By Andrew Street
If for some odd reason, you have not noticed the change in weather, your garden certainly has. With this change, should come notification to take winter precautions. Winter? Miami has winter? If you don’t grow a garden, and come from the north, you may laugh at the thought of winter precautions in Miami. Nonetheless, with this change, follows an adaptation to it. We as gardeners can help our plants make those adaptations.
With the cooling of the air temperatures, comes a sigh of relief from most of us. With our plants, not so much… cooling of the air means less capacity for moisture, within—humidity. Humidity is the amount of water vapor traveling in the air. Hotter air, can hold more water vapor, which tropical plants can take advantage of and not have to worry so much about water loss through the leaves. The leaves of tropical plants have, in general, more and larger respiration openings (spiracles). This allows them to uptake and also release excess moisture much better in humid environments.
Now that our air is getting cooler and we are compounding that with entering the dry season, supplemental watering is essential to help new plantings and tropical landscapes make the transition to drier air and cooler temps. This is a tragic reason for many plant failures at this time of the year—we grow accustomed to our steady rainfall all the way up till early fall. When it stops, we may not notice for a week or two, but by then, it is often too late; if the plant lives, it is so highly stressed that it looks unsightly until long after the rains come back.
The best practice is to ease your garden into these drier times with some manual watering.
With our impeding winter days, also comes shorter days. The photo period is changing and all of your plants know this. Growth slows down and for some plants, these darker days are the trigger to flower. Due to the position in the sky of the winter sun, UV intensity is far less than in the summer. There are precautions that coincide with this seasonal occurrence, too.
Unless you have specific fruit trees in bud, now is a great time to thin or raise the canopy of your trees. With less light comes a cooler and moister ground for fungi of all sorts to enjoy. Extra light in a time when we are losing it, combined with the better air flow, can help to limit fungal problems.
In general, trees need to be maintained and trimmed—guided, if you will, in the manner that suits the particular position they keep in the garden. Pre-winter is a perfect time to do most of your annual trimming, not before hurricane season! With the slowing of metabolism, we can reduce the canopy/shape the trees in a way that has minimal stress. By the time hurricane season rolls back around, the tree will have grown into the proper shape and restored its reserves in time to handle a potential storm.
If you have any questions about winter preparations or the proper care for a specific tree, come by the garden and ask one of us. In the meantime, enjoy the cooler weather and a gorgeous tropical garden.
Happy Holidays from Miami Beach Botanical Garden.