Wintertime in Southwest Florida can be a challenging time to keep landscapes beautiful. Despite the fact that it’s warmer here than up north, our cold fronts that bring moisture followed by cool weather, and even frosts, can be harsh on our tropical horticulture. Conventional wisdom tells us to water plants that look weak, but before you get the hose, keep reading.

Overwatering may be the biggest mistake I see as a landscape care provider. With this summer’s unprecedented rains, I’ve seen it more this year than ever. Lawns and shrubbery alike suffer greatly from getting too much water, especially in cool weather. More alarming is that once overwatering damage is done, it’s difficult to see improvement until we get warm weather again, by which point, many residents have already headed north.

Overwatered lawns become subject to fungal diseases that cause spotty blades and damaged patches. They develop weak root structures, making them less resistant to dry conditions and damaging insects in the summer. They also tend to be weakly colored, and suffer from weeds. Shrubs like Bougainvillea and Gardenia will lose their foliage when overwatered, and more shrubs still become subject to damaging, rotting fungi.

Lawns and plants that are stressed coming into season are more vulnerable to cool weather and overwatering damage. Landscapesthat were mowed, trimmed, irrigated, or fertilized improperly prior to the cool weather become extra susceptible.

The most important thing to do is to plan ahead. Make sure your plants are healthy while it’s warm, so they are less likely to be damaged by cool, wet conditions. Keep your irrigation systems turned down while it’s cool—save on that water bill, make sure your plants are fertilized correctly, and preventively treat for fungal diseases.

A competent landscaper can help you with all of these and your landscape will remain healthy and beautiful.

Local Experience, Exceptional Service, Sustainable Practices

Gordon Vanscoy is co-owner of GreenCare US, a Naples-based landscape care company.

Questions for next issue’s column can be presented to Gordon GreenCare can be reached via telephone at

239.288.2222239.288.2222 or via the internet at

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