Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Hendry County Horticulture News
November 1999 - Cool Dry Weather Returns to SW Florida
November typically marks the advent of cool dry weather in southwest Florida. Cool frontal systems which may have started pushing south through the peninsula last month will become more regular now and will bring with them flocks of migrating birds, such as cedar waxwings, moving south for the winter. Their flocks can often be spotted around cedars, hollies, privet, and other fruit plants. Short days filled with big blue skies are characteristic of November. In pastures and open areas, a number of grasses are fully ripe and can be seen nodding their golden heads gently in time with the breeze. In other places, extensive stands of native sunflowers will present breathtaking vistas of golden blossoms.
Plant growth which has been gradually slowing in response to cooler temperatures and dwindling day length, will finally allow a much anticipated shift from weekly to biweekly or more mowing schedules. Moderate temperatures make this a great time for gardeners, who will find working outside a much more enjoyable experience than it has been for the past several months. This is fine because the avid gardener will find plenty to do this month.
Almost any of the cool season annual flowers and vegetables may be planted this month. For a steady supply of produce, it is wise to plant small amounts of desired varieties every few weeks, rather than plant the entire garden at once and have a glut at harvest time. Some vegetables that can be planted this month include beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage, collards, leek, lettuce, mustard, onions, parsley, peas, peppers, radishes, squash, sweet corn, Swiss chard, tomatoes and turnips. Most of the above will stand light frost but note that late plantings of pepper, squash, and tomato are at risk of frost damage in December and January so make provision to protect these. When planting onions be careful to obtain Texas Grano or Granex or other short day type onions. Note that most of the onion sets sold locally in discount stores are northern types and will not bulb in Florida
Annual flowers to plant include alyssum, calendulas, cleome, dianthus, dusty miller, gaillardia, impatiens, lobelias, marigolds, nasturtiums, pansies, periwinkles, petunias, phlox, poppies, portulacas, salvia, snapdragons, statice, stock, sweet peas, sweet William, and verbenas. Bulbs such as amaryllis, callas, gladiolas, lilies, and narcissus may also be planted now. Use transplants for both flower and vegetable plantings to get a quick jump on the season.
Our local soils tend to be sandy and poor in nutrients. Barring a soil test use 2 ½ - 5 lbs of a complete fertilizer like 6-6-6 per 100 sq. ft. Broadcast and work half of this amount into the soil and band the balance along the row. Generous additions of compost and other organic materials are also advised. Periodic side dressing with a nitrogen fertilizer will increase yields.
Although the need to mow your grass should begin to scale back, this is a good time to apply selective weed control products in lawns where broadleaf weeds have become a problem. Be sure to remove accumulations of fallen leaves and needles from lawns to prevent them from damaging turf. Pests and diseases do not slow down with the cooler weather. Monitor plants for insects and diseases regularly and treat as needed. Contact the Hendry County Extension Office for more specific recommendations on pest problems.
Take-all-root rot has been active on some local lawns. This is a particularly devastating fungal disease which attacks St Augustine grass. Symptoms of the disease include the development of large irregular bare patches. Affected grass has short rotted roots and black lesions may be visible on runners. Unfortunately, there is no quick cure for lawns affected by this disease. Take-all-root rot is bought on by plant stress, making management key in it's prevention. Stress factors that may predispose turf to this disease can include over or under watering, scalping or cutting grass to low, improper fertilization, insect damage and other factors that may affect plant vigor.
At present there is no good chemical control for this disease. In most instances, the disease will run it's course and grass will grow back over time. In addition to eliminating the above mentioned stress factors, light fertilization and top dressing affected lawns with a good topsoil or organic compost will speed recovery time.
November is a good time to set out strawberry plants for spring harvest. In our area, strawberries are best planted as an annual crop and replaced each year. Strawberries set out now in well prepared well fertilized beds will yield berries beginning around February. Papaya can also be planted as an annual. Start seedlings now under shelter for planting out in March and you should have fruit by September - October.
The Hendry County Extension Office is now on-line, check out the Hendry County Horticulture web page at http://www.ifas.ufl.edu/~gmcavoy/index.htm for horticulture tips and advice and links to other informative sites. Be sure to visit often as the site is still under construction and is being updated every few days. 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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