By BJ Jarvis
Contrary to popular belief, in Florida we can’t just throw plants onto the ground and they will flourish with no care. On the other hand, gardeners can go a little overboard in the garden where, more is not necessarily better.
To reduce gardening frustration, the three most common gardening mistakes can be modified. As a result, you can have healthier plants and happier gardeners.
–No. 1 mistake: over-watering
Studies have shown that more plants die from over-watering than under-watering. Too much of a good thing here makes plants more susceptible to disease, pests and even encourages weed development.
Once plants are established, consider how much water the plant needs versus how much is falling from the sky before adding supplemental irrigation. Florida’s rainfall can be inconsistent from one part of a county to the other, so install an inexpensive rain gauge to see when Mother Nature blesses you with natural rainfall.
During winter months, plants can usually skip a week of watering even if no rainfall occurs. Set irrigation systems to manual and operate only when needed. Of course, follow water restrictions for allowable days and hours.
–No 2 mistake: over-fertilizing
Fertilizers can pollute water systems if over-applied and can weaken plants. While lawns and gardens usually benefit from periodic applications, a slow-release fertilizer is not significantly more expensive and will deliver a steady dose to the garden. Established trees on the other hand usually do not need any fertilizer. They may get some from turf being fertilized as the roots are usually co-mingled in the soil.
Don’t start fertilizing until mid-March. Choose a fertilizer with low or zero for the middle number, which is phosphorus. Florida is one of the largest producers of phosphorus in the country, so our soils naturally have plenty. Don’t waste your money on purchasing a nutrient that is already available free in the soil.
–No. 3 mistake: overuse of pesticides
Some of the squeamish of us may think that every bug is a bad bug, yet less than one percent of all insects in this country are detrimental to humans, our crops or our animals. Sometimes we may even want bugs like butterflies and honey bees. By allowing a few, the garden can reach a balance as there are actually lots of beneficial bugs. These helpful critters can help keep harmful populations in check.
Consider taking an environmentally-friendly approach to insect management. Choose bug-resistant plants when possible. When an insect population gets out of control, select the least toxic chemical to treat the problem. Finally, know what you are treating for. A positive ID of the problem will save time, money and frustration. If you aren’t sure, stop by the Extension office in Dade City with a sample.
By considering how these three common garden practices play out in the garden can be the difference between frustration and joy.
-BJ Jarvis is horticulture agent and director for Pasco Cooperative Extension, a partnership between the University of Florida/IFAS and Pasco County government. She can be reached at .
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.