September is just around the corner and with it the promise of cooler days and nights on the horizon. Since I grew up in the northeast, this season always brought warm memories of the harvest on our farm, color changes in the forest and so many great smells from apples to spices to rotting leaves. In Florida, these changes are usually much less dramatic, but there are some benefits to being in a warmer climate and some ways to bring that fall feel to your yard.
Plant while others are harvesting
Fall is harvest time in much of the country, but September is the main season for planting in Florida. As for vegetables, we have a wide variety of plants to grow for the winter harvest with cabbage, cabbage, radish, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and more that will thrive. In fact, it’s not too late to press another round of cucumber or summer squash. You can find great vegetable gardening tips in the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide online at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/VH021.
The autumn weather is great in the landscape too, making for less stressful temperatures for trees, shrubs and perennials in the garden. Remember that anything new to be planted needs to be kept moist for the first few months after planting. This is especially important as the weather can dry up at this time of year. An important step is to consider the concept of the right plant / place and adapt the needs of the plant to the characteristics of your garden. Stay away from plants that won’t survive the colder months to come.
Bring the fall to Florida
Autumn has a certain aesthetic in our minds and originally coming from the northeast, I miss the dramatic color changes in the landscape and all the sights and smells that the season offers. We can try to bring a bit of this to our Florida gardens, however.
Chrysanthemums, often abbreviated as “mums,” can be added either in containers or in the ground to create some yellows, oranges, and reds and are actually quite good in our climate. Marigolds are another year of similar bloom. Think about combining these with other annual and perennial plants in this warm color palette. Some of my favorites for this are ornamental grasses, with their shape that remind me of cultivated plants, and then Coleus, which come in a wide variety of colors. Ornamental cabbage and cabbage also make for great texture and color. For the fall color of the trees, consider maple, amber, Shumard oak, or baldcypress.
It’s too late to start growing pumpkins now, so wait until next year to start producing your own. Keep in mind that they also rot quickly in our climate, so consider dried or fake pumpkins for longer periods of time.
Lawn care in autumn
Your lawn may look a little worn out after a wet, stressful summer. Fall usually brings respite from some problems, but others can thrive. You can fertilize your lawn with a complete fertilizer in September, but a soil test is recommended to make sure it is necessary. Do not apply any more until mid-April and keep away from any combination products made from “weeds and feed”. Use a pre-emergence herbicide in early October if you’re struggling with winter weeds like annual bluegrass.
For insects and diseases, tropical sward and chinchbugs are still active in the fall, so look for damage and pests. Diseases that thrive in the fall are large spots, brown spots, and root rot. If you need help diagnosing any of these problems, contact your local UF / IFAS expansion office. Make sure you know the root cause of the lawn problem before applying an insecticide or fungicide.
Plants in September
Vegetables: Rocket, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, cucumber, endive / escarole, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, mustard, nasturtium, onion, radish, summer squash and chard.
Herbs: Anise, basil, bay leaf, borage, chervil, dill, ginger, horehound, marjoram, Mexican tarragon, mint, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Yearbooks: Angelonia, Coleus, Crossandra, Foxglove, Marigold, Melampodium, Spurge, Moss Rose (Portulaca), New Guinea Impatiens, Pentas, Ornamental Peppers, Petunia, Torenia, Vinca, Wax Begonia and Zinnia. Start with seeds of alyssum, marigold, dianthus, hollyhock, ornamental cabbage, pansy, snapdragon, and viola.
Perennials: African Iris, Blue Drowsiness, Chrysanthemums, Firebush, Fire Sting, Peacock Ginger, Pentas, Plectranthus, Russelia, Perennial Salvias, and Walking Iris.
Onions, tubers, rhizomes or tubers: Amaryllis, Aztec Lily, Calla Lily, Elephant Ears, Grape Hyacinth, Iris, Leopard Lily, Narcissus, Snowflake, Watsonia and Zephyr Lily.
Wayne Hobbs is an environmental horticultural consultant for Clay County.