Orchid Culture - Motes Notes
Monthly advice for orchid growers in South Florida. There's lots of information pertinent to North Florida growers too. Subscribe to the monthly newsletter so it will be delivered to you via email each month.
by Dr. Martin Motes, from his monthly newsletter and book Florida Orchid Growing
Progress of the Season
August started out decidedly on the wet side which was particularly unfortunate in the wake of a very wet July. Thankfully, August has ended on a dry note and overall was drier than normal. This has proved especially beneficial in an overly rainy year.
Our sympodial plants have now come closer to maturing their growths, free from disease before the onset of September's rains. In general disease pressure should be substantially less as the dry conclusion of August has forced the fungi to retreat to spore stages which will need to be reawakened by a period of extended rain.
Although weather patterns have been unusual this year and not nearly so predictable, one can be fairly certain that extensive periods of wet weather will doubtless occur before mid-October. The leg up on disease which we have been given this August needs to be maintained with careful watering practices. It is still very much advised to error on the dry side. Better to lose a little growth than lose a plant to disease. The vigor and frequency of the tropical weather systems developing this year may well be the result of global warming which could extend the reach of the rainy season by an extra week or more, so we need to be especially vigilant. Now is a good time to also cast an eye on any trees or shrubs proximate to the growing area that could be trimmed to increase light and air movement to our plants. This time of year, we can you use all the help we can get drying our plants.
Interestingly, the unusually dry weather of the last few weeks has created an opportunity for mites. Mite damage shows up as a silvery, sandblasted appearance usually on the lower side of the leaves. Of the several methods of control outlined in Florida Orchid Growing, soap is best this time of year as it also has some anti-fungal properties. Two applications spaced 7-10 days apart should carry one safely through till November.
Snails have not failed to take advantage of the opportunity that the heavy rains early in August afforded them to travel long distances from your neighbors to your house. A very light application of snail bait after a rain and repeated in about two weeks should give excellent control.
The longer nights of September allow the air to cool delightfully. Enjoy the cool mornings.
January is somewhat like December but in reverse, with each succeeding day bringing longer hours of sunlight until days are long enough that afternoons return at the end of the month with extra sunshine to warm us after the extra sharp cold snaps. January, like December, is cold and dry, in fact even colder and drier. Dry is good, cold can be very bad. We need to accentuate the positive by especially... read entire article
Despite the bloom on the avocados and the burgeoning new leaves on the live oaks, February is not spring in South Florida. Danger of freeze continues past mid month and frost can occur still into March. Even if the weather is balmy, it's too early to let down our guard or take down any protection we have mounted against the cold. The trend however is toward the positive as each lengthening day brings extra hours of warming sunshine... read entire article
Whilst March never comes in like a lion in South Florida, occasionally it slinks in like a bob cat. Frost is not unheard of in the first few days of the month. The more cold sensitive genera, hard cane dendrobiums, phalaenopsis and vandas may well need some protection even into the middle of the month. Overall, however, March brings us some of the most ideal orchid growing conditions... read entire article
Far from the cruelest, April is the kindest month to South Florida orchid growers. The weather in April is definitely settled into warm, even deliciously hot, with passing cold fronts only adding the delight of a pleasant change in temperature. The clean, bright days brimming with abundant sunlight and the low relative humidity create the high drying potential that orchids love... read entire article
May is a month of transition in South Florida. Early in the month we can expect the driest weather of the year. Because of the clarity of the air and lack of cloud cover, temperatures rise rapidly in the late morning and can reach the upper eighties or nineties by mid afternoon before cooling substantially in late afternoon. Fortunately, over night radiant cooling rapidly dissipates the previous day's... read entire article
June is the most dramatically tropical month in South Florida. As the southeast Trade Winds blow cool moist air off the Gulf Stream daily, as surely the heating effect of the center of the peninsula percolates up massive thunder heads. The increased cloud cover drawing a veil across the afternoon sun provides much cooling relief for our plants... read entire article
Although it mostly passes unnoticed to millions locked in their air-conditioned bubbles, July in South Florida is quite different from June. While the pattern of afternoon showers built from the moisture of the morning's sea breeze persists in July, the thunder-storms are sharper and shorter. The clouds linger less and the foliage dries more quickly. Less quantity of rain falls in July than in June... read entire article
July and August are the two most similar months in South Florida. Most of the advice on watering, disease and pest control in last month's calendar still apply but subtle changes are taking place. Although it may not seem so, as temperatures climb into the low nineties most afternoons, summer is in retreat: each day a little shorter, each night a little longer. With shorter days the importance of watering as early... read entire article
September looms as the only truly dismal month in South Florida. Even without the prospect of the unspeakable 'H' word, September disheartens since it is easily the dampest, dullest month in the year. Although more inches of rain fall in June, more hours of rain occur in the often slow, seemingly endless drizzles of September. Frequently a day or two can pass without so much as a solid hour of truly bright... read entire article
October is a month of change in South Florida. If the Romans had lived here where
we do, they would have named this month for their two faced god Janus. Usually
around the middle of the month, and certainly by the end of the month, the first strong
cold front pushes into South Florida bringing to a close the monolithic heat and damp
of summer and ushering in weather as most of the continent knows it, alternating
periods of warmer and cooler... continue reading
In November we can no longer afford to be dominated by the illusion, so easy here at the northern edge of the tropics, that summer will never end. Although Indian Summer persists for the whole winter in South Florida, November is the month to prepare our plants for those short sharp blasts of cold which are inevitably coming as each successive cold front pushes the overall temperature a little lower... read entire article
December marks the beginning of the serious dry season in South Florida. While this additional dryness provides relief from the autumnal rains that can bring so many fungal problems, December is also the month of shortest day lengths. This contracted period of light, on the contrary, reduces severely the drying potential for our plants. Nature thus both gives and takes away from us in December. We must... read entire article