Getting Landscape Ready For Northeast Florida Winter. Acorns Galore!

Noticed a bumper crop of acorns this year? Tips for winterizing landscapes include adding potassium (potash) to Northeast Florida lawns now. Also, fertilize palms and cycads with a palm fertilizer. Irrigate plants 24-48 hours prior to a freeze. Read more from Nassau County, Florida Extension expert.

Acorns Galore, Seen Here on a Fernandina Beach Sidewalk
Acorns Galore, Seen Here on a Fernandina Beach Sidewalk

EDITOR’S NOTE: University of Florida/IFAS Extension Director for Nassau County and Environmental Horticulture Agent III, Rebecca Jordi, addresses questions about landscaping and gardening in northeast Florida. She is also a University of Florida faculty member.

___GARDEN TALK Q & A ____

QUESTION: Enough already! What is with all the acorns falling? When will this ever stop? My front yard, sidewalk, and driveway are so messy. CL

JORDI: You are not the only one who has asked me this question recently. Everyone, but the squirrels, seems to be unhappy with the number of acorns falling from the oak trees this year. I can almost hear my mother’s voice responding to this question – “when they are good and ready” is exactly when the trees will stop dropping acorns!

This is one of those things we have little control over but the general rule is oak trees take about three weeks to drop all their acorns – sometimes shorter and sometimes longer. The mess should be over soon – but wait for it, wait for it…next we will have oak leaves dropping! On the bright side, the leaves can be used as mulch for trees and shrubs. This type of mulch is free and adds wonderful nutrients to the soil. Just be sure to only have about 2-3 inches of mulch around shrubs and never let it touch the trunk of any tree or shrub. If you have a mulching lawn mower, this will help break up the leaves into smaller pieces which will enable them to decompose faster.

QUESTION: What do I need to do to get my landscape ready for the winter? BH

JORDI: There are a few things which should be done immediately if you have not already done them. It would be a good idea to add potassium (potash) to your lawn now. Fertilize your palms and cycads with a palm fertilizer configuration of 8-2-12-4 (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, and Magnesium). Use slow release for acid soil and quick release for alkaline soils. If your palms are small enough, consider spraying the bud with a fungicide to protect it from any potential fungal or bacterial diseases if a freeze causes damage to the bud tissue.

Be sure your plants do not experience any long periods of drought before a freeze. This means it is essential to irrigate plants 24-48 hours prior to a freeze. It is important to pay attention to weekly weather forecasts so you will not be caught off guard.

Plants in containers are very susceptible to drought and therefore freeze damage, check them prior to cold snaps. However, over watering them or any landscape plant can cause as much or more damage than freezes so do not over do it. Cover tender perennials prior to hard freezes (4 hours of 28 degrees and below) but be sure the cover material reaches all the way to the ground to help trap any heat coming from the ground. Remove the cover once the threat of freeze is over.

QUESTION: I would like to plant English peas but I am concerned about whether I can grow them here in the south. When would be the best time to plant them? MG

JORDI: We can indeed grow English peas here in Northeast Florida but it must be done during the cooler months of the year. It is a little too early to put them in the ground now but you could start seeds inside the house or a back porch where the seedlings will receive a stable, warm atmosphere. It is also important they receive a good amount of light initially, but never direct light.

Plant the seeds in a good combination of sand, peat and composted material to encourage germination. Be sure the soil is well-drained, which means moist but not wet. Plant the seeds about 1-2 inches deep but no deeper. Cover the tops of the pots or paper cups with plastic to keep in moisture. Check the pots on a regular basis to remove the plastic as soon as green leaves appear. UF/IFAS encourages planting English peas in the ground outside between January and March. It will take about 6-8 weeks before you will be able to begin harvesting your peas. Wando and Green Arrow are two varieties which produce well here in Northeast Florida. If you produce more than you can eat, consider freezing the excess. See more info, University of Florida publication on how to properly freeze vegetables.

Rebecca Jordi

Rebecca L. Jordi
County Extension Director
UF/IFAS Environmental Horticulture
Nassau County Extension
543350 U.S. Highway #1
Callahan, FL 32011
904-491-7340 or 904-879-1019