October Garden Tips

Vegetable gardening hits high gear by mid-month when the first refreshing cool fronts start to penetrate the peninsula on a regular basis. Vegetable choices include broccoli, turnips, spinach, onions, carrots, cauliflower, beets, radishes, mustard, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, parsley, celery, peas, summer squash and lima and snap beans. Most herbs should be planted out now. Strawberries also can be planted. Annuals include: coleus, marigold, torenia, vinca, impatiens, salvia, portulaca, cosmos, ageratum, gloriosa daisy, celosia, verbena, wax begonia, calendula, alyssum, snapdragon, nasturtium, hollyhock, cornflower, pansy, candytuft and larkspur. 
The last big fertilization of the year should be applied to all plants this month. A high quality all-purpose fertilizer should be fine for most trees. I have used Lesco 12-2-14 with good success on most plantings. Lawns benefit from a good application of Lesco 16-4-8. But any good quality fertilizer with trace elements should do the job. Apply lightly and evenly and water in after application. 

The dry season begins mid-month. As soon as you can, it's a good idea to check irrigation systems before their winter workouts. Fungal problems appear with the cooler weather, so make sure watering is restricted to the morning hours between 2 and 10 a.m. The dry season will last through May, so some supplemental irrigation will be necessary for lawns and bedding plants. 

Insects are still with us, but populations will fall as the cooler weather arrives. We never get a complete break like the winter-bound folks in the north. Caterpillars will be active on cassia, oleander and bougainvillea. Mites, thrips, scale, army and sod webworms will be active. Check for infestations once a week

Green Thoughts: Fort Lauderdale's Riverland Civic Association has planted about 500 flowering trees throughout their neighborhood in recent years. Now Fort Lauderdale jail inmates are going to plant another 150 flowering trees in the neighborhood. 

Ten inmates overseen by two correction officers planted the new trees. The city's Adopt-A-Tree program provided the trees. This is the best program I have heard of in recent years. The city will certainly be a more beautiful place as the trees mature and start to bloom on a regular basis. 


Red Jatropha ( Jatropha interrima)

I often think how quickly we become jaded by the flower displays in south Florida. We forget how lucky we are compared to our northern neighbors. Jatropha, or perigrina is one of our most dependable bloomers in the small tree or large shrub category. It blooms reliably every day of the year. This plant has red flowers that appear at the end of every branch. Blooms are not large, but they make a decent permanent scattering of flowers over the entire plant. 

The standard species plant is very open-growing and is good for a landscape where a small see-through tree is needed. This see-through characteristic is an excellent quality if you are designing a landscape with security in mind. The `Compacta' form is much tighter in growth habit and tops out in the 8 to 10 foot range. Most people will opt for the compact form. 

Jatropha is relatively free of pests, but attacks by scale, mealybug and leaf miner are not unknown. Damage is usually temporary, and new leaf growth quickly follows. This plant is a must as a butterfly attractant and usually has many types flocking around. Hummingbirds are winter visitors. 

I suspect we may see more color forms of perigrina as time goes on. I have seen a pink form at some of the collector nurseries, but it is very hard to find. 

  • Origin — Cuba 
  • Foliage — Variable dark green leaves, some lobed and others oval and pointed 
  • Growth rate — Medium 
  • Nutritional requirements — Low 
  • Soil requirements — Wide 
  • Salt tolerance — Medium 
  • Drought tolerance — High 
  • Light requirements —High 
  • Propagation — Seed, Cuttings 
  • Environmental problems — None 


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