From Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida
by  Gene Joyner, Extension Agent




Monthly Garden Calendar

January

This month could prove to be cold especially towards the middle of the month and also February might see some cold temperatures or at least low enough to do some damage.  Make sure that you’re not doing anything to push new growth on tropical fruits.  Hold back on fertilization and don’t water excessively and keep plants in a dormant condition.

Some discoloration and dropping of leaves this time of year is normal on many tropical fruits and it will get worse if we get lower temperatures.  Most plants will not start doing any type of strong new growth until mid to late February. The exception would be things like mangoes, which are putting out flowers now and in fact some have been blooming since December.  If we get temperatures down into the upper thirties through, the bloom which is coming out now will not hold fruit or if fruit is already set it will abort in many cases.

Insect and disease problems should be minimal this time of year because of our cooler temperatures, but you still need to inspect plants at least weekly to check for potential problems. Some people are doing installation of fruit trees this time of year and if you are planting them from containers and not disturbing the roots this is OK.

Make sure newly installed trees though are watered frequently until they become well established, There’s no need to fertilize new trees for at least four to six weeks after installation.

February

This month low temperatures might still occur so watch tropical fruits carefully and protect sensitive ones if cold temperatures threaten.  Many people cover small plants with such things as sheets, bedspreads, or blankets and this provides fairly good protection.

Large trees though can’t be covered easily and it’s always a good idea to water these thoroughly before cold weather threatens and if you have the ability to have overhead irrigation, turn that on when temperatures get down to around 34 degrees and provide sprinklers as cold protection.  Once started through sprinklers must run continuously until the next day until temperatures get back up above 34 degrees.

Many tropical fruits that were damaged last month have shed a lot of leaves now and in some cases may be putting forth replacement leaves.  Don’t do anything though to encourage too much growth this time of year.  Wait until the end of the month to fertilize until we’re sure most cold temperatures are not going to be a problem.

Also if you have things that you want to plant you might wait until the end of the month to put these into the ground just to be sure because sometimes freezes occur as late as the first week in March.

March

This month we should be free of any damaging cold temperatures and most tropical fruits are putting out large amounts of spring growth.  Lychees, longans, mangoes, avocados and many other spring flowering tropical fruits are also putting out their blooms now.

If you haven’t already fertilized, do so immediately to insure that the new growth coming out on most tropical fruits has adequate amounts of nutrients for proper growth.  Use a good quality complete fertilizer with all secondary or micronutrients, especially iron, manganese and magnesium.

If you have container plants that have been sitting around and waiting to go into the ground, now is a good time for the installation of any types of container tropical fruit or ornamentals.  Make sure they are put in areas that have adequate light and good drainage and there’s no need to fertilize for at least three to four weeks following installation.

With water restrictions on in many areas make sure that plants are watered adequately on the days you’re allowed to water.  Trees, which become dry or stressed from lack of moisture, will drop flowers, developing fruit and leaves.

Some insect activity might be noticed on new emerging growth so inspect plantings at least weekly and look for sighs of potential problems.

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April

Many Tropical fruits now are putting out a lot of new growth and flowers, and if you forgot to fertilize last month, do so as soon as possible. When plants are growing rapidly they good amounts of nutrients for proper growth and if you haven’t fertilized since last fall trees may not have enough for normal growth.

Check new growth, too, for insect activity since some buildups of aphids, whitefly and scales are being reported. This is a good time for plant propagation; so if you want to root cuttings, do air layering or grafting, don’t put it off. Also if you have seeds that haven’t been planted, plant them immediately so that they will come up quickly and get off to a good start.

If you’re installing new plants into the landscape, make sure they are watered regularly for the first several weeks until they are well established and there’s no need to fertilize newly planted tropical fruits until at least four weeks after they have been planted.

Trees that have completed their flowering earlier in the year are now dropping large amounts of newly set fruit, particularly mangoes and avocados.  This is normal as the trees thin out and reduce fruit down to a level they can safely carry.  Make sure though that the trees are not allowed to get dry or stressed since this will increase fruit loss.

May

Many of our tropical fruits that bloomed earlier in the year are now finally starting to mature their fruit and this marks the beginning of our heavy spring and early summer fruiting for many tropical fruits. Some tropical fruits are still not growing as good as they could be because of our dry conditions, but hopefully at the end of this month we’ll start our summer rains.  Make sure that trees are being watered at least once or twice a week if we are not getting sufficient rainfall in your area.

This is a great time for propagation of all types of tropical fruits and grafting, air layering, or rooting cuttings shouldn’t be that difficult for 6he nest several months.  If you have trees that you haven’t pruned yet, remember hurricane season starts next month and it might be size to thin out and reduce the size especially of bigger trees to avoid them getting uprooted should high winds threaten.

Some inset activity, particularly chewing insects is on the increase, but a few products are labeled for use legally on most tropical fruits. Chewing insects usually won’t kill plants, but they do make the appearance unsightly until the plant can have time to regrow replacement leaves.

If you’re looking to add new tropical fruits to your landscape, this is an excellent time for buying and planting any types of new plants. Area nurseries that deal in tropical fruits have good inventories at this time of year so you should be able to find that special fruit you’re looking for.

June

This month officially starts our rainy season, which will be welcome since we've had such an unusually dry spring with several inches less than our normal rainfall in most areas. This is also a time of year that many plants need their summer fertilization.  Any good quality complete fruit tree fertilizers are acceptable. Follow manufacturer's directions as to application rates.

If you have young trees or newly transplanted older ones, these can be fertilized every other month for the first year to help get them well established. Hopefully, with the regular rainfall that should be occurring soon as we now are in our summer rainy season, trees will grow a lot better for the next several months.

Weeds can be a problem with all the extra moisture, and if you aren't using mulches, mulches help keep weeds from competing with trees. This is a great time for doing many forms of propagation, too, such as grafting, air layering, rooting cuttings or planting seeds from fruits that are maturing at this time of year.

If you're doing grafting, you may have to put newly grafted seedlings in protected areas so they don't get too much rain.  In some cases this could affect the graft unions if they are not well wrapped.

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July

Many tropical fruits now are probably looking as good as they have all year with our regular summer rains now.  If you forgot to fertilize last month, do so this month with good quality fruit tree fertilizers containing all micro-nutrients.

If you have new trees that have been planted recently, fertilize them every six to eight weeks for the remainder of the year. Larger trees that have been established need to be fertilized every three to four months.  Make sure fertilizers are watered in following application unless it rains quickly.  If you have mulch around trees, simply scatter the fertilizer over the mulch and let it be washed through by rain or irrigation.

This is an ideal time of year for continued propagation of tropical fruits and all forms of grafting, budding, air layering or rooting cuttings should be successful.  Also if you’re planting seed this time of year they should germinate quickly with the warmer soil temperatures.  Make sure seeds are kept lightly watered so they don’t dry out during the germination process.

Some fruit splitting is occurring on certain tropical fruits and this is due to heavy localized rains.  Make sure you’re not contributing to the problem by heavy irrigation practices with frequent sprinkling.  Often this problem resolves itself as we get later into the summer, but there’s nothing you can do about it except possibly harvest the fruit earlier and ripen it off the tree.

Since we’re in hurricane season, too, if you have trees that are getting too big for their assigned landscape space, it wouldn’t hurt to reduce the size of these that if we should get a storm later in the year you wouldn’t suffer the risk of large limbs being broken off or the entire tree being uprooted.

Some increases in insect activity has been reported on certain tropical fruits, but normally pests don’t reach high enough levels to do serious damage during the summer months. Most dooryard trees certainly can withstand having a few leaves damaged without having to resort to the use of chemical sprays.

If you do have enough pest buildup that spraying is required, use insecticidal soap or other similar safe products that don’t run a risk of injuring the host and yet still will control the insect problem.

August

This time of year tropical fruits should be growing well because of our warm temperatures and frequent rainfall.  If you have plants in containers that you haven't set out into the landscape yet, don't put it off any longer.  We don't have but about another two months of rainy season left, and after that you will have to give newly installed plants much more attention.

If you're doing propagation, this is a good time for budding, grafting, air layering, rooting cuttings, or planting seeds, and many of our fruits that have matured earlier in the year have supplied abundant seeds for your use now. If you haven't completed all your summer pruning, do so as soon as possible so plants have the benefit of our warm temperatures and frequent rainfall to make a rapid recovery.

Weeds are reported to be a major headache in many properties, so wherever practical, mulch fruit trees out several feet from the trunk to keep weeds from becoming major competitors for water and fertilizer.  Mulches also break down and form additional nutrients over time, and during the dry season help keep soil moisture from evaporating as quickly.

Fruit splitting of thin skinned tropical fruits is still happening due to our frequent rainfall, but there's little that can be done to stop that.  Make sure the trees that are having fruit splitting problems are not being irrigated by lawn sprinklers which will add to the problem.

September

This month traditionally has been the worst so far as hurricanes and tropical storms, and we may get some strong winds and heavy rainfall. Trees that are heavily laden with fruit run a high risk of having fruit strippedby high winds or having limbs broken because of the wind's effects. If you have pruning that needs to be done on tropical fruit trees to make them more wind safe, do so as soon as possible.

Also, expect thin-skinned fruits to have more problems with fruit splitting this month, which is our rainiest of the year. Little can be done to stop that, but don't aggravate the problem by having trees get irrigation from sprinkling systems. Usually there's more than enough natural rainfall to supply a tree's needs for moisture this month. If you live in areas away from the coast that are low lying and have high water tables or standing water during periods of heavy rain, you may have problems with fruit trees in those locations that don't like root systems kept too wet. Many tropical fruits are very sensitive to being flooded even for a single day. A good example would be papaya, which will die if standing water is around it for more than one day. Avocado is also known to be highly sensitive to wet feet. If you have areas that do periodically have standing water or high water tables, choose tropical fruits that are known to have high tolerance to moist soils. Such examples as sea grape, mango, sapodilla, and rose apple will take standing water without any ill effects.

This is a good time of year for plant propagation, and if you have seeds from summer fruits that you wish to plant they should germinate readily. Remember, don't cover seeds too deeply since they germinate best with only a quarter to a half inch of soil or potting media over the top of them. Grafting, air layering and other forms of propagation also work well this time of year, so this is a good time to get new plants ready for planting out this fall or next spring.

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October

This month we officially begin our dry season, although often the first week or two in October still sees a lot of typical afternoon thunderstorms. This month is the time for the fall fertilization of all your landscaping, including fruit trees. Use a good quality complete fertilizer and don't put this off because many trees after this month will start their slowdown for the upcoming winter season.

If you are doing propagation such as grafting or air layering, that's okay, too, but after this month it may take a lot longer for these practices to be successful. Seed can still be planted pretty much anytime, but as we go later into the fall months, seeds will be a little bit slower to germinate.

If you haven't finished pruning damaged trees the way you'd like, that should be completed this month. Pruning very late into the fall often will encourage a lot of tender new growth to occur and this could be injured during early winter cold fronts.
If you have plants in containers that need to be planted, don't put that off. Get them into the ground now so they have plenty of time to get established before cold weather arrives.

November

Many tropical fruit trees now are starting a slowdown of growth, which is normal for the upcoming winter season.  Don’t encourage a lot of heavy growth after this month since we can get frosts or freezes in December, which could do damage if the trees are in a strong flush of growth.

Complete pruning activities if not done earlier in the year and check trees regularly for signs of any pest or disease problems. You can still install trees into the landscape even through next month if they are still in containers.  Make sure newly planted trees are watered faithfully for the first several weeks to help promote speedy establishment.  Some staking may also be required on larger newly planted trees to insure that they are not tipped over or blown over by strong winds.

You can still do propagation this time of year such as grafting, air layering, or rooting cuttings, but it will take a little bit more time since plants are in a slowdown of growth.  Now that we are getting drier conditions, too, some plants are starting to thin out their foliage and drop older leaves.  As long as it’s only older leaves that are dropping, not new fresh ones, there’s no cause for concern. Sometimes excessive drying out will accelerate leaf drip so make sure trees are getting watered if it’s not raining at least once or twice a week.

December

This month many plants are going into a dormant period and you’ll see little new growth coming out from now through probably mid to late February.  It’s not necessary to do a whole lot at this time of year in the garden either, just check plants regularly and make sure they are not getting too dry because of our lack of rainfall.

Insect activity and disease problems should also be minimal because of the time of year, but it’s still OK if you wish to plant tropical fruits.  If you buy container tropical fruits, they can be planted virtually any time of the year. However, this season of the year they are slower to establish and might need more watering and watching. If it’s the type fruit tree that’s sensitive to cold weather, you may wish to cover small newly planted trees on cold nights.

This time of year leaf loss of older leaves on many tropical fruits is increasing and some may completely become dormant by the end of this month with all leaves off, particularly some to the annonas, spondias and other favorites.

If you wish to do propagation, remember that because of lowered temperatures cuttings will be slower to root and seeds that are planted may not come up for several weeks longer than you would expect because of the lowered soil temperatures.

Bibliography

Joyner, Gene.  "Monthly Garden Calendar." edis.ifas.ufl.edu. UF/IFAS, Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Web. Nov. 29 2014.

Published 29 Nov. 2014 LR
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