In between the goblins and the turkey, it's time to give serious thought about your fall gardening chores.
In the Vegetable Garden: Thin root crops such as beets, carrots, turnips and radishes by removing the smallest plants to give the rest room to mature. Radishes and carrots should be about 3 inches apart and turnips and beets 4 to 6 inches apart. It is not too late to plant vegetables. Cool-season crops like broccoli, cabbage, greens, cauliflower still have plenty of time to mature before warmer weather returns.
Insects: Many caterpillars enjoy feeding on the leaves of your fall vegetables. Cabbage loopers, tomato hornworms, cutworms and pickleworms can be controlled by applying Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) formulations in products such as Dipel or Thuricide.
Also watch for beneficial insects like lady bugs, green lacewings, and minute pirate bugs. These will help control common pests like aphids, whiteflies and mites.
Always try the least toxic method first. Pesticides like neem oil, fish oil and insecticidal soaps will control many insects and not contaminate your harvest. Read and follow the label carefully and pay close attention to the number of days you must wait after spraying before you can harvest.
Lawn Problems: When bringing a sample of grass to be examined at the extension service, bring an 8-inch square which consists of half green and half damaged grass, along with the entire root system. Transport it in a box to keep it intact so we can better diagnose the problem.
In the Landscape: Premature flower bud drop on hibiscus and gardenia can be caused by insects, cultural or environmental problems. Insects called thrips and midges can damage the unopened bud. They are very small, but you can often see them if you open a bud that has dropped from the plant. Many times the best control is a systemic insecticide that contains imidacloprid or acephate.
Temperature and water fluctuations can cause buds to drop and random leaves to yellow. Too much or not enough fertilizer can also stress the plant, resulting in bud drop. Nematodes in the root system also can lead to bud drop.
Pruning: Overgrown vines such as wisteria, ivy, flame, coral, honeysuckle and Confederate jasmine can be pruned now. Cut off excess, tangled growth. Prune back one-third to one-half of the growth and remove rooted suckers growing where you do not want them.
Frangipani: A foliar disease caused by the rust fungus, Coleosporium plumeriae, is a common disease of frangipani (Plumeria spp.), especially as nights get cooler and humidity remains high. Small, yellow pustules on the underside of the leaves will rupture and release spores that then infect other leaves. Heavy infections may cause premature leaf drop. Fungicides are not approved for use on this disease. Keep the area under the frangipani cleared of infected leaves. Bag them in plastic and dispose of them.
Weeds: Early November is a good time to apply a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent annual weed growth. If you fertilized your lawn last month, then it is best to apply the herbicide only, rather than a product that combines it with fertilizer. Be sure the herbicide you purchase is labeled as safe to apply to your type of lawn grass.
Citrus: There is still time to spray your citrus trees for the fall. Use horticultural oil, fish oil or neem oil for aphids, whitefly and spider mites; use Malathion for heavy infestations. Citrus leaves that are yellowing around the edge and distorted may be lacking a trace element. You can apply the minor elements to your citrus trees, either as a foliage spray or to the soil.
Fruit splitting and fruit drop may be a problem during the fall. Splitting and drop will usually not be a serious problem if the trees are well cared for, but in years when we experience a prolonged drought followed by several heavy rains, there is the possibility of fruit loss.
Pam Brown and Carol Suggs of the Pinellas County Extension Center/Florida Botanical Gardens can be reached at (727) 582-2100.