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Calendar says autumn, but garden says spring

Because October in Florida is somewhat like spring in other parts of the country, we can plant some of the annual flowers now that our friends to the north can only use in the springtime.

Impatiens, geraniums, petunias, pansies and snapdragons can be planted as soon as the plants are available. Seeds of calendula and nasturtium can be planted directly in the ground. Prepare the bed by spading in compost or other organic matter along with some slow-release fertilizer just before planting. Mulch the bed well after planting, keeping it 2 to 3 inches away from the base of each plant.

October is also a good month to add bulbs to your landscape. Amaryllis bulbs could be called the Florida tulip and make a striking bloom show in the spring when planted in groups of 10 or more in landscape beds. The collar and the very top of the bulb should be above the soil line; don't bury them with mulch.

Plant Crinum or Swamp Lily bulbs now for spring and summer bloom. Crinums will form large clumps and should be given plenty of growing room in full or partial sun on well-drained soils.

The tall spikes of blue or white flower heads of Agapanthus or Lily of the Nile prefer moist, organic soil conditions but can endure drought once established. Plants spaced about 18 to 24 inches apart will produce a thick ground cover effect. You can expect flowers during the summer.

Other bulbs to plant now are gladiolus, lycoris, daylilies and zephyr lilies. More information is available online at, or call (727) 582-2110 and ask for a copy of the Bulbs for Florida brochure.

HERBS: The fall and winter months are also good for growing herbs that succumb to our hot steamy summers. For more information online, go to

AVOCADO: Several varieties mature during the fall and winter months, but remember, they do not ripen on the tree. A mature fruit ripens in three to eight days after it is picked, preferably at 60 to 70 degrees.

CITRUS: Fertilize citrus trees this month using a special formulation of 8-8-8. Apply fertilizer to the entire rooting area, which usually extends well beyond the drip line of the tree.

BEWARE OF PESTS: Roof rats thrive in attics, palm trees, ornamental shrubbery or any other convenient place. They love to gnaw on citrus and on electrical wires. For more information on rats and how to control them, go to or call (727) 582-2110. Scale insects on camellias, holly, gardenia, magnolia and other broad leaves evergreens can be controlled with sprays of light horticultural oil, fish oil (Organocide) or Neem oil.

WEEDS: Winter annual weeds will be appearing soon, so this is a good time to apply your pre-emergence herbicide. Use Atrazine in St. Augustine grasses and Balan or Betasan in Bahiagrass. Follow label directions carefully when applying.

Pam Brown and Carol Suggs of the Pinellas County Extension Center/Florida Botanical Gardens may be reached at (727) 582-2100.

If you go

Mark your calendar

Oct. 11: Rain Barrel Workshop, Pinellas County Extension, 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo. 9 a.m. Free, but preregister at (727) 582-2673. Learn to collect rainwater from your roof. Setup instructions and a reference booklet included. Barrels will be available for purchase, one per household.

Oct. 18: Garden Tours of Florida-Friendly Yards, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at locations to be announced in mid-Pinellas. Cost: $5 per group riding together. Preregister at (727) 582-2673

Calendar says autumn, but garden says spring 10/03/08 [Last modified: Friday, October 3, 2008 11:27am]
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