In September we talked about the much-anticipated arrival of the dry season and offered a few suggestions for how to prepare—in a horticultural sense—for winter. Today we continue to address some of the conditions we will need to deal with to make our vegetable, fruiting, or ornamental plants perform at their best over the winter.
October is an interesting month climate-wise. Until about 35-40 years ago, it was the third-rainiest month of the year in most of southern Florida, behind June and September. But according to statistics provided by the Weather Channel, in the intervening years October has slipped to the fifth position across most of the region, having been overtaken by July and August. This means that in October homeowners must be more sensitive to the potential for an early end to the rainy season, a factor that’s important to timing the final application of fertilizer for the year.
The consensus recommendation is that plants should be fertilized no later than the middle of October. But because rainfall at that time of the month has become less dependable, homeowners must be willing to irrigate newly-fertilized plants to achieve the best outcome.
But there is an apparent dilemma to deal with: At the same time that October has been turning drier, winters have been getting warmer. One might well wonder if the final application of fertilizer can be delayed beyond mid-October. The answer is no. That’s because despite the increasingly warm winters, southern Florida is not exempt from incursions of cold weather. To fertilize plants after mid-October runs the risk of encouraging a flush of tender new leaves, which can be devastated by cold weather. The safest policy is to continue to observe the traditional deadline for fertilization so that plants can harden off and better resist damage from cold fronts.
Richard Lyons’ Nursery has designated an area of the farm for growing winter crops, including carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, sugar peas, green beans, daikon, and tomatillos. Herbs, both seasonal and year-round species, are doing well. After three months, we still have jackfruit on the trees, and sapodillas will ripen soon. Jujube and star apple trees are loaded with buds and developing fruit, so we anticipate a big crop in a few months.
Come out to the farm and see what’s ready to take home. In addition to vegetables and fruit, we have ornamental trees and shrubs, as well as palms, and many of them play a role in butterfly and hummingbird gardens.