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January garden calendar for Central Florida

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January is typically the coldest month of the year, but there is plenty to do in Central Florida gardens. Although our winters have been less severe recently, there's always a chance for freezing weather to sneak up on us. Monitor weather forecasts and be ready to protect tender plants from frost or freeze. Sometimes frost is more damaging to plants than cold temperatures.

Celebrate Florida Arbor Day on Friday January 17, 2014 by planting a tree. Hardy trees and shrubs are best planted now, so root systems are well-established before the summer. Now is also a good time to transplant most landscape plants. The cooler weather puts less stress on newly relocated specimens and makes keeping them hydrated an easier chore. Prune deciduous trees to eliminate crossing branches and improve form, but avoid committing crape murder.

Plant more cool-season flowers like calendulas, pansies, petunias and snapdragons for plenty of color all season long. Monitor rainfall totals and irrigate only if needed.

Cool-season vegetables are thriving now and you should be reaping abundant harvests of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, lettuce and strawberries. Plant new crops as you harvest the old, so your garden keeps providing you with food. Here are some vegetables to plant in January: beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage, collards, endive, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mizuna, mustard, onions (green and bunching types), shallots, English peas, Irish potatoes, radish, spinach and turnips.

Some warm-season crops need to be started indoors from seed this month, and then transplanted to the garden after danger of frost. Getting these vegetables started now will ensure that they are old enough to produce well before the summer heat arrives. Sow seeds of eggplant, peppers and tomatoes as soon as possible, and start watermelon by the end of the month.

Continue digging root crops like yuca, sunchokes, arrowroot, turmeric and ginger. Digging just what you'll consume each week saves on storage space and keeps moisture and nutrition levels at their peak.

Most of the citrus fruits are in season now in addition to carambola, glycosmis, and kumquats. If your area has avoided a hard freeze, you may also be picking banana, and papaya.

Azaleas and camellias are among the showiest landscape plants this month, but also look for tecomaria, justicia, malvaviscus and russelia. By the end of January you're likely to see a profusion of blooms on deciduous fruit trees like peaches and native plums.

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