Friday, November 1, 2013

Gardening Check List for South Florida's Autumn Season

I am sure many of you have noticed the sun has set a few clicks due south in your neck of the woods, the temperature's are cooling down (or just getting down right cold depending on where you are), the wind tends to get a bit gusty right about now and this weekend we are "falling back an hour".

Here in South Florida we are still pretty warm, 82F day/74F night, compared to the rest of North America.  So now is a great time to finish all of your final preparations to your landscape, garden and/or yard before winter comes along.  I put together a SoFlo Autumn check list for those of you looking for some October answers.

Lawns and Landscapes
- October is probably the last month you will be able to get a good fertilizer in the ground for your lawn, trees, palms and plants before they go dormant and stop feeding.  Once Old Man Winter comes along the next time you should be fertilizing is around February/March 2014.  For your lawn use a low phosphorous slow release (90 day) fertilizer which will help carry it through the winter months.  Stay away from the 'weed and feed' products.  FYI mature trees and shrubs only need fertilization if there is a nutrient deficiency.  What should be fertilized are newly planted landscapes, fruit/citrus trees, palms and lawns.  You can always have a soil test done by the University of Florida local extension office's if you are unsure.

- Get your irrigation checked by a professional.  Now that our rainy season is over and the winds are picking up, you will be surprised at how fast things dry out.  The best thing you can do is to have your irrigation "wet checked" to fix any broken pipes, clogged heads and/or identify any lack of water coverage.

- Lawns, trees, palms and shrubs require different water levels so if possible have your irrigation zoned to water them separately.  Also even though we are dryer at this time of the year, you should be backing off on your watering to one day a week.  Since plants stop growing they don't need to consume as much water.

- Time to plant your favorite annuals.  Many of those lovely annuals you see in the northern states cannot       survive our extremely hot summers.  Now is the time you can have your annuals and enjoy them go ahead and plant a pansy or three!

- Weeding is much needed at this time of year and the best way I found is to hand pull them...make sure you get the roots and viola, no more weeds and no chemicals to make you sick!

- November is a great time to freshen up the mulch in your plant beds.  This will help as a weed barrier, keep much needed moisture in the ground and help defend against potential damage from cold temperatures.

- Pruning...oh goodness what to say about pruning...if you have not done your major pruning already, you really should wait until next spring.  Especially if you are going to hard prune mature trees and/or cold sensitive plants.  The reason for this is during the colder temperatures, trees and plants store much needed nutrients in their limbs and fronds to feed themselves.  In winter their roots stop growing therefore stop taking in nutrients so they rely on the food stored in their limbs.  Though you still have a few weeks to trim back smaller shrubs, suckers and branches from structures/fences/power lines.

- Plants tend to stress out during extreme temperatures which give insects and weeds an advantage.  Only use an insecticide and/or herbicide if you see insects/weeds and have identified the problem.  I always suggest using natural, plant based and/or home made solutions over the use of chemical products.  Though if you choose to buy something at the store, please make sure you read the label and use the product exactly how it is instructed.  Some of these chemicals can kills beneficial insects like bees, butterflies & dragon flies.  Plus it can't be good for us either.

- Now is a perfect time to plant larger trees, palms and plants.  It's not so hot so they don't stress out so much.  Get'em in tha ground!

- Get ready for the holiday's by planting narcissus and amaryllis bulbs in decorative pots.

Vegetable and Fruit Gardens
- I know it is quite a bit of work though you should be adding compost & manure rich soil to your vegetable plant beds at least once a month.  You can even add nutrients by using a compost tea.

- Clean up the summer herbs and start adding winter herbs for your companion planting.

- Step up your watering of citrus trees to one-two times a week.  Though you should stop all fertilizing of your citrus if you have not done so already.  Believe it or not, now is the best time to plant new citrus trees to your collection.  Though wait to prune any citrus until next spring.

-With the windy ramping up, invest in some good quality stakes, cages and twine to secure all of your taller vegetables like tomatoes.  It will help prevent damage to the plant and fruits.

- Time to plant the cooler season vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots, rhubarb, radish, peas, spinach, swiss chard, strawberries, onions, kohlrabi, collards, mustard, root vegetables, garlic, etc.

- If your raspberries, mulberries or blackberries have finished with their fruit, you can trim them back pretty hard to the main plant's branch structure.  This will give you a great spring harvest.

Hope you are enjoy this awesome change of season as much as I am!  
Happy Autumn and Best Wishes my friends, enjoy!

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