Although days are shorter and the drier weather has returned, the continuing heat makes it hard to believe that fall has finally arrived.
The Blackberry Lilies have stopped blooming and are setting their blackberry look-a-like seeds. Ixora have done extremely well this year and are blooming heavily. Pentas, crinum lilies and some of our shade bromeliads are blooming. Bromeliads are easy to care for, and bring an exotic look to the landscaping. They are excellent around the pool as they do not often drop leaves or flower debris. Use them for their foliage and think of the flower spikes, lasting for weeks, as a bonus. For the pool area, select varieties without sharp edges.
Those of you who have citrus trees may be noticing that your mature citrus fruit is splitting and rotting. This is probably the result of heavy rains last month coupled with missing potassium in the soil, which leads to thinner peels on the fruit. Citrus trees that absorb too much water force it into the fruit. The peel on mature fruit cannot expand and splits. This is the time to fertilize citrus for the fall and winter. Citrus trees are heavy feeders and need about a pound of long-acting citrus special fertilizer per year of age up to a maximum of 10 pounds per feeding. Scatter the fertilizer from the base out to a few feet beyond the drip line. Do not use fertilizer spikes in our sandy soils. The spikes tend to dissolve where they are placed, burning the nearby roots and then draining straight down through the sand.
This is our season for planting vegetable gardens and annuals flowers. Garden plots need preparation before planting. Till in organic matter including compost, peat moss and manure to help keep the soil moist, to feed the growing plants and to keep the nematode population down. If you do not have loads of organic material incorporated into the soil, you will want to fertilize with 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 before planting. Feed lightly every three to four weeks after planting. Vary the placement of your crops. Do not plant the same type of plants in the same area year after year. Moving them will confuse the bug pests. This is the time for beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, greens, tomatoes, turnips and peppers. If you don’t have the space or inclination for a big garden, a sunny area can hold a container garden, Earth Box or earth bucket to provide you with fresh herbs, tomatoes and a few other favorite vegetables for your table.
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Look for landscaping color in bedding plants. Fall favorites include alyssum, Begonias, Geraniums, impatiens, coleus, Gerbera and Shasta daisies, gaillardia, nasturtium, pansy, petunias, phlox, salvia, snapdragon and verbenas. I am growing native Dotted Horse Mint and native white shrimp plant in with my red pentas and gaillardias to attract more butterflies. Bedding plants need a well-drained, sunny area to be productive.
Poinsettias and Christmas Cacti need 14 hours of darkness to set blooms. I will move my Christmas Cactus away from the porch light today! Make sure they are protected from home lighting and street lights at night. Do not trim your poinsettias any more as flower bracts are forming. Fertilize after the bracts appear to promote larger, more colorful appearance.
Joy Derksen, a master gardener with the Manatee County Extension Program, writes a column monthly for the Herald. She volunteers at the Plant Clinic, which helps homeowners with gardening problems. Plant Clinic hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Information: (941) 722-4524.