September is almost here, as is the promise of cooler days and nights on the horizon. Because I grew up in the Northeast, this season has always brought me warm memories of the harvests on our farm, the color changes in the forest and so many amazing smells ranging from apples and spices to them. decaying leaves. In Florida, these changes are usually much less dramatic, but there are some benefits to being in a warmer climate and ways to bring that fall feeling to your garden.
Plant while others harvest
Fall is harvest season for much of the country, but in Florida, September is the quintessential planting season. Along with vegetables we have a wide range of plants that we can prepare for a winter harvest with cabbage, cabbage, radish, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and many more that will thrive. It’s not even too late to try to get through another round of cucumbers or summer squash. For great tips on vegetable gardening, check out the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide online at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/VH021.
The fall weather is also excellent in the landscape, resulting in less stressful temperatures for the trees, shrubs and perennials in the garden. Remember that anything just planted will need to be kept moist for the first few months after planting. This is especially important as weather conditions can dry out at this time of year. A key step is to consider the concept of the right plant / in the right place, matching the needs of the plant with the characteristics of your garden. Stay away from plants that won’t survive the colder months to come.
Bring fall to Florida
Autumn has a certain aesthetic in our minds and coming from the northeast originally, I find myself missing the dramatic color change in the landscape and all the sights and smells that the season offers. However, we can try to bring some of that to our Florida gardens.
Chrysanthemums, often abbreviated as “mums,” can be added in containers or in soil to provide yellows, oranges and reds and do quite well in our climate. Marigolds is another annual with a similar bloom. Consider teaming them with other annuals and perennials in this warm color palette. Some of my favorites for this are ornamental grasses with their shape that reminds me of crops and then coleus which have a wide range of color choices available. Cabbage and ornamental cabbage also provide excellent texture and color. For fall color in trees, consider maple trees, chewing gum, Shumard oak, or bald cypress.
It’s too late to start growing pumpkins now, so wait until next year to produce yours. Keep in mind that they will also rot quickly in our climate, so consider dried or artificial squash for longer term use.
Fall lawn care
After a wet and stressful summer, your lawn can look a little more damaged. Fall usually brings some respite from some problems, but others can thrive. In September, you can apply a complete fertilizer to your lawn, but a soil test is recommended to make sure this is necessary. Do not apply until mid-April and stay away from any combination of “weed and feed” products. In early October, apply a preemergence herbicide if you have problems with winter weeds such as annual bluegrass.
For insects and disease, the tropical meadow moth and grain bugs are always active in the fall, so look for damage and pests. Diseases that thrive in the fall include large patches, brown patches, and root rot. If you need help diagnosing any of these issues, contact your local UF / IFAS extension office. Make sure you know the cause of the turf problem before you apply any insecticide or fungicide.
Things to plant in September
Vegetables: Arugula, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cardoon, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, cucumber, endive / escarole, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, mustard, nasturtium, onion, radish, squash summer and Swiss chard.
Herbs: Anise, basil, bay leaf, borage, chervil, dill, ginger, horehound, marjoram, Mexican tarragon, mint, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Annuals: Angelonia, coleus, crossandra, foxglove, marigold, melampodium, milkweed, moss rose (Portulaca), New Guinea impatiens, pentas, ornamental peppers, petunia, torenia, vinca, wax begonia and zinnia. Sow the seeds of alyssum, calendula, dianthus, hollyhocks, ornamental cabbage, pansy, snapdragon and viola.
Perennials: African iris, blue daze, chrysanthemums, firebush, firespike, peacock ginger, pentas, plectranthus, russelia, perennial sage and walking iris.
Bulbs, tubers, rhizomes or bulbs: Amaryllis, Aztec lily, calla lily, elephant ears, grape hyacinth, iris, leopard lily, narcissus, snowflake, watsonia and zephyr lily.
Wayne Hobbs is an Environmental Horticulture Extension Officer for Clay County.