Are you “chomping at the bit” to get started gardening this year, but not sure what you can do at this point? Well, good news, there’s plenty of things that can be done whether landscaping or vegetable gardening is your passion.

new potatoes

“New” potatoes grown in Florida. Photo Credit: C. Hutchinson, UF/IFAS

Temperatures can drop significantly in the Panhandle this month, and with short notice. If you want to enhance your flower beds, be sure to use annual bedding plants that can withstand the chill. Dianthus, pansy, viola and dusty miller are some good suggestions to plant. It’s a good time to plant bulbs too. Dahlias, crinum and agapanthus are good choices this time of year. Be sure to provide adequate mulch and water during this cold weather month. There are plenty of trees and shrubs that are beginning to bloom this time of year also. If you’re like me, your allergies will tell you this too. Red maple and star magnolia, just to name a couple, will soon be in bloom.

As for vegetable gardening, the potato is a good choice for Florida gardens. As Americans, we consume approximately 125 pounds per person a year. Potato farming is done commercially in Florida, but mostly with “new” potatoes. These are the small, rounded immature potatoes that have a thin skin and are perfect for low country boils.

It’s February, so it’s Irish potato planting season. The planting season for this cultivar for the Panhandle is from February 1st to mid-March. Sweet potatoes can be planted beginning in late March through June. A hundred pounds of seed potatoes should yield approximately ten bushels. Buy healthy certified seed potatoes from a garden center. Avoid using table stock potatoes. Often, table stock will not sprout successfully. Store bought potatoes are often treated with sprout inhibitors too. This treatment can cause development issues if used as seed potatoes.

Raised beds, at least 6”, are the best way to grow potatoes. Be sure to fertilize the bed soil mixture and fertilize again down furrows when planting. Irish potatoes require copious amounts of fertilizer. For fertilizer, use a general, complete formulation like 10-10-10. Before planting, be sure to dust the seed potatoes with a fungicide to reduce the chance of decay. Plant seed potatoes 3” in depth, at 12” apart and allow for 36” row spacing.

Please take these gardening tips into consideration this month and the next. Spring is just around the corner. Happy gardening! For more information please contact your local county extension office.

Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS Publications, “ Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide” by Sydney Park Brown, Danielle Treadwell, J. M. Stephens, and Susan Webb : http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/VH/VH02100.pdf and “Growing Potatoes in the Florida Home Garden”, by Christian T. Christensen, Joel Reyes-Cabrera, Libby R. Rens, Jeffrey E. Pack, Lincoln Zotarelli,Chad Hutchinson, Wendy J. Dahl, Doug Gergela, and James M. White: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/HS/HS18300.pdf

Supporting information can also be found on the UF/IFAS website under “Florida Gardening Calendar” by Sydney Park Brown: http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/lawn_and_garden/calendar/pdfs/February_North.pdf