October To-Do Lists: Zones 10 & 11

Susan Wells
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October To Do Lists, Zones 10 & 11

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Mulch and water well—dry spells this month can last a week or longer. On your next trip to the beach, collect dead seaweed that has washed up onto the shore. Bring it home and rinse off sand and debris. Allow the seaweed to lie on top of your garden soil to dry. Work it into your soil prior to planting. If you have an abundance of it readily available, continue collecting it while at the beach, and incorporate it into your mulching routine. It will be a positive soil conditioner plus help rid the garden of some insects and other pests.

Depending on site location, try to integrate both native and non-native species of plants into your garden’s design. Research what plants may be invasive and stay clear of them. If they exist in your landscape remove and dispose of properly. Construct raised beds and clean your favorite containers for the month’s vegetable plantings.

Vegetables

  • Take advantage of our nearly perfect conditions for sowing lettuce. Do it twice a month from October through March. Sow in flats in a cool location to plant out as soon as the temperature begins to cool down. Begin new crops every week or two. Use a floating row cover for when temperatures drop briefly. Lettuce is a great crop for your favorite planter or pot.
  • Set out your transplants of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.
  • Plant strawberries and brassicas (except for Brussels sprouts—it’s still too warm) early in the month.
  • In mid-month, direct-seed beans and plant seed potatoes.
  • Consider planting, in one bed, a ‘potato salad garden,’ using potatoes, celery and onions. If you have young gardeners in your household, they may enjoy the idea of this grouping. If you like a more seasoned version of this classic, also sow dill, basil and garlic. You’ll love the addition of these herbs to your dish.
  • You can also do a ‘pizza garden,’ with tomatoes, green onions, oregano and parsley.  (The oregano may not perform well in our zones, but it’s worth trying.)
  • To grow great potatoes it is best to start with planting the organic seed potatoes. Cut the larger potatoes into chunks about the size of an egg making sure each has at least one “eye.” Either plant deeply or plan to mulch deeply, covering the plants as they poke leaves up through the surface until you have at least six or more inches of soil/mulch over the seed potato. Fingerling potatoes and small red potatoes will grow quickly. Yukon Golds also mature quickly, which is important because insect pressure can be intense this time of year. Each eye planted may yield six or more potatoes. Potatoes like slightly acidic soil, so if you are liming the rest of the garden, skip the potato patch.
  • Near the end of the month, sow beans, collards, kale, radishes, spinach, and your other favorite greens.
  • If you are re-using plant stakes, or trellises for your beans, clean them with a water and bleach solution (ratio: 9 parts water : 1 part bleach) to get rid of diseases and insect pheromones.
  • Watch for slugs, and set out bait if you need to. Placing yeast mixed with water in a shallow pie pan at ground level will lure them to their deaths (beer works, too.). Slugs will attack your leafy greens, so it’s a good plan to get rid of them sooner rather than later.
  • Consider constructing raised beds for your vegetables if you have not already done so. Often easier on the back of the gardener, a raised bed also helps to protect crops from invasive weeds and grasses competing for nutrients and space. In a raised bed, we also have more control over soil composition and pH.

Flowers

Image via Mediabank

Plant petunias, lantana, and other colorful flowers this month. Keep them watered regularly if rainfall is scarce.

  • Plant colorful bloomers this month. Use lantana, petunias, and pansies to liven up corners of your garden.
  • Prepare beds for planting roses and plant them later this month. Work dry compost into the bed prior to planting. (If the compost sticks to your shovel, it is likely too wet.) Allow at least two weeks before planting into the composted soil. Always water after planting.
  • Fertilize plants that flower in the winter.
  • The Gaillardia (Blanket Flower) wins the best color vote for a native. Do not prune it below the green wood. It is good at re-seeding itself and is often considered an annual groundcover.
  • Watch for fungus attacking your ‘Blue Daze’ (Evolvulus). If this is a problem, transplant some into hanging pots and allow them to cascade. They will recover quickly from dry conditions with a watering.
  • Cut out the dead and brown stems of the fast spreading Gingers in your garden. Do the same with your Agapanthus.
  • We can sometimes trick repeat blooming out of the Pineapple Lily (Eucomis) by alternating periods of wetness and dryness.
  • Continue planting Asiatic, Tiger, Trumpet and Oriental lilies. They will love soil rich in organic material, so take a few loads from your compost bin and work it into the soil several days before planting.
  • Give your hibiscus a light feeding of a home brewed compost tea.

Trees and Shrubs

  • Finish pruning fruit trees so new sprouts can harden before cold arrives. Keep your pruning tools clean and sharp. If you are removing diseased wood, clean tools in a bleach and water solution after each cut.
  • Planting trees and shrubs, especially natives, that provide food and shelter for wildlife is an important aid, even better than putting out feeders. Many plants will attract birds.
  • Fall-fruiting trees are used by migratory birds preparing for winter. Conifers provide winter shelter, sap, buds and seed for birds, too.
  • Image via Mediabank

    Many shrubs are surprisingly colorful. Take advantage of the cooler temperatures to give them a good start in your landscape.

    Concerns of the over-used Sabal palm, also known as the cabbage palm, have been eased as it is replenishing itself. Many were killed when their “hearts” were harvested for food. Now it is a popular landscape choice, grows well in most of Florida and is that state’s official tree. Use transplants with clear trunks and if transplanting from a container, make sure to plant deep enough to cover the root initialization zone, which can sometimes protrude above the surface of the settled container soil. This will allow the palm to have all the roots possible to anchor itself firmly. Fertilize with nitrogen for the first six months by top-dressing out to six or eight inches beyond the edge of the root ball. This helps the roots extend beyond the container soil. After the tree is established, however, it will like leaner soil, so stop using high-nitrogen feed.

  • In late October through the month of November, you can prune back the native Beauty Berry bush (Callicarpa Americana). The longer you wait to prune this species, the happier the birds will be.
  • Another favorite for the birds is the native evergreen, Firebush (Hamelia patens). With tubular red flowers changing from red to black berries, this showy tall shrub is an excellent choice. Due to the berries which can be messy when shed, plant away from your house and areas with foot traffic.

Lawns

  • The fall is not an active time for warm-season grasses. Their growth slows and some varieties turn brown.
  • It is beneficial to mow at the correct height for the particular grass planted. (Bahia: 3-4 inches. Bermuda: 2 inches. Centipede: 2-3 inches. St. Augustine: 3 inches. Zoysia: 1-2 inches.)
  • Though St. Augustine turf grass can tolerate light shade, most lawns prefer full sun. Fertilize St. Augustine once in the fall and once in the spring.
  • Zoysia is a very drought tolerant turf but will turn brown without adequate water. As a slower growing turf, it doesn’t need mowing as often during cooler months. It also needs less fertilization.
  • Soils rich in organic material and clay will tend to retain water longer than a sandy soil. Both are capable of growing a great lawn. Most grasses like a slightly acidic to neutral soil. Lime will raise the soil pH here and sulfur will lower it. (Bahia grass benefits from an acidic soil.)
  • Be aware that you may need to amend any soil in areas of high acidity. It is always of benefit to have your soil tested periodically and amended with organic matter as needed.

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