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The Neighborhood Gardener – October 2013

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

box of produceHarvesting and Storing Vegetables — Harvesting your vegetables at the right time is an important part of gardening success. It can be tricky to determine when vegetables are ready to be picked. Harvesting too late or too early is a common problem for vegetable growers, which results in poor quality produce. A little research will help.

Taking UF/IFAS Online Gardening Resources in a New Direction – The new UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions website blossoms into a full resource in mid-October. The site is based on the retiring “Gardening in a Minute” radio program and will feature a wealth of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ and gardening information. More detail, larger photographs, how-to videos, and easier navigation will be featured as part of UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions.

white bat flowerPlant of the Month: Bat Flower — With ghostly bracts that look like wings, the bat flower is a unique addition to any home. This conversation starter is considered a collector’s item and can be difficult to find in garden centers, but is sometimes sold as a specialty item around Halloween. Most common is the black bat flower; its wing-like bracts are a deep purple. A more recently introduced species, white bat flower has pale “wings.” Bat flower can be grown in similar conditions that orchids are grown in: ample humidity, strong airflow, and low to moderate light.

October in Your Garden – You can start to sow cool-season annual seeds such as pansies, dianthus, snapdragons, and hollyhocks. Tomatoes, corn, and squash will be producing this month and you can begin to plant carrots, beets, and turnip. Now is also the time to apply a pre-emergent herbicides on your lawn if needed. It’s a good time to add new shrubs to your yard because the milder weather lets the root system grow out into the surrounding soil without putting stress on the plant. This is the last month of the year to fertilize underperforming plants. Controlled-release fertilizers can help by providing nutrients over a longer period of time.

twospotted spider mitesFriend or Foe? Foe: Twospotted Spider Mite — The twospotted spider mite is a tiny feeder that infest a wide variety of plants. This mite feeds on the underside of foliage and can easily go undetected. Twospotted spider mites can be a greenish rust color, red, orange, or yellow. Mites cause the plants to look chlorotic, mottled, and yellow in color; the plant will eventually die if heavily infested. Controlling a mite infestation can be somewhat difficult. Biological control can aid as reinforcement; predatory mites, lady beetles, and other predators will help naturally control the spider mite population. Forceful sprays of water to the undersides of leaves can dislodge the mites, or try insecticidal soaps and oils.

Read the full October issue.

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