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The weather through October seemed to be a little warmer than usual this year, and though no one really knows for sure, the long-range forecasts for November and December predict a continuation of that trend. But, as the saying goes, if you don’t like the weather, just wait awhile, it will change.

So, while the next 60 days may be predominantly milder than normal, it is still quite possible to have some freezes. Let’s look at different areas of home gardening and what we need to be thinking about now.

Lawns

Though lawn growth is slowing, don’t completely ignore the lawn now. It has been a warm fall, so you can still apply a pre-emergent herbicide for control of cool-season weeds, the ones that sometimes seem to take over the lawn in February and March. But it’s not advisable to put on a fertilizer containing nitrogen this late. Continue to mow occasionally, not just to cut the grass but also to keep weed growth down and keep tree leaves from collecting on the lawn.

Using your mower now is also a good reminder to keep maintenance on it up through the winter, such as sharpening the blades, changing oil and filters, and not letting fuel just sit in the tank and gum up the carburetor. Even if you don’t use it through the winter, try to start it every three weeks or so and let it run for a few minutes.

Hopefully sod webworm damage to lawns will stop soon, but still be on guard for it. If temperatures are higher than normal and the lawn keeps growing yet rainfall is low, you may even find yourself having to water the lawn a little this fall.

The point is to let the weather and lawn guide you and not to totally ignore your lawn now. If you wish to lightly over-seed portions of your lawn with ryegrass for more green through the winter, you can do so now. But you will have to mow it through the winter.

Color in the garden

For those of us in North Florida, fall is the most colorful time of the year in the garden. The color often continues until late November, sometimes even into December.

Perennials such as firebush (Hamelia patens), firespike (Odontonema strictum), blue ginger (Dichorisandra thyrsiflora), butterfly cassia (Senna bicapsularis), pentas, and many salvias (such as Mexican bush sage, Salvia leucantha) are in full flower. Some warm-season annuals such as torenia and blue daze are still going strong too.

Now we can begin adding cool-season annuals such as petunias, pansies, violas, Calibrachoa, Nemesia, Diascia, Dianthus, snapdragon, giant red mustard, ornamental cabbage and kale, ‘Snow Princess’ sweet alyssum, and wallflower (Erysimum). Just be sure to plant flowers in sunny areas.

Don’t forget the option of planting in pots. This is also the time to seed larkspur, poppies, bachelor buttons, and sweet peas and to plant bulbs such as daffodil, narcissus, Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica), and snowflakes (Leucojum aestivum) for flowering in the spring.

Trees and shrubs

Now and on through the winter is an excellent time to plant trees and shrubs. Just remember to water these new plantings for the coming months. We can enjoy fall leaf color right here in north Florida if we plant trees such as crape myrtle, dogwood, Chinese pistachio, American hornbeam, Japanese maple, hickory, red maple, sweetgum, ginkgo, bald cypress, and black gum in our landscape.

Sasanqua camellias bloom in the fall to early winter. This is a great time to make selections of sasanquas to add to your landscape. Generally, they grow best in partially shaded locations. The other common type of camellia, C. japonica, will be flowering a little later and continuing on through winter. Plant all camellias in a location that receives protection from the harsh, late afternoon summer sun.

If some of your shrubs are a little overgrown, it won’t hurt them if you do light pruning this time of year. Just remember that there won’t be much more growth this fall, so any bare areas you cause by over-pruning won’t fill in until next spring. So, it’s best to hold off on heavy pruning until late winter.

Thinking of a live Christmas tree this year, something you can plant outdoors after the holidays? Some possible types include red cedar, Arizona cypress, Leyland cypress, Chinese juniper, ‘Nellie R. Stevens’ holly, and sand pine.

Vegetables and herbs

Plant cool-season vegetables such as arugula, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, bulbing onions, green onions, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, turnips, Bok choi, tatsoi, and mizuna.

Add herbs such as cilantro, parsley, French sorrel, salad burnet, sage, and thyme too. It is important to select a spot that receives sun most of the day. Fertilize with a basic 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 fertilizer unless you have had a recent soil test that indicates more specific needs.

Fruits

December through February is the usual planting season for deciduous fruit and nut trees and vines. But, there’s no problem in planting now either. Just remember to keep the new plants watered.

Figs, persimmons, blueberries, peaches, nectarines, and muscadine grapes are among the possibilities. If you have recently planted citrus fruits, be prepared to protect young trees if we have hard freezes.

David W. Marshall is a landscape consultant with Esposito Garden Center and an Extension Agent Emeritus with UF/IFAS Extension Leon County, an Equal Opportunity Institution. For gardening questions, email the extension office at [email protected]

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