Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fall Gardening Tasks

It may not feel like it yet, but tomorrow is the first day of fall! As fall weather moves into central Florida, things in the landscape will start to slow down. Grass will grow more slowly and hopefully the weeds will too! As usual, there are some garden chores that need to be tackled at this time of year. These chores will help clean up the landscape you abandoned during the hot summer months (totally understandable) and get everything neat and tidy so that you can relax the rest of the fall and winter months.

1. Revive ornamental grasses
Do you have ornamental grasses in your landscape? This is a great time of year to prune them back if they are looking bad. If they are still flowering, or getting ready to, make sure you wait until they are done. If they need to be pruned back, the easiest way to do this is to use electric hedge pruners or large clippers. Cut the grass back to about eight inches high. You may also wish to divide up your grasses at this time of year. After you cut the grass back, use a sharp shovel to divide up the grass. This is a great way to create more plants for the yard or share plants with friends and neighbors.

2. Divide plants

In addition to dividing your ornamental grasses; there are other plants that you may wish to divide. Perennials such as liriope, African iris, flax lily, bulbine, and herbs such as rosemary and tarragon are easy to divide. You may want to cut them back to the ground and then divide the clump into smaller sections using a sharp shovel.

3. Move plants that have outgrown their space

If you have let things get a little out of control over the summer months, now is a great time to move plants that have outgrown their allotted space or have self-seeded themselves and created a crowded landscape. Find a new spot for the plant that has more room than its current location. You want to find a spot that will allow your plant to spread without having to continually prune it during the growing season. This may be a great time to create new mulched beds or expand existing mulched beds in your yard. By dividing and moving plants you may be able to create new planting areas for free by using plants you already have, or consider doing a plant exchange with your friends or neighbors using the plants you have divided or removed.

4. Mulch

As you clean up the plants in your mulched beds, you may find that you need to re-mulch. Remember that you need to have three to four inches of mulch in your beds. This will help keep down weeds, reduce erosion, and keep the soil moist. If you find that you need to re-mulch, choose a by-product mulch such as pine bark, pine straw, eucalyptus, melaleuca, oak leaves, or compost. The addition of mulch will also help create a clean and neat look in the mulched beds that you have worked so hard to clean up.

5. Plant trees and shrubs

After you have cleaned up, divided, and pruned your way through the landscape, you may find that you want to add more trees and shrubs to your yard. Fall is a great time to plant trees and shrubs in central Florida. Choose plants that are the appropriate size for your yard and utilize local plant lists, such as those available from the Florida-Friendly Landscaping program.

Take advantage of the cooler fall temperatures to clean up your landscape, and remember to follow the principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping while doing so. For more information on fall gardening tasks contact the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Events in Polk County This Weekend

The Eternal Orchid, 49th Orchid Show
September 17, 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
September 18, 12:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Lake Mirror Center, 121 S. Lake Avenue, Lakeland
See orchid displays, purchase orchid supplies and visit the repotting table. Sponsored by the Ridge Orchid Society. $2 admission.

The Cardboard Boat Challenge and Lakes Festival
Saturday, September 17, 8:30 a.m. - noon (race starts at 10:00 a.m.)
Lake Hollingsworth Boat Ramp, Lakeland
The City of Lakeland, Lakeland Clean & Beautiful and Lakes Education/Action Drive present a fun-filled boat race where teams compete to create and race a boat made of cardboard. Stop by for free environmental information and register to race! Registration fee is $40 per team. For more information call (863) 834-8429 or (863) 221-5323.

Raising Vegetables for Farmers Markets
September 17, 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service
1702 US Hwy 17 South, Bartow
contact: Mary Beth Henry at 863-519-8677 x 110 or for more information or to register

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fall Color for the Landscape

Your landscape might start to look at little stressed after a harsh Florida summer, but there are some plants that will revive the landscape going into the fall months. These plants will add some interest to your landscape with their unique characteristics. Remember that even in Florida, there are many plants that will change color, produce berries, or flower only in the fall months. The ten plants that we have listed are Florida-Friendly if they are installed following the right plant, right place principle.

Goldenrod (Solidago sp.)
Goldenrod is a fall-flowering perennial that grows tall and stands out in any perennial garden. The yellow flowers cover the plant late summer through fall. Goldenrod will spread through the garden. It looks nice against a fence, combined with other wildflowers, and combined with butterfly plants such as Pentas and purple Salvia.

Beach Sunflower (Helianthus debilis)
Beach Sunflower flowers continuously from spring through the winter months, making it a good addition to a fall flower garden. Beach Sunflower is low-growing and will spread and seed itself in the garden. Combine Beach Sunflower with ornamental grasses such as Muhly grass for a beautiful fall landscape bed.

Cigar Plant (Cuphea ignea)
The orange flowers of the Cigar Plant are perfect for a fall flower garden. Cigar Plant will grow to about three feet tall and has dark green leaves. Plant this flowering perennial in a butterfly garden as it attracts nectaring butterflies and hummingbirds.

Lion’s Tail (Leonotus leonurus)
Lion’s Tail is another orange flowering plant for the fall garden. It will grow quite large, up to six feet tall and three feet wide. Combine Lion’s Tail with ornamental grasses, Salvias, evergreen shrubs and butterfly plants.

Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)
In the fall, the bright purple berries of the Beautyberry stand out in any garden. Beautyberry is a deciduous shrub that will grow to about six feet tall. This weepy, informal shrub can be grown in sun or shade gardens, woodland gardens, natural areas, or in bird and butterfly gardens. Combine Beautyberry with evergreen shrubs.

Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaries)
Muhly grass is one of the most attractive fall-flowering plants in Central Florida. The grass produces showy purple/pink blooms that rise above the grass. Muhly grass is drought-tolerant and only grows two to three feet tall and wide. Combine Muhly grass with Goldenrod, Beach Sunflower, and other perennials. It is also attractive when combined with evergreen shrubs.

Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
This large shrub grows as an understory shrub, so it does the best in shady areas under trees. The large oak-like leaves of the Oakleaf Hydrangea will turn red to purple in the fall and the large white flowers are also showy during the fall months. They start out as white flowers and turn to pink. This shrub will grow six to eight feel tall and wide, and is beautiful when combined with evergreen shrubs such as azaleas, and grown under oaks and pine trees.

Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha)
The purple blooms of the Mexican sage start in the early fall and will continue to cover the plant until it freezes back in the winter. This large perennial can grow three to four feet tall and wide, so give it plenty of room to grow. The purple flowering plant looks beautiful when combined with ornamental grasses, yellow-flowering perennials, and evergreen shrubs such as Coontie Cycads.

Forsythia Sage (Salvia madrensis)
Everything about the Forsythia sage is big. The plant can grow up to eight feet tall and the blooms can get up to a twelve inches long. Forsythia sage will bloom from fall until frost. The plant will freeze back to the ground in the winter in Central Florida. The yellow flowering plant is attractive when combined with purple flowering plants, Pentas, ornamental grasses and blanket flower.

Silver-Leaved Aster (Pityopsis graminifolia)
The Silver-Leaved Aster is a low-growing perennial. The silver-green foliage is a nice contrast to the yellow flowers of the plants. This is a tough native plant that can be combined with other wildflowers and perennials, ornamental grasses and native drought-tolerant shrubs.

Look for these plants at your local nursery to add some fall color to your landscape. If you have any questions about the plants listed above, please contact the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service. To see more plant photographs, go to Flickr.

Fall is a Great Time for Gardening Events in Polk County

There are so many wonderful gardening events that take place each fall in Polk County. Visit my gardening calendar for a list of events.