October Gardening Tips for North Florida
Welcome to Fall. It’s finally here, along with the start of North Florida's dry season. There’s still time to plant your own vegetable garden or plant some annuals for fall and winter blooms. Using transplants from a local garden center or nursery will speed up maturation of your garden. If you’re growing your own vegetables, consider staggering your planting over several weeks to stretch the harvest time. Farmers have already put in their seeds for the upcoming vegetable growing season. Shortly, vegetables will be available in the markets with "Florida Grown” stickers.
Now is also the time to think about what you’d like to see in your garden in the spring. Strawberries, some spring and summer flowering bulbs, and perennials would be good choices for October planting. The best strawberry variety for North Florida is ‘Camarosa’, which should be planted between October 15 and November 15. Roses in Florida also put on their best show during the cooler and dryer months. Their flowers will be larger now than during the hotter and wetter summer months.
See the ‘Let’s Plant’ section for more suggestions about what to plant this month.
Top Ten Tips for October
O Adjust irrigation systems to fit the dryer conditions of fall.
O Check Poinsettias: Flower buds begin forming after the middle of October. To get a nice show for the holiday season, do not prune them. To encourage strong trunks and branching, you may give the plants some high potash fertilizer at the end of October.
O Divide amaryllis and daylilies that are overcrowded. Dig and reset amaryllis bulbs and daylily fans. Remove offsets (bulblets) from large Amaryllis bulbs. Keep at least two daylily fans in each new plant. Trim roots to promote new growth. Replant in an area that has been amended with organic matter. Take care not to plant too deep for better blooms.
O Fertilize non-performers: October is the last month to fertilize ornamental trees and shrubs that are struggling. Slow release fertilizer is preferable. It’s also the last time to fertilize Bahia and St. Augustine grasses if not done in September.
O Manage lawn weeds: The time to control winter weeds in lawns is before they appear. To be effective, pre-emergent herbicides must be applied at the right time.
O Mow grass to recommended heights:
St. Augustine & Bahia: 3-4”
Dwarf St. Augustine 2.5”
- Zoysia: 1.0-3.0”
O Prepare rose beds: Dig in aged or composted cow manure and peat moss. Then plant your roses. Potted plants grown locally are preferable to bagged or bare rooted roses from out of state. Be aware that growing roses in Florida requires dedication. To keep plants healthy, fertilize frequent and spray at least weekly with a fungicide mixture to forestall problems.
O Sow Ryegrass: As the weather cools, turfgrass start to lose color. Overseeding with annual ryegrass will keep the lawn green during the winter months..
O Start Strawberries by setting them into prepare beds or large containers. Either way, water them daily until established, then every two to three days to keep the soil moist. Mulch will help. Fertilize with 6-6-6 and check for slugs, mites, trips, snails and caterpillars. Treat these pests with an insecticidal soap. Then wait to enjoy the juicy, red berries in the spring!
O Store Caladiums when they decline this month. Dig the bulbs before the leaves disappear. Clean and store in dry peat moss or sand in a well-ventilated area with a minimum temperature of 70 degrees F.
Suggestions for varieties that do well in our area are listed below. Flowering plants will add color through the fall and some into the winter. The bulbs shown are for spring and summer flowering. For best results with these, add organic matter to the hole when planting.
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