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EXTENSION NOTES Cooler temperatures lead to enjoyable gardening

Daytona Beach News-Journal logo Daytona Beach News-Journal 10/27/2021 Mimi Vreeland, MLA, Horticulture Extension Agent
Our House at the Housing Authority of Flagler County gathers volunteers and staff from UF/IFAS Extension in Flagler County to give their youth garden autumn cleaning. Pictured, from left to right:Corrine Zhang (Master Gardener volunteer), Jacki Garcia (ROSS Service Coordinator), David Tibbetts (Master Gardener volunteer), Braxton Wall (Housing Authority of Flagler County volunteer), and Margaret Cruz (Extension Program Manager of UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program in Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties). © Photo provided Our House at the Housing Authority of Flagler County gathers volunteers and staff from UF/IFAS Extension in Flagler County to give their youth garden autumn cleaning. Pictured, from left to right:Corrine Zhang (Master Gardener volunteer), Jacki Garcia (ROSS Service Coordinator), David Tibbetts (Master Gardener volunteer), Braxton Wall (Housing Authority of Flagler County volunteer), and Margaret Cruz (Extension Program Manager of UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program in Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties).

Autumn is here and what a wonderful time of year to be gardening in Florida! Now is a good time to take advantage of fall’s cooler weather and fewer bugs, and you can begin to tackle garden projects that were put on hold during the “dog days” of summertime.

The following are a few tips for the proper planting and care of your garden’s ornamental and edible plants:

Ornamentals

October and November are good months to do a major weeding in your garden beds. Carefully pull and bag weeds that are beginning to set seed so that the seed heads do not fall to the ground. This will reduce the number of weed seeds that will germinate in the future. If you want to kill any remaining weed seeds that are already on the ground, a pre-emergent herbicide can be applied once the nightly temperatures fall below 60 degrees for five consecutive days, which is typically end of October to early November. After weeding, apply a 2-inch layer of topping mulch, which will help suppress weeds and protect plant roots from the winter cold. UF/IFAS Extension recommends using pine bark mulch, pine straw or fallen leaves because of the soil nutrition they provide to plants as they begin to decompose. Pebble and rubber mulch is not recommended as they provide zero soil nutrition which will reduce soil quality over time.

Many plants begin to slow down or go dormant and do not require irrigation during the cooler fall and winter seasons. Conserve water by turning off your irrigation in areas of your garden that contain established plantings and only irrigate areas with new fall plantings or edibles. Some ideas of ornamentals to plant that add interesting color for the cooler months are annuals such as dianthus, pansies and petunias. It is also a great time to plant bulbs like agapanthus and rain lilies for a bounty of blooms next spring.

Edibles

Fall is the avid Florida gardener’s favorite season to plant edibles. The cooler temperatures and reduced humidity are optimal conditions to grow a wide variety of different vegetables.  An assortment of cool season vegetables such as kale, broccoli and strawberries can be planted in October and a second crop of other vegetables, such as beets, carrots and lettuce, can be planted in November. A multitude of cooking herbs can also be grown in the fall including, but not limited to, cilantro, parsley, thyme and sage. 

If local garden centers are out of the seeds or starters you were hoping to plant, explore the inventory of seeds available online. Look for heirloom vegetable seeds. These are seeds that have been saved for decades by farmers because of their time-tested disease-resistance, exceptional taste and higher nutrition levels. By definition, “heirlooms” are seed varieties that have been saved and grown for at least 50 years.  Some heirloom varieties are over 200 years old!

Many store-bought vegetables have been deliberately hybridized to withstand machine harvesting, transportation and shelf-life, resulting in newer varieties that sometimes lack flavor.  Enjoy the diversity of shapes, colors and flavors that heirloom vegetables will provide.  Dust off your recipe books, and get ready for a holiday feast with a dining table full of freshly harvested vegetables and herbs!

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: EXTENSION NOTES Cooler temperatures lead to enjoyable gardening

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