Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Hendry County Horticulture News
November 1997 - Autumn in SW Florida
Fall has definitely arrived in Hendry County. The first few cold fronts have moved through the area bringing delightful weather. Although many of our plants are evergreen, and we do not experience the vivid autumn colors seen in northern locales, some of our natives, such as the red maple are now showing rich red fall color. In wetter areas, cypress trees have taken on a rich golden green prior to losing their foliage, while the willows are already nearly bare.
Although autumn may signal the end of the growing season for certain plants, it ushers in the flowering season for many others. The first orchid trees are beginning to blossom with their lovely pink purple orchid like blooms and will continue to grace the landscape throughout the cooler months. Silk cotton and kapok trees also produce showy pink flowers this month. In the fields and fence rows, the saltbush or groundsel is now covered with billowy white flowers. Brazilian pepper will display it's bright red berries amidst green foliage by months end. Now recognized as a invasive exotic pest, whose planting is now illegal under state law, it is interesting to note that this now outlawed plant was being widely promoted by prominent garden writers as late as the early 70's. One popular writer proclaimed this nuisance, "...a favorite of mine...ask for several cuttings and ensure yourself and feathered friends of beauty and fruit."
Exotic invasive plants have become a major problem in Florida. They have taken over hundreds of thousands of acres of native habitat and are now costing state and local governments millions of dollars in control efforts. Conscientious gardeners will learn which species have invasive potential and either avoid these or manage them in a manner that will prevent their escape. For more information on invasive plants, contact the Hendry county extension office. Cooler weather along with longer intervals between lawn mowing, make this an ideal time to rid your property of invasive exotics and replace them with environmentally friendly alternatives.
Autumn is also a time for butterflies, which can be seen in colorful abundance as they make the most of the remaining warm weather. Those gardeners, who planted a butterfly garden earlier in the season are now reaping their visual reward as these delightful aerialists flit and flutter from flower to flower. Right now it is quite possible to observe eight to ten different species of butterflies, including monarchs, peacocks, buckeyes, swallowtails, skippers, painted ladies and others in a simple well designed butterfly garden.
On the down-side butterflies also mean worms, which can be nuisance on vegetables and other ornamentals. Be sure to patrol your plantings regularly and effect control measures before major damage occurs. The biological insect control Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is very effective against most caterpillars and will not harm wildlife or other beneficial insects. Bt is sold under many trade names including Dipel and Thuricide among others. It is important to apply this product while worms are still small for best control. Aphids, whiteflies, and mites may be come problems in fall plantings of vegetables and flowering annuals. Aphids may also become a problem on citrus. These are often revealed by the presence of small distorted leaves on newer growth. Although a number of effective materials are available to control insect pests, home gardeners will find well timed applications of soaps and oils will allow them to manage many problems. Foggy fall mornings and heavy dews are ideal for the development of fungal pathogens. Unlike insects, most plant diseases are best controlled before they attack, as the saying goes an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Use of broad spectrum fungicides on vegetables and annuals will keep most problems at bay.
Although fertilization of ornamental and fruit trees, shrubs, and lawns, should have been done in September and October, you can still fertilize if you hurry and finish up by mid month. To maximize the production of flowers and vegetable plantings, they should be side dressed every three to four weeks with complete or nitrogen containing fertilizer. Depending on rainfall and temperatures, soils can dry out rapidly, be prepared to irrigate as necessary.
Most trees, shrubs, and vines can still be planted in November. New lawns or bare spots may be established or repaired using sod or plugs. A neat trick for greening up browning turf or for filling in damaged spots in lawns is to over seed with ryegrass. This can be done from the end of the month onward for green winter color. You will have to mow the ryegrass though as it will continue to grow in cool weather.
Cool season vegetables can be planted in November including beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collard, endive, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onion, peas, potato, radish, rutabaga, Swiss chard and turnip. A wide range of flowers including alyssum, balsam, calendula,, dianthus, dusty miller, geraniums, impatiens, hollyhocks, lobelia, pansy, petunia, phlox, rudbeckia, salvia, snapdragons, stocks, sweet peas, and verbenas can also be planted now. Bulbs to be planted consist of African iris, amaryllis, callas, crinum, day lilies, rain lilies, society garlic and spider lilies.
A hearty welcome to all our returning winter residents. Good luck and good gardening.
Gene McAvoy is the horticulture agent with the Hendry County Extension Service. Direct your horticulture questions to PO Box 68, LaBelle, FL 33975, e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 863-674-4092 or 863-983-1598. You are also welcome to visit the Hendry County Extension Office at 225 Pratt Blvd., LaBelle. Office hours are from 8:00 - 5:00.
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