Root Crops, Hardy Annuals Dig the Cool
Autumn and early winter offer many opportunities for home landscape and garden activities
Autumn and early winter offer many opportunities for home landscape and garden activities amid moderate temperatures and low humidity.
The cool season is an ideal time to add potted shrubs to the home landscape. Be sure to mulch and water sufficiently to help them get established, and give them enough room to grow to their potential size.
Cold-resistant annuals, like pansies, are another addition to the home landscape that will add color and texture during the winter to come. It is late to start them from seed, and most homeowners find it far simpler to purchase starter plants at nurseries.
Select fresh, healthy plants. Those with evidence of insect or fungal activity should be passed over.
Carrots are a cool season vegetable that can be cultivated in home gardens once the soil has cooled off. Color, length and taste options extend far beyond the long orange variety found in supermarkets.
Purple, white, yellow and orange carrots grow well in fine soil 12 inches deep with a high organic content. Lightly cover the seed with soil when planting and keep the bed watered. Thin when seedlings emerge, leaving one plant every four to six inches.
North Florida’s harshest winter weather will have little to no effect on this root crop. Maturity is reached in approximately 90 days.
Another useful root vegetable ideal for home gardens is onions. As with carrots, taste and color options exceed supermarket offerings.
Plant with the tips of the bulb just below the soil’s surface with a spacing of six to eight inches. Scallions will be ready for use in 30 to 45 days, but bulbs will need five to six months.
While this time of year is fine for many undertakings in home gardens, there is a big NO in November (and the remaining cool season). It is either too late or too early for certain activities.
Avoid using herbicides on warm season weeds. As weeds go into dormancy, the weed killers are not absorbed and will not work on the target species.
Annual weeds are already dying and have set seed for next season. Warm season perennials are retreating into their annual phase of inactivity and are not susceptible to the herbicide’s control characteristics.
Also avoid applying nitrogen fertilizer to warm season perennials. This element will stimulate the growth of tender foliage, even in days of diminished sunlight.
If a frost or freeze settles on the delicate green growth, there will be obvious and substantial damage to the plant. In the most extreme cases, the plant will be killed.
A Masked Pollen Eater
Like a trick-or-treater, one insect native to North Florida uses a mask to frighten passersby.
The delta flower scarab beetle (Trigonopeltastes delta) uses the disguise for the purpose of survival, not entertainment. Its common name refers to the triangular pattern on the center of its back.
The shape resembles the Greek letter delta. This beetle is sometimes known as the “D beetle.”
The species is very active during daylight and easy to view in autumn. It is most commonly seen in and around flowers and is usually noticed only during its adult life stage. Delta flower scarab beetles are members of a subfamily commonly called fruit or flower chafers. The common June bug or June beetle is a member of this group. Their diet is mainly pollen, and while these beetles mate where pollen is found, such places are a dangerous environment for these brightly colored insects. Many birds and other animals instinctively know there are numerous meal choices on blooms. This beetle has a unique defense in the form of an intimidating mask. When threatened, the delta flower scarab beetle turns away from its pursuer. It then raises its hind legs forward and cants its body upward, emphasizing the upper shell with the delta marking. The harmless beetle now has the appearance of a large hornet’s head. Even the most aggressive predators stop to evaluate their gain versus their potential pain, giving the beetle time to escape.