NICEVILLE, Fla — In the absence of a major storm, September can be the beginning of the best time to garden in Northwest Florida.
If you have unwanted volunteer saplings, cut them down when they are young. If you wait too long you may need a chain saw or a professional tree service to do the job. Container-grown trees and shrubs can be planted now or later in the season. Some natives with good fall foliage include hickory, sassafras, red maple, oakleaf hydrangea, and Elliott blueberry.
We often have to wait until December for the peak of fall color and even then, the extent and depth of color depends on the amount of rain and cold weather we have before then. For colorful berries, plant American beautyberry, yaupon holly, or American holly. If you plan to transplant trees and shrubs this winter, while they are dormant, you should root prune them now.
Plant bulb-type plants such as paperwhite narcissus, amaryllis and Louisiana irises. Divide and replant overgrown clumps of perennials that have finished blooming. Lift and divide daylilies. To separate irises, dig, cut the foliage back to three inches and allow the rhizomes to air dry for a few days before replanting. Plant petunias and dianthus.
Some fall–blooming perennials to try include lion’s ear (Leonotis leonurus), which has bright orange flowers; cigar flower (Cuphea micropetala), which has orange flowers shaped like tiny cigars, tipped with yellow; and firespike (Odontonema strictum), a four to five-foot plant topped with tubular red flowers. Ornamental grasses also are good additions to the fall garden. Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is a native with pinkish-purple flower heads.
Pull up and throw away summer vegetable plants that have finished producing. Don’t till them into the soil. You could end up spreading diseases. Add organic soil amendments such as compost or well-chopped leaves. Anything you add should be well composted and thoroughly mixed into the soil.
Plant fall vegetables now, including broccoli, cabbage, carrots, collards, endive, escarole, leeks, turnips, radishes, mustard, beets, kale and green onions. Wait until next month to plant strawberries.
If your lawn is developing areas that yellow and then turn brown, and there are no signs of insect pests, then the problem may be a fungal disease, particularly if you have been receiving frequent rains or if you have been over-watering. Closely examine the grass blades to see if they appear to be rotting off where they’re attached to the stem. If so, a fungus disease is a good possibility.
In case of a bad storm, we all may be busy cleaning up and renovating our landscapes. In this case the following UF/IFAS Disaster Handbook may prove useful. http://disaster.ifas.ufl.edu