Wonderland – South Florida Style
South Florida is the land of sunshine, swaying palms, and long miles of sandy beaches, but contrary to what many folks may think, the region does have seasons; they just happen to be a bit different (and a lot more subtle) than the more northerly parts of the state and, of course our northern neighbors. While many states enjoy a distinct winter, spring, summer and fall, Florida is more accurately described as having a “wet” or hurricane season, and a “dry” cooler period.
Locals will often quip that we have ‘hot, and hotter’ when questioned about seasons, or another favorite, ‘We had winter yesterday.’ Still, most Floridians take the threat of a hurricane much better than the threat of cold weather.
The winter of 2010 was an exceptionally cold winter statewide, and South Florida saw the coldest winter recorded in 82 years when temperatures in Miami dipped to 36 degrees. Then the next three winters reported slightly above average temperatures, with Miami averaging 72.3 degrees for the winter season.
Groundskeeping for the Winter
Sometimes a board, guided by practices common in other states will, recommend scaling back landscaping work in the winter as a cost-cutting measure, but as has been mentioned previously, professionals know that wintertime is not a time to spare effort or expense. Grayson recommends working hard during the winter months to get on top of the invasive non- native species and to establish new native plant areas while temperatures are mild to moderate.
Mike Guido, director of maintenance operations for Landscape Service Professionals in Tamarac, agrees with Grayson—winter is no time to slow down.
His advice to boards on curbing winter landscaping expenses is to the point. “The sweet taste of savings is replaced over time by the bitterness of poor performance.” Guido lists three additional landscape challenges for Florida landscapers: “Weeds, insects, and fungus. With a twelve month growing season, pests and nuisance animals remain fully active,” he states, and recommends spending time and funds in the winter on controlling those challenges, and getting ahead of them before spring and summer. “The Florida Department of Agriculture has stated Florida averages one new pest per month,” he explains. “Winter is the time to fight back.”
Guido also recommends addressing irrigation issues during the winter season. “Irrigation systems are designed to fail,” he states. “The parts are all plastic, and the whole system is only as new as the oldest part.” Guido knows this is often difficult to explain to an HOA board. “Maybe they have just spent a large sum on replacing gears and pipes, and then the pump goes out.” If adequate irrigation is not available, no landscape will survive in the Florida climate.
Humble agrees on the importance of adequate irrigation, and recommends that boards consider the latest technology. “With the movement by most irrigation manufacturers to create smart controllers, it would be wise for boards to evaluate their current system to see if they would be a candidate for such.” Smart systems allow you to enter the soil type, and even your zip code to track weather in your area. The temperature, humidity and precipitation are monitored and relayed to the clock, where a decision is made to allow the various irrigation zone sprinklers to turn on or not. This occurs automatically—no need for a resident, groundskeeper, or manager to touch the clock. Humble cites numerous communities where this technology has decreased water consumption by more than 50%. “Additionally, grass requires substantially more water than plants, so boards should evaluate their current landscape plan and decide if there are areas that can utilize larger planting beds,” he suggests.
Guido recommends property management personnel, boards and landscape committees review the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Best Management Practices online. These programs provide excellent and readily available information on most landscaping concerns.
After the main challenges of invasive plants, weeds, fungus, and insects are addressed, other landscape activities best suited for winter months may seem routine. Cleaning beds, remulching and replanting appropriate winter plants, along with very mild pruning should be all that is required to have most properties at the peak of winter perfection when the snowbirds arrive and the winter/holiday season begins. The winter season is also the best time to have a certified arborist evaluate any large hardwood trees to see if the pruning practices have been kept to local codes and standards, and if trimming is recommended prior to hurricane season.
Pro-Tip: Concrete Landscaping Borders is an excellent way to maintain your hard work, and your landscaping. Concrete borders are extruded to match you design elements, and create a protective “frame” around your beds – keeping the mulch in, and the grass out!
Winter landscaping done right not only creates a beautiful environment for the season, but also sets the stage for a smoother transition into the busy spring and summer landscaping demands. Spring in Florida may come as early as March, and lawn and landscape professionals know, there is no down time—just a change in seasonal duties!
Anne Childers is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to The South Florida Cooperator.
If you have any questions, or wish to receive a free estimate on your concrete border project, contact us today at 407-957-9208.