Gardening: Ready for the fall

EILEEN WARD

Fall is here and the month of October will bring cooler and dryer weather to our gardens. The month begins with high temperatures in the 90s but ends with highs in the mid-80s. Lows will be in the mid 60s and could go as low as the 50s.

Fall also signals the end of the rainy season. Early October can still see heavy rains like we are experiencing now, but we can become very dry by month's end.

Remember to get your fertilizing done this month so your lawn and plants will be healthy going into winter and the dry months. The last fertilization of citrus should be applied this month to help the fruit mature and ripen.

This is a good month to apply mulch. The heavy downpours of summer, which can wash mulch away, are just about over and mulch will dress the garden beds for the return of the winter season. It will also help to conserve water and retard weed growth.

This is the last month to do any severe pruning. After mid-month the cold weather will begin to arrive and our more tropical plants will need their foliage to protect them. Plants cut too severely will have tender new growth which could be damaged by temperatures in the 50s.

This is a good month to start planning for vegetable and flower gardens. Prepare your beds by tilling the soil and adding amendments like peat and manure. Then let the beds rest until the cooler weather arrives to begin planting. This is also a good month to plant bulbs. And if there are some plants from the north you would love to plant in your garden you can do so after you feel the cooler winds. They will last until our hot weather returns in late spring.

Insect pests like scale, chinch bugs, grubs, white fly and mites, once it becomes dry, will still be active. Watch for them and treat if necessary. You will find fewer pest problems with the onset of cooler weather.

After the temperatures are in the low 80s, it will be safe to treat your lawn for weeds. Early October can still be too hot to apply Atrizine or other herbicides so be sure to wait for the cooler weather to avoid damage. I discussed this in my last column.

With the cooler weather also comes less growth and that means less hard labor to keep the yard in order. Come on winter!

Eileen Ward and her husband Peter have owned and operated Greensward of Marco, Inc., a lawn maintenance and landscaping company since 1981.

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