GAINESVILLE, Fla. – With the intense heat and humidity of summer behind us, now is a great time to spruce up your garden with lots of fall veggies, flowering annuals and perennials, says a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension agent.
When you are out doing your fall shopping, be on the lookout for Florida-friendly plants, says Brooke Moffis, an agent with the UF/IFAS Extension Lake County office. Some favorites for fall planting include salvias, coleus, bulbine and wildflowers.
“These plants tend to perform very well in the fall, and some, such as the African bulbine, can survive in full sun and sandy soil. It can even withstand a freeze,” Moffis says.
Also, consider vegetables such as kale, radishes and other leafy greens, she says.
“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,” Moffis says. “Beans should be planted as soon as possible, but wait until November to plant peas.”
In south Florida, gardeners may want to consider planting beets, broccoli, lettuce and tomatoes this time of year, said Wendy Wilbur, UF/IFAS state master gardener coordinator. “October is good for planting collards, eggplant and strawberries, too,” she said. “This is why we are considered the breadbasket of the South. There is so much you can plant.”
The fall garden is so enjoyable because the insects are not as plentiful and weeds don’t grow as fast, Wilber said. “It’s such a perfect time to be outside and enjoy the garden,” she said.
Still, gardeners need to look out for pests that thrive during the fall planting season, says Whitney Elmore county director for UF/IFAS Extension Pasco County.
Caterpillars will be abundant on cabbages, tomatoes and peppers, Elmore says. You will frequently have to scout and be on the lookout for early chewing damage to plants, she says.
“You can pick them off and throw them in a bucket of soapy water, or use ‘BT’—a natural occurring bacterium that makes caterpillars sick and kills them,” she says. “Also, be on the lookout for rippling of the leaves from rasping of thrips, and stunted growth from piercing and sucking insect damage like aphids.”
Most importantly, says Elmore, when scouting, make sure to always look on the underside of the leaves for insects. This is where most of the insects will hide. If you do find soft-bodied insects like aphids, thrips, or spidermites on your plants, spray your plants with soapy water: a mixture of a gallon of water to 1 to 2 tablespoons of dish soap, she says.
Frequent scouting will help you to identify and correct an issue in your garden before it becomes a large problem, Elmore says.
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.