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'Mesa Bright' blanket flower is easily found at local retail garden centers. This annual provides a profusion of attention demanding red and yellow blooms throughout its growing season.

Fall is a Great Time to Garden

By Brooke Moffis, Residential Horticulture Agent

It is the beginning of fall and spring has sprung in Central Florida, at least for the gardener.  It’s hard to grow and get excited about the garden during the dog days of summer.  Since the intense heat and humidity are behind us, now is a great time to get those garden gloves out and freshen up your home landscapes with lots of fall veggies, flowering annuals and perennials.

Shopping for plants

You don’t have to look far to find a wide selection of plants.  Many local garden centers know that fall is a great time to garden and they stock up for the occasion.  The Lake County Master Gardener Fall Plant Sale is also a fun way to shop a wide assortment of plants at a great price.  Plants offered include flowering perennials, natives, butterfly attractors, shrubs and more.  Join us on October 7th from 8 am to 12 pm and bring a cart.  The location is the Extension Services’ Discovery Gardens 1951 Woodlea Rd., Tavares.

Another opportunity to find unusual plants is the Mt. Dora Plant Sale on November 11th and 12th from 9 am to 5 pm located at Donnelly Park.  According to the Mt. Dora Chamber of Commerce, “Central Florida’s top growers bring more than 12,000 plants. The event features orchid growers and native plants, butterfly-attracting perennials, herbs, roses, camellias, and begonias with a complete selection of rare and unusual tropical plants.”

What to choose

When you are out doing your fall shopping be on the lookout for Florida-friendly plants.  Some favorites for fall planting include salvias, coleus, bulbine, wildflowers and fall veggies.

Through their long, upright blooms, salvias provide colors of red, blue, pink, and white throughout the year.  Salvia greggi is also called autumn sage because its peak bloom production is in the summer and fall.  Look for ‘Teresa’ with its soft pink and white bicolor flowers.

The burgundy leaves of coleus make it a no fail plant for fall color.  Plant in morning sun and afternoon shade or filtered shade for best performance.

The burgundy leaves of coleus make it a no fail plant for fall color. Plant in morning sun and afternoon shade or filtered shade for best performance.

Coleus is a perfect addition to the fall garden because it provides foliage colors of deep purple, orange, and red.  Coleus provides color for a long period of time since the color is provided through the leaves and not necessarily from the blooms.  There are a myriad of other colors and color combinations available with this common annual.  Most coleus prefer morning sun and afternoon shade or filtered shade throughout the day.  This is a frost sensitive foliage plant that will require protection from a frost or freeze.

Another consistent performer in Florida is African bulbine.  With its succulent leaves and wispy flower spikes, it adds an unusual spiky look to the flower bed.  The blooms display colors of bright yellow or a combination of yellow and orange.  This flowering perennial is really tough, surviving in full sun and sandy soils.  It can also survive most freeze events.

Add wildflowers for seasonal repeat blooms.  ‘Arizona Apricot’ blanket flower displays soft orange and yellow flowers perfect for a small annual planting bed or container garden.  This annual blooms profusely and will reseed in soils that are not heavily mulched.

Vegetables

For vegetable gardens, get ready to plant kale, radishes, and other leafy greens.  Tomatoes should already be planted, but if not, purchase large transplants for the best chance for tomato production before a late fall frost or freeze.  Beans should be planted as soon as possible, but wait until November to plant peas.

Enjoy everything the fall garden has to offer and take advantage of local plant sales.  Please note that only cash or check payment is accepted at the Lake County Master Gardener Fall Plant Sale held on October 7th.

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