It's time for an annuals checkup: Start planting
Since October is like spring in some other parts of the country, we can plant some of the same spring annual flowers now. Geraniums, petunias, pansies and snapdragons can be planted as soon as the plants are available. Seeds of calendula and nasturtium can also 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 to conserve moisture and keep down weeds. Remember to keep the mulch 2 to 3 inches away from the base of each plant. For more information on gardening with annuals in Florida, go to edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg319.
Go ahead and fertilize those citrus trees
Fertilize citrus trees this month using a formulation of 6-6-6 or 8-8-8. (The Pinellas County Fertilizer Ordinance exempts fruit trees and vegetable gardens.) Apply fertilizer to the entire root area, which usually extends well beyond the drip line of the tree. If the tree is surrounded by turf and the turf is fertilized, this additional fertilizer is not needed. The amount of fertilizer varies according to the age of the tree. Fertilizer should be applied three times a year: in February, June and October. For additional information on home citrus culture, go to edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_citrus_home_citrus_culture.
Houseplants are not immune to pests
Houseplants cannot escape the attack of insects. Two of the most common insects associated with houseplants are fungus gnats and spider mites.
The adult fungus gnat is very small and usually dark brown to black. The larvae live and feed in the potting soil. The adults do not feed; their only purpose is the continuation of the species, and you will see them flying around.
Larvae and adult fungus gnats are attracted to moist soil. Their presence usually indicates that plants have been overwatered. Allowing the soil to dry out for a few days or a week may be the best control. The larvae rarely attack healthy plant roots or stems.
Spider mites are very tiny and may be greenish, yellowish, reddish or virtually colorless. Mites suck juices from plants through their needlelike mouthparts, causing a speckled appearance called "stippling." They are usually found on the underside of leaves. When plants are heavily infested, fine webbing may be seen on the plant. Washing the plants gently with water periodically can help control spider mites as can increasing the humidity around the plant.
Compiled by Theresa Badurek, urban horticulture extension agent, UF/IFAS Pinellas County Extension Service. For additional landscape and garden information, visit pinellascountyextension.org. For regular tips and information about what's growing in Pinellas, go to facebook.com/growpinellas.