What to Do in September
Ornamental plants: Fertilize plants that show signs of deficiencies. Rapid growth and leaching rains may result in nutrient deficiencies in some plants. See: Fertilization and Irrigation Needs for Florida Lawns and Landscapes (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep110)
Perennials and bulbs: Divide and replant perennials and bulbs that have grown too large or need rejuvenation. Add organic matter to new planting
areas and monitor water needs during establishment. See: Propagation of Landscape Plants (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg108)
Citrus: Fertilize citrus with a balanced fertilizer either this month or in October. If the weather has been rainy, do not use soluble nitrogen as rains will leach it from the soil too quickly. See: Citrus Culture in the Home Landscape (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs132)
Lawn problems: Continue to monitor the lawn for signs of insect damage. Fall armyworms, chinch bugs, mole crickets, and sod webworms are still active this month. See: Insect Management in Your Florida Lawn (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/lh034)
Irrigation: Check that irrigation systems are providing good coverage and operating properly before summer rains taper off. See: How to Calibrate your Sprinkler System (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/lh026)
Growing and pruning never end in Florida gardens. This summer, even more torrid and wet than last year’s, has seen phenomenal growth of all plants: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Conditions have favored increased populations of pests and diseases. And, of course, it has been less than pleasant to deal with all of this except in the early morning or late evening when the sea breeze caresses your sweaty brow.
But now it’s time to get out and start taming the landscape. Work early in the morning or late in the afternoon and drink lots of water. For best results and a feeling of accomplishment work on one zone at a time and limit your time to avoid exhaustion.
Determine Soil pH
Get your soil tested if you are planting directly in the ground so you don’t waste time and money and feel guilty when a tree or plant dies because it was growing in inhospitable soil. Most common landscape plants are well suited to a wide soil pH range. For example, popular woody shrubs and trees; e.g., pittosporum, viburnum, and oak, grow well in acidic to moderately alkaline soils. In addition, several common lawn grasses tolerate wide ranges in soil pH.
Our beachside soils tend to be moderately to highly alkaline. It’s almost impossible to really acidify soil so this makes something like blueberries (a Florida native), which love highly acidic soil, easier to grow in containers unless you choose a cultivar tolerant of lower acidity.
The pH of soil runs from 0.0 to 14.0. Most soils are in the 4.0 to 8.0 range. Any pH below 7.0 is acidic and pH above 7.0 is alkaline the best pH range for vegetable and flower gardens on sandy soil is 5.8 to 6.3. If your soil pH is between 5.5 and 7.0, there is no need to adjust pH.
Soil pH can be determined by sending a soil sample to the UF/IFAS Extension Soil Testing Laboratory. Samples are not tested for presence of nematodes, disease organisms or chemicals other than those listed on the form. Go to the following website to download instructions and forms. Sally Scalera recommends opting for the $7 test.
Once you receive the results of a soil pH test, you can determine which plants are best suited for your soil. From a plant nutrition standpoint, strongly alkaline conditions are a greater problem than strongly acidic conditions in Florida landscapes.
Amend the soil
Our beachside sandy, alkaline soil requires amendments to produce healthy plants. Mix some organic matter into beds before planting. Use compost, peat moss, composted manures, composted leaves, and coffee grounds.
Plan & Plant
September is the month to prepare for your cool weather garden. Decide what you want to grow, balancing desired flowers, vegetables and herbs requirements with the conditions you can offer them. You can have a rewarding garden using containers, raised beds, direct planting in the ground, or a combination of methods. Take into account each plant’s needs for light, water, nutrition, temperature, humidity, and pH preference. The Internet makes it easy and fun to do garden research on everything from plant profiles to landscape design.
Florida-Friendly Landscaping Guide to Plant Selection & Design provides information about soil pH tolerance of many landscape plants suited to Florida growing conditions.
Florida-Friendly Landscaping Pattern Book This publication has sample plant lists and designs for our beachside area, recently designated zone 10-A. https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/FFL-Pattern-Book-Zone10-11.pdf
Divide & Conquer
10 Tips on Dividing Perennial Plants
Divide to multiply and have healthier plants.
On October 1st the four-month fertilizer ban ends. Finding a fertilizer for palms, fruit trees, and shrubs that contains the minor elements they need isn’t easy. One I use that comes close to the UF’s recommended 8-2-12 with minors is Turf-Gro Professional Organic/Natural Tree and Shrub Food (8-0-10). Available at Lowes it is a fertilizer blend with micronutrients for use on all trees, shrubs and ornamentals. It contains slow-release nitrogen, essential micronutrients and no phosphates.
Relax – Don’t worry if you see smooth little brownish galls on the underside of oak leaves. Tiny wasps lay their eggs in the oak leaves during the spring and the galls gradually develop, becoming noticeable in late summer or fall. Galls form in response to the eggs and larva present in the leaves. The enlarged plant tissue provides food and protection for the developing insects. Eventually the insects emerge from the gall.
The galls do not harm the oaks and the wasps generally cause little or no damage and can be ignored. Older leaves with galls attached fall from the tree and will be replaced by new leaves.
Also, if you notice raggedy leaf margins on oak leaves you needn’t be too alarmed. A variety of insects munch along oak leaf margins without doing real damage to established trees.