Which of these Gardening Mistakes Will You Make This Winter?

If you’re reading this in Michigan, you probably think I’m nuts right now. But where I sit here in sunny Florida, last year at Christmas is was 80 degress outside. So guess what? Gardening happens in Winter here too!

That means fresh produce from the garden year round. And that’s great for people who love that fresh-from-the-backyard-harvested-5-minutes-ago taste.

But there are some mistakes you can make in the garden in Florida Winter. Let’s talk about a few so you’re prepared.

Mistake #1: There’s a surprise freeze and you don’t have anything to cover your prized petunias.

This one is pretty simple to avoid — what’s that old Boy Scout motto? Be Prepared!

For Surprise freezes, it’s important to have something on hand and ready to go. I recommend N-Sulate is an awesome product for protecting your crops from the light freezes we may get here (some years we have none, other years we have several, and everything in between).

When used as directed, it is more effective than using old towels and bedsheets, AND it is light enough that it won’t crush young or sensitive plants. So, definitely get some. We have it for you, ready and waiting for you to pick up. And we can make sure you understand how to use this product so that you have the best chances of avoiding frost damage.

N-Sulate is a great product to have around as a “just in case” measure.

N-Sulate Covering Seedlings

Mistake #2: You have no protected place to move your container plants if we do have a freeze.

Trying to move your potted palm into your living room when there’s a freeze coming could present quite a problem, and a mess, for you. But you ran out of room in the garage and don’t know what else to do.

Don’t let that be you!

It’s so important to have an area that you know you can move some of your container plants into in the event of a freeze.

Thanks to GardenLady for the pic of plants stacked in the garage during cold weather.

Whether it’s the garage, or a porch, or a greenhouse, make sure there’s a protected space you can put some pots if there’s a freeze coming.

And while you’re at it, secure some help beforehand too, maybe a neighbor where you can make a deal, “I’ll help you move yours if you help me move mine.” No sense in breaking backs, right? 

Neighbors about to team-lift a heavy potted plant.

Also, your neighbor might have extra room they’d be willing to let you borrow, you know, for a nice bottle of wine or that awesome appetizer you make with your tomatoes, basil, and some fresh mozzarella. Never be above bartering for help!

So, have a place to put your plants for a freeze. Just in case. You never know when Old Man Winter will take a swipe at us.

Mistake #3: You’ve decided to grow sun-hungry plants this Winter.

Ah, yes, this is a good one!

So, you love tomatoes. You really LOVE them. That’s great, we all need a favorite food (it’s one of mine too).

I see toasted bread and mayo to make a tomato sandwich in that tomato’s future.

But did you know that most tomatoes will only reach optimal production with 8+ hours per day of sun? With the shortened amount of daylight in the Winter, as well as the decreased angle of the sun (it’s not high overhead like it is during the summer, it’s more to the South in Winter), your sunlight prospects are usually quite limited during Winter.

Most sun-hungry plants don’t get enough sun in Winter to do much fruiting. That’s why the University of Florida Institute of Food & Agricultural Science doesn’t list them as a Winter crop, mainly (the temperature too, but lately, it’s been warm enough).

Strong tomato stalks and leaves are important for when fruiting does start.

Now, these sun-hungry WILL grow nice strong stalks and leaves, albeit more slowly, and (BONUS!) with the cooler weather there’s less pests and fungus to contend with.

Many folks have luck planting tomatoes and other plants like it such as eggplants and bell peppers in Winter and then letting them grow strong stems, then they’re ready to start fruiting as we come into Spring when others are just getting their seedlings in the ground.

Of course, you’re gambling with the possibility of a freeze…but hey…worth the risk, right? (And, see #1 and #2 above for help with that).

Tomatoes split from freezing – water expands when it’s frozen. Yay science!

Just know that those kinds of plants don’t fruit as well this time of year.

There’s the top 3 mistakes we at Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply see Florida Gardeners make in the Winter growing season.

Do you want to know more about what you SHOULD plant this Winter in Florida?

Come take my What To Plant In Your Florida Garden, the Winter Edition, on Saturday, November 16, at 11 am.

My in-store flyer for this class – taught by yours truly! Come play with me!

This “What to Plant in Your Florida Garden” series is a quarterly class I do seasonally to help people who want to garden in Florida but haven’t quite gotten the hang of what to plant when, and it’s our #1 asked question at Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply by our customers. It’s a fun class!

If you moved to Florida but had a great garden up North, this is the class for you. If you’re a Floridian but you were taught to garden by a Northerner, this is also a great class for you.

I hope to see you there!

Until then…keep growing!



P.S. You can always get great gardening tips in my blog, or also from the UF IFAS web resource. Here’s a couple of links for you:

EDIS Gardening Guide: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh021

Florida Gardening Calendar: https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/lawn-and-garden/florida-gardening-calendar/

P.P.S. Other articles in my blog are here, please check it out!

2 responses to “Which of these Gardening Mistakes Will You Make This Winter?”

  1. joy bush says:

    Hi Marissa,
    i’d like to sign up for your blog, can you please send the link or where i can find it to sign up?
    also have a couple of questions…
    Is there a 2-3 month no gardening time when it gets too hot?
    I’m just starting w/ my 1st season (Brussel Sprouts, Chard, Zucchini, Turnips, & Tomatoes & thinking of adding a few more veges-if i can find someone to commit water my plants when going to be gone for 2 1/2 weeks late April) But i wondered if the growing period is continual, or has a stopping season?
    And last question:
    Can i come in for another coupon on March 7th’s class, to buy 2 more EarthBoxes…i think i may be a new addict.
    Thanks for you answers.

    • Marissa Byrum says:

      Hi Joy!
      Thanks for writing, I appreciate it! Let’s go through your questions:
      1) You are signed up for the newsletter already, you should have gotten a welcome email a couple of days ago. If you didn’t let me know – the emails I get from the classes I enter by hand and sometimes make a typo. You should receive our newsletter later today (Thursday) as well. If not, check your spam folder, sometimes they go in there. If it did, make sure you mark it “Not Spam” so your email provider won’t route me to the trash!
      2) Most people think that there is a 2-3 month “no gardening” time due to the heat, however, you can still grow *some* things. In Late April/Early May I’ll be teaching a “What to Plant in Your Florida Summer Garden” class that will go over all of that for you – stay tuned for that! I will say that many people don’t garden in Summer due to their own heat tolerance, and that’s ok too. I will say this: Beauregard Sweet potatoes, which are available for pre-order right now and arrive in April, LOVE the Florida heat. I mean, they L-O-V-E it. So that’s something to think about too. See our web store and search for “Sweet Potato”, scroll down a bit and you’ll see it. Or you can stop in/call the store to order there.
      3) You can commit your garden to water itself using an inexpensive sprinkler timer on your water hose. Put the timer at the spigot (there are manual and digital kinds), connect your hose to it, and at the other end, attach your sprinkler. Make sure your sprinkler is hitting all the right areas, or thread a soaker hose through your garden for the same effect. Set the timer to water for you before you leave. You might have a friend or neighbor drop by every couple of days to make sure the timer is working, but that should fix your watering problem! See my blog from 02/20/2020 (today) – I mention using a sprinkler timer!
      4) You can certainly come to the March 7 class, however, if you don’t pay the registration fee for that class I can’t enter you in the raffle for the demo box or offer the coupon…it wouldn’t be fair to everyone else attending. I hope you understand. 🙂 Here’s something, though: We do have an annual Spring sale at the store in March. While I can’t make any guarantees, we *might* have some kind of deal during a limited amount of time during that sale. Watch your emails for hints. 😉
      I hope my answers helped! See you again soon!!

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