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October is the real start of autumn for much of our area, and if you are like me, you are looking forward to some cooler weather. However, this season can bring about some challenges as plants begin to prepare for the winter and seasonal droughts can leave things very dry.
Here are some tips to help you be successful in the garden this October:
Keep an eye on turf
With overall lower temperatures and shorter days, our warm season turfgrass species begin to go brown and dormant. This is completely normal and your turf will be back in the spring. If you want a green lawn through the winter, consider overseeding annual ryegrass seed when daytime temperatures are in the 70s. However, this will mean mowing more through the winter and irrigating as needed.
Some fungal turf diseases can also become more widespread in fall weather. Brown patch and large patch are most common when soil temperatures drop to between 65 and 75 degrees. Both of these cause brown areas to form on the turf and treatment is difficult once present. Try to prevent the diseases by properly caring for the turf to reduce stress.
This month is also the time when many of our warm-season weeds will die out or go dormant and new cool-season weeds such as annual bluegrass and chickweed will grow in their place. To prevent this new weed growth, use a pre-emergent herbicide when nighttime temperatures dip to 55-60 degrees. Choose a product that is effective against the weeds you are expecting to be present and is safe for the site and plants that are already present. Do not apply any weed and feed products.
Vegetables for October
Vegetable gardens can be very successful in the fall and winter in our region. While we’re out of time for warm-season veggies like tomatoes, it’s a perfect opportunity to plant cool-season species like cabbage, beets, broccoli and spinach. One plant that you have to get in the ground soon before it’s too late is strawberries. Set them in the garden or in large containers and water daily until established. For more information, go to edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs403.
Planning for winter interest
As we get closer to winter, think about plants that can provide some interest in the landscape while most flowers fade. Evergreen plants give you a green year-round, and look for several species that also provide attractive fruit such as hollies. Others can have variegated foliage that is vibrant throughout winter.
Several non-evergreen plants are also great for year-round interest. Ornamental grasses can have a beautiful form and texture, even when the blades have turned brown. Shrubs and trees can also have attractive bark, such as crape myrtles, oakleaf hydrangea or river birch.
Things to plant in October
Vegetables: Beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, kohlrabi, mustard, onions, radish, rutabaga, spinach and turnips.
Herbs: Basil, dill, garlic, ginger, lavender, lemon balm, marjoram, Mexican tarragon, parsley, sage and thyme.
Annuals: Dianthus, pansy, petunia, shasta daisy, snapdragon, flowering kale and flowering cabbage.
Bulbs, tubers, rhizomes or corms: African lily, amaryllis, Aztec lily, calla lily, iris, Kaffir lily, lily, walking Iris, spider lily, pineapple lily, Star-of-Bethlehem and zephyr lily.
Wayne Hobbs is an extension agent in environmental horticulture for Clay County.