The arrival of fall in Central Florida means brisk mornings and dryer weather. But what does it mean for your lawn and garden? As it turns out, October is the perfect time of year to take stock of your yard’s landscaping needs and make the preparations necessary to set it up for success in spring! We’ll cover the essentials, and even recommend some beautiful plants that provide a pop of color for the season. Best of all, most are perennials, which means they’ll be an asset to your property throughout the year!
Do You Need to Fertilize in Fall?
October is your last chance to fertilize before grass goes dormant for the winter. As our blog post — “Preparing Your Florida Lawn for Fall” — points out, waiting too late into fall or winter prompts your grass to grow when it shouldn’t. This could make your grass too sensitive to cold temperatures – and as a result, unable to grow properly in the spring and summer months. If you have St. Augustine grass, the only time you should fertilize later than October is if you choose to overseed your lawn — generally once in December and once in February before spring.
Our team at Daniel’s Lawn Service & Pressure Washing recommends you have your soil tested before fertilizing so you’ll know the specific nutrients it needs, as well as how much of those nutrients are needed. No matter the season, Florida’s sandy soil is nutrient-poor. In general, however, look for a fertilizer brand that contains a slow release of nitrogen and potassium, and has a nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium ratio of 16-4-8. To get the best results from fertilizing, aerate your lawn before applying. This leads to our next section.
When to Aerate, Mow and Water Your Central Florida Lawn
According to Pyle’s Lawn Service, aerating the soil keeps it from getting compact, and supplies roots with water, oxygen, and nutrients. Although Florida soil tends to be looser and more sandy than soil in other states, aeration during your fall landscaping will give your grass a healthier start for the following spring. Our blog post — “Why You Should Aerate Your Lawn” — describes this process in greater detail. Aerate when soil is moist, but wait 24 hours after a heavy rainstorm or irrigation.
Because your grass may not grow as fast as it did in spring and summer, you could only need to mow twice monthly instead of once weekly. It’s important to cut carefully in cold weather by allowing your grass to grow just a little bit taller than in warmer months. This will protect the roots of the grass from the harshness of cool temperatures. Common Florida lawn grasses like St. Augustine and bahiagrass should be kept at about three-and-a-half to four inches, although some other grasses may be better kept at two to two-and-a-half inches tall.
As for watering, the good people at Challenger Irrigation offer the following advice:
“You may have watered less during the rainy season. Make sure your irrigation system is in good working order heading into the fall. Grass may grow year-round in Florida, but it will slow down and require less water in cooler weather. Don’t halt watering, but you may want to water less to avoid over-watering.”
Plants That Add Fall Color to Your Yard
Cooler, dryer months do not mean that you have to forgo a yard filled with vibrant colors. The following plants are recommended by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and Sod Depot to add visual interest. For those who enjoy growing their own food, we’ve included vegetables and herbs. If you’ve never tried it before, fall is the ideal season for starting a vegetable garden!
Bedding plants — Pansy, dianthus, and petunia are great for Central Florida’s autumn and winter temperatures.
Bulbs — Agapanthus, rain lily, and other lily varieties will flourish in your garden next spring or summer by planting them now. To make them grow to their full potential, add organic matter to the planting bed.
Coleus — A favorite in Central Florida yards, coleus can be added to beds and borders to create interest and ornamentation. They need fertile, well-draining soil. Planting in partial shade is best.
Stromanthe sanguinea — The shoots of this dramatic plant will create some height to your yard’s sightlines. The rich red color is irresistible any time of year, but in the winter you may see it sport some tall red flowers.
Cassia — If you’re a northern transplant who misses fall foliage colors, the deep golden tones of the cassia’s flowers can ease your homesickness! It grows in well-drained soil that isn’t prone to standing water. Plant three to four feet apart from each other — as well as any other plants. Also grows well in large pots filled with standard potting soil. Plant in an area where it will receive a full six hours or more of daily sunlight.
Philippine violet — Sporting deep green foliage and vibrant purple flowers, the richness it brings to your yard in fall is sure to be appreciated. Plant near a golden-hued plant for a stunning contrast.
Herbs — Parsley, sage, cilantro, chives, and garlic grow great in cooler weather and add a fresh flavor to your recipes.
Vegetables — Brussel sprouts, beets, carrots, and onions all grow and last throughout the winter, making them perfect to include in your garden this time of year.
Your Central Florida Lawn and Garden Experts
Our Central Florida lawn care experts at Daniel’s Lawn Service & Pressure Washing can keep your yard thriving and attractive during fall, as well as the winter months ahead! Our experienced team can work with you to achieve your goals and bring your vision to life every season of the year! Our full-service company provides landscape design, tree installation, tree trimming, yard maintenance, pressure washing and so much more. Contact us today so we can do the work, and you can do the enjoying!