there likes soggy feet. Well, that is not quite true.

I have canna lilies and helliconia plants that flower well and they do not mind wet feet, they also like at least half a day of sun. That soil drains well unless we have a monsoon rain day. I used to worry but know I do not need to worry.

All your soil needs to drain well, plants do not mind a torrent of water flowing by during an all day rain, but it must keep going.

This sounds like a lot of rain talk and it is, you need to understand right now - before it rains.

Another catastrophe is plants in pots that do not have proper drainage outlets. Beware when someone buys you a beautiful begonia or pot of geraniums. They must have good drainage even if they are hanging up. They might need a little more watering with a dry wind blowing a lot but it always needs to go in and out.

Living things are just like us, they need food, not too much and water that can come and go, or there is a problem. Believe me I know.

There are plenty of beautiful things to buy in the markets. One of the best places to buy local and native plants is to visit a sale such as the Native Plant Sale at Rotary Park April 19, 9 a.m. to 2pm. Also, most of the Farmers Markets have good healthy plants and trees.

Remember - right plant, right place.

Start planning and preparing for spring gardening now, and re-gift a few plants with some friends.

Happy gardening till we meet again.

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



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