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January 4, 2013
By JOYCE COMINGORE - Garden Club of Cape Coral , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Another day, and welcome to a brand New Year. Now is the time we take to re-evaluate our lives.

Originally, the Roman calendar only had 10 months, 304 days. Winter was considered a monthless period. Then around 713, King Numa Pompilius, supposedly, added two more months to keep the calendar equal to a standard lunar year, 355 days. Then, Julius Caesar started the 12-month Julian calendar to keep better track of planting and going to war. The Gregorian calendar was created in 1582 to correct the errors in the Julian calendar, by the decree of Pope Gregory Xll, who put in 10 more days to fill in the 11 1/2 days lag behind the solar cycle. Countries that follow the Julian calendar lag 13 days behind the solar system.

January is the first month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendars. March was the first month of the old Roman calendar. January and February were then added. Using Greek and Roman mythology, March was so named after Mars, the God of war, as it was their usual time to start wars; April comes from aperire, Latin for "to open" (buds); May was named after Maia, the spring Goddess of the growth of plants; June emulated junius, the Latin goddess, Juno; then, counting from the original first month of March, July was first called Quintillus, meaning fifth, but now named after Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.; August, was named after Augustus Caesar in 8 B.C., but was originally called Sextillis, meaning sixth; September comes from septem, Latin for seven; October, from Latin octo, meaning eight. November from novem, Latin for nine; and December, from decem, Latin for 10.

Then, January and February were added. Janus (Ianuarius), the god of the doorway in Roman mythology, derived from the Latin word for door (ianus), commemorated January as the door to a new year. Janus had two faces. One face looks forward and the other is looking back.

February, from the Latin word februare, meaning "to cleanse," was when Romans performed religious rites to purge themselves of sin on the 15th of the month.

With a heavy dose of reality, I have been hearing people say, their New Year's resolution is "not to make any." Good intentions are always with us, and who wants to set themselves up for failure. Maybe it's my age and I've lived too long to be a cockeyed optimist. I did, however, clip the Dear Abby column she has adapted from Al-Anon's original credo. Six thoughts entitled, "Just for Today." Condensed, "turning over a new leaf one day at a time saves me from failure, I won't dwell on failures, will accept what is, will improve my mind each day, will make an effort to be agreeable," (I have framed the saying "be pretty if you can, be witty if you must, but be gracious if it kills you.") Also it lists "do something positive for my health." I watch Dr. Oz. What I really liked was the phrase, "I will refrain from improving anybody but myself."

What a way to start our New Year, with a very cold drop in temperatures this week. This is just a preview of things to come. We are heading into our two coldest months of the year. Anytime a frost is predicted, water well and deep the day before. Most plants die from the drying winds that bring the frost. A plant's best protection is to be a healthy, well-feed and watered plant.

This month and February are generally our coldest months, with possible freezes. When the freezes come, cover plants with cardboard boxes, light blankets and sheets. Weigh these down with heavy rocks. Try secondhand stores for cheap sheets and light blankets. DON'T cover plants with clear plastic. It conducts the freeze to the spots on the plant that it touches and kills that spot on the plant, causing a die-back. In daylight, it cooks and burns the plants.

Pull mulch away from the base of the covered plants, to let the soils heat get up to the plants. Mulch needs to be at least three inches deep. Pull mulch 1 to 2 inches away from tree trunks of bush stems to prevent bark and trunk decay. You need a 2-foot circle of mulch in diameter for every inch of tree diameter.

A Florida-friendly yard includes working with pre-existing natural conditions, conserving water and energy, using native and suitable non-native plants in your landscape that require minimal water and fertilizer. Managing yard pesticides only when necessary and with the least toxic products also helps give us proper maintenance.

When there is no rain for a week, water plant areas for 20 minutes, and twice a week early in the morning, only as needed, to avoid fungal problems. Water is not utilized well in cool or cold weather - rot sets in. For thrips, scale, mealy bugs and spider mites, hose up under the leaves with soapy water and oil added to the water. The temperatures are now low enough not to cook the plants from the oil. Pruning frost-killed limbs is not recommended at this time. It prevents susceptible tender new growth and protects the lower parts from future freezing. Wait until March. A Florida-friendly yard isn't merely a good looking landscape; it becomes an asset to the environment.

Our state Legislature has deemed the third Friday in January as the best time in our state to plant our Arbor Day Tree. Plan to plant a tree Jan. 18 on Arbor Day. You plant a tree, you plant HOPE for the future!

I want a bumper sticker I saw that said, "Are you breathing? THANK A TREE. Trees make oxygen. Trees eat our CO2. Be kind to the trees."

Make the best of this happy, New Year.

Joyce Comingore is a master gardener, Fort Myers/Lee County Garden Council Board member, member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral and a Hibiscus enthusiast.



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