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Central Florida Fall Gardening Tips

By Guest Author Posted on November 12, 2021

By Steven K. Davis, Citrus County Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program Coordinator

Plant growth and needs diminish as cooler weather prevails. Take this opportunity to do “less” in the landscape, discourage active plant growth, and reduce winter losses.

First, plants need less frequent watering during the cool season when transpiration and evaporation are slowed. Extended periods of moisture promote weeds, pests, and diseases. Less water means less opportunity for garden nuisances to thrive while the landscape is napping. As temperatures drop in December, January, February, and sometimes November, adjust irrigation to every other week. Consider manually operating the irrigation system during the winter by turning the system to the off position and back on only when two weeks of no rainfall have passed. This will also help keep plants dry during freeze events.

Next, refrain from applying nitrogen-containing fertilizer until spring. Warm-season lawn growth slows after September and moves toward dormancy as the threat of frost approaches. The last opportunity to apply nitrogen-containing fertilizers was in September.

However, potassium is an option when applied correctly in fall. This macro-nutrient promotes a hardy plant cell wall and aids in root production.

Central Florida Fall Gardening Tips

Mow grass at the highest possible height to further insulate roots from cold. Iron is a greening option for the winter lawn, as well as annual ryegrass. Keep in mind that while ryegrass does not qualify for additional irrigation in Citrus County, it easily germinates with Florida’s abundant nighttime dew.

Additionally, pre-emergent herbicides prevent the germination of several winter annual weed seeds. When properly applied, these products reduce surging weed populations and are less able to injure healthy slow-growing or dormant grass.

Lastly, when installing cold-sensitive plants, choose protected locations. Find or create areas that are shielded from frost and cold winds. Consider spots near or between structures and under the tree canopy. Avoid locations at the bottom of slopes or small basins. Scientists focus on cold hardiness when breeding plants. Benefit from their efforts by selecting the right plant for the right place.

Landscapes need time to rest as temperatures cool. Forcing landscapes to actively grow and demanding green lawns in Florida winters contributes to plant injury and costly renovation. Applying nutrients during the appropriate months, selecting the “right plants,” and conducting proper seasonal care will reduce plant losses during North Central Florida winters.