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TIMELY TENDING: NOVEMBER

November is a great gardening month. The weather is usually cool, so that makes transplanting and weeding a labor of love instead of hard labor.

Many citrus varieties are ripening and some, such as the navel, have been ripe for a month and are ready to be enjoyed. You could be harvesting your own tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers for those holiday salads if you had planted a fall vegetable garden. There are lots of landscape projects to undertake, so get your gloves and enjoy Florida's fall weather.

Prevent weeds from growing

Many annual weeds grow only in the cooler months, and they usually germinate from seed when temperatures drop below 70 degrees at night. To prevent weed growth, apply a pre-emergent herbicide before the weeds emerge.

Early November is a good time to apply one. Get the herbicide separately or in combination with a fertilizer. If you fertilized your lawn last month, it's best to apply only the herbicide. Be sure the herbicide is safe for your type of lawn.

Control fire-blight

Fire-blight may be found on the foliage of pear trees and plants in the rose family; loquats and pyracantha also are defoliated by this disease.

Fire-blight spreads from tree to tree, so when the infection is present, prune the affected areas. Always remove suckers, water sprouts and dead wood because these harbor fire-blight bacteria.

Spraying at the time of bloom in the spring will help control fire-blight. Streptomycin, or a mixture of copper and streptomycin, should be used at early bloom, full bloom and late bloom. Follow label directions.

Rye keeps grass green

Overseeding with rye grass seed is a good way to keep your lawn green all winter. To prepare the lawn for overseeding, rake the grass to remove as much debris as possible. Next, mow the lawn very close. Finally, seed the lawn.

Broadcast 5 to 15 pounds of fresh, weed-free ryegrass seed per 1,000 square feet of lawn. For best coverage, use a mechanical seeder and sow half the seed as you walk in one direction, and the remaining seed as you walk at right angles to the first. After seeding, rake the ground lightly to make sure the seed is dispersed and that it comes in contact with the soil.

Plan to water freshly seeded lawns once or twice a day until the seeds have germinated. Once the plants are established, water as needed.

Vegetables need room to grow

Many vegetables such as beets, carrots, turnips and radishes have small seeds that are difficult to plant at the correct spacing. It may be necessary to thin these plants once they get their true leaves.

Unless these vegetables have room to spread, they will become leggy and may not form edible roots. Radishes and carrots should be about 3 inches apart, while turnips and beets prefer a 4- to 6-inch spacing. Caterpillars enjoy feeding on the leaves of fall vegetables. Cabbage loopers, tomato hornworms and pickleworms can be controlled by applying Bacillus thuringiensis formulations, such as Dipel orthuricide.

It's time to harvest fruit

Citrus fruits that will be ripe this month are: Hamlin, Navel and Parson brown oranges; Duncan, Foster, Marsh and redblush ruby grapefruits; Nova and Orlando tangelos; Osceola, Page, Lee and Sunburst hybrids; Robinson Tangerine; Satsuma mandarin; Bearss and Meyer lemons.

Citrus fruit will keep better and continue to sweeten on the tree, so harvest only what you want to use. Different varieties have certain life spans. The Navels ripen in late September and continue until late December. Once their season ends, the fruit might start to dry if left on the tree so it's best to complete the harvest.

Grapefruits may last until March or later. Tangerines and tangelos season continues until January or February, depending on the variety. The Satsuma mandarin ripens from September through November and may still be green while ripe. It has a loose skin and should be clipped instead of pulled from the tree.

Hurry and spray those citrus trees

There is still time to spray your citrus trees for the fall. Use horticultural oil or malathion for aphids, whitefly and spider mites. There is a waiting period between the use of malathion and harvesting the fruit. Check the label for directions.

Citrus leaves that are yellowing around the edge and distorted, may be lacking one or more of the trace elements. They can be applied either as a foliage spray or to the soil. To avoid burning plants, use only the recommended amount shown on the label. Minor elements will correct yellowing due to iron, magnesium and manganese deficiencies and will supply copper, zinc, boron and other essentials.

Caterpillar as ugly duckling

When touched, the orange dog caterpillar reveals a set of red scent glands that emit an odor. This is a protection against enemies but is harmless to people or pets. After metamorphosis, this ugly duckling turns into a beautiful, giant swallowtail butterfly.

Fruit fly is well-named

The common name "fruit fly" is derived from the fact that flies develop in deteriorating fruit. But they can also be found in garbage containers where food scraps are discarded and in the slime that is in drains.

The adult female fly lays about 500 eggs that hatch into maggots; this larvae matures in nine to 12 days.

Sanitation is still the best method of controlling fruit flies in and around the home. Good fitting screens on windows can help. Don't let garbage accumulate in open containers and make sure garbage cans have sound bottoms and tight-fitting lids.

Sprays or aerosols containing pyrethrin will help kill adult flies in the home. Release the mist for a few seconds in the room and keep it closed for the time listed on the label.

Give sandy soil a boost

Sandy soils have very few nutrients and have trouble staying moist, therefore any organic matter added to it would be beneficial. Once nutrients are added they improve the tilth, condition and structure of the soil; improve the soil's ability to hold water and nutrients; improve the buffering capacity of soils; and support the soil's microbiological activity.

Prune for plant health

Pruning should be part of regular maintenance program. Pruning improves the health of plants, controls size and shape, and increases the flower display.

To improve the health of your plants, remove wood that interferes with new growth and cut out dead, diseased or damaged wood. Prune your shrubs so they keep their natural shape unless they are being used as formal hedges. Vines need pruning to limit growth. When pruning, avoid damaging other shoots and branches.

Pick your trees carefully

Trees are an important part of any landscape and should be carefully selected. Trees give a home its individuality and adds to its curb appeal.

Shade trees should have moderate to dense foliage and should not have large fruits, flowers or seeds. They should be able to withstand high winds and be relatively free from insects and disease pests.

There are two types of shade trees: those with a heavy, dense foliage that will shade the ground; and those with small or widely spaced leaves and open branching so that sunlight reaches the soil (grasses, flowers and shrubs usually thrive best under the open-branched tree).

Consider using deciduous trees such as red maple, pecan, sweet gum, sycamore, water oak and elm; or evergreen trees, i.e. live oaks, pines, magnolias, camphor and cherry laurels.

Evergreens provide year-round shade; deciduous trees are best in areas where shade is needed during warm months and sun during cool weather.

There are many beautiful plants that adapt to partial or deep shade. Some to consider: impatiens, caladiums, crossandra, liriope, mondo grass, Boston fern, ajuga, dwarf holly, pittosporum and fatsia.

The Ardisia crispa (or Christmas Berry) is an evergreen shrub that has small, white flowers in the spring and produces bright red berries through the winter. It can grow to be 3 to 4 feet and is excellent as a container plant. The dwarf variety, Ardisia japonica, is a low-growing plant that is suitable for ground cover, while the Cyrtomium falcatum (or holly fern) is an excellent plant for moist, shaded areas. This evergreen will withstand extreme temperatures. It can be used as a ground cover or in a combination with other plants to give a tropical effect.

Compiled by Opal W. Schallmo and Nancy R. Volmar of the Pinellas County Cooperative Extension Service. If you have questions, call them at (727) 582-2100.

Tangerine season continues until January or February, depending on the variety.

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