Plant Now!

March is the time to plant your native garden and get a full spring, summer and fall season of growth. By next winter your plants will be fully established and bearing fruit for our year round, winter resident and migratory birds.

Spring rains make establishment easier with just a bit of additional water and fertilizer needed to encourage root growth. There are several habitats to copy including pinelands, wetlands, oak hammock, scrub and coastal hammock.

Try to match your plants to the habitat they occur in. “Plants from around the world” sounds great yet leaves me as well as local wildlife confused. Birds know where and when to nest and what to feed on when surrounded by the plants that they have evolved with for tens of thousands of years. Some tropicals fruit earlier than our natives and thus encourage birds to nest too early. This is more of a problem up north where something like Japanese honeysuckle may fruit early and encourage birds to nest in its branches that are open to predators.

For a tropical look, try our native subtropical trees, shrubs and wildflowers. These are plants that have entered our state from the south. Try planting a mix of gumbo limbo, mastic, pigeon plum, paradise tree, redbay, black ironwood and live oak. Mix in wild coffee, marlberry, wild lime, limber and Jamaica caper, firebush, necklace pod and all of the stoppers. For colorful ground covers add red salvia, spiderwort, seaside goldenrod, dicliptera, Chapman’s cassia, Key’s porterweed, beach verbena and dune sunflower. Corky passionvine and coontie will provide food for butterfly larva. In fact the above list will provide larval food for 13 different species of butterflies as well as year round berries for your birds.

If you have a wide swale out front, this is a great place to add even more trees and reduce turf grass. For permission to plant within unincorporated Palm Beach County, simply go to the third floor of the government building located at 2300 north Jog Rd. and obtain a landscape and irrigation permit application. Jim Peters will patiently answer your questions.

Of course, check your local city and homeowners rules and make sure your underground lines are marked before digging. Call before digging, no kidding; it’s expensive if you don’t. Remember those beautiful billowy masses of pink flowers on muhly grass last summer among our roadside plantings. Do try this at home. Don’t dig up turf, just cover with newspaper or degradable plastic and mulch; plant in it after a couple of weeks when the turf has died.

Imagine a tree lined street that is cool, quiet and has interesting birds to observe. How many of us have grown up in this setting and yet can’t imagine it in our own yards? If it is February or March, it is time to plant now.