SEPTEMBER GARDENING CAN BE REWARDING, by Larry Williams UF/IFAS Extension Agent

As we move into September, it becomes more enjoyable outdoors. This is a great time to catch up on landscape jobs.

One of the first jobs to do is a general cleanup of the home grounds. This might not sound very enjoyable but you’ll appreciate the end results. Remove those summer annuals that are beginning to look worn out. Replace them with plants that will give your garden some fresh color this fall. Weed and remove debris such as tree branches from plant beds. Edge sidewalks, driveways, and beds.

After the cleanup is accomplished, you’re ready to move to more enjoyable tasks. If you want fall flowers, start preparing a good planting bed. Locate the bed in an area that receives full sun at least half a day and stay away from large trees. Tree roots can out compete the flowers for fertilizer and water. Some hardy annuals to plant in late September include alyssum, calendula, candytuft, dianthus, baby’s breath, nasturtium, pansy, petunia, phlox, snapdragon, statice, sweet peas, and viola.

September is the last month to apply a fall application of fertilizer to St. Augustinegrass lawns. Use an appropriate analysis fertilizer with either a low amount of nitrogen or slow release nitrogen and sufficient potassium. Centipedegrass lawns should have been fertilized last month. Shrubs and young, small trees within beds that don’t receive fertilizer when the lawn is fertilized might benefit from an application at this time.

September and October are the months when gibberellic acid is used on camellias. On many varieties, the flower size can be increased significantly, producing a bloom much earlier than would be the case without the treatment. Select a well-developed flower bud. Remove the pointed growth/leaf bud adjacent to the flower bud. A small cup will be left where the growth bud has been removed. Fill this cup with one drop of the acid solution. Usually a difference in the flower bud size between treated and untreated camellia buds is apparent in a week. By encouraging earlier flowering in camellias, freeze damage is reduced and flowers become available for holiday decorations.

Watch your lawn and ornamental plants for pests. It’s still warm enough for insects such as scales, whiteflies, mites, aphids, and caterpillars to be damaging. In lawns, sod webworms, armyworms, and large patch fungus can be active as we move into cooler weather. Watch for these problems and start control measures as soon as you notice damage.

This should keep you busy until it’s time to rake leaves. Fall gardening in Florida can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

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