“It’s October” … What needs to be done
- Plant cool-season annuals such as pinks, snapdragons and ornamental cabbages and kale early in the month. Wait until temperatures have cooled to plant pansies and violas.
- Complete planting these fall vegetables early in the month: radishes, spinach and turnips.
- Last chance to sow wildflowers in order to have blooms next spring. Always purchase “fresh” seed.
- Purchase spring-flowering bulbs while selection is good. Chill tulip and Dutch hyacinth at 45 degrees for 60 days prior to planting. Daffodil and grape hyacinth require no special handling but should be stored in a cool location until planting (soil temperature below 55 degrees). Recommended daffodil varieties include Ice Follies, Fortune, Carlton, Cheerfulness and Tahiti.
- Fall is a great time to set out perennial herbs including thyme, oregano, rosemary, parsley, lemon balm, pineapple sage and Mexican mint marigold. Work a few inches of compost into soil prior to planting and mulch the plants after planting.
FERTILIZING AND PRUNING
- Remove annuals that have completed their life cycle. Leave seed pods to self-seed next year (cleome, cosmos, four o’clock).
- Continue to feed tropical plants in containers and hanging baskets with a water-soluble fertilizer. Cut back or repot overgrown houseplants and fertilize with same fertilizer.
- Spring and summer-flowering shrubs and vines (including climbing roses, wisteria, etc.) should not be pruned at this time because they have already established their buds for next year’s bloom. Prune these plants immediately after they stop blooming next year. Apply high-nitrogen fertilizer (4-1-2 ratio) on lawns and shrubs to prepare plants for fall and winter. Container plants will benefit from using high-nitrogen, water-soluble fertilizers.
- Watch for brown-patch fungus on St. Augustine lawns. Water only in the mornings and apply turf fungicide at first sign of fungus.
- Watch for cutworms and looper caterpillars on young leafy vegetables. Products containing Bt are safe to control these pests. Control aphids with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap.
- Attention, Christmas cactus owners! To initiate flower buds, give the plants bright light each day followed by 12-14 hours of total darkness at night for 30 days starting mid-month. And keep night time temperatures under 65 degrees.
The Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesi) is a favorite holiday season house plant, but one which needs careful attention to details if it is to live and flower again the next year. These are
cacti which in nature live in the crotches of jungle trees, and benefit from light, porous soil mixed with leafmold and sand. Keep the plant in a sheltered place until danger of freezing is over. Water carefully, keeping in mind that overwatering is the major cause of failure with Christmas cactus. Soak the potting medium when watering, then allow the plant to become almost dry before watering again.