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Last Update 09/03/14

September in the Florida Garden

 Get Ready to Grow!

September marks the start of Florida's fall gardening season.  If you are a keen observer of nature, you will begin seeing the shadows getting longer and longer in the afternoon and the first purple martins of the season from up north flitting around on their way south.  "Continued warm and scattered showers" will be a familiar refrain from the TV weathermen and we will be hearing more and more about tropical storms and hurricanes since we are now in the thick of their seasonal activity.  Despite the feeling that this month sometimes seems hotter than last, make no mistake about it, there are only twenty-two more days left of summer then the cooler, dryer weather will be upon us.

This month:

Expect more foliage than flowers from your plants.

Build raised beds if your garden plots tend to flood.

Start your vegetable seeds.

Enrich your plots with compost, manure and peat moss.

September also tends to be one of Florida's wettest months.  Because of this, lush growth can be expected from many of your plants, but flowers will not be so evident.  This is the month, however, when mangos, avocados and guavas ripen.  And now is the time to begin starting vegetable seeds throughout much of the state.  Make sure that you have enriched your gardening plots with peat, composted products, or animal manures before you put your seedlings out!  If your land tends to flood during the heavy seasonal rains, consider building raised beds and run your beds east and west to take advantage of the sunlight as we move into the winter season.

If you have a black thumb when it comes to starting seeds many garden centers and nurseries will have transplants available. If you do decide on trying to start seeds, make sure not to plant them too deeply -- follow the recommendations on the packet -- most seeds need only to be barely covered with soil to sprout successfully.  Additionally, be sure to water daily if for some reason the rains do not do it for you.

If you are a gardener who chooses to live in an area with zero lot lines, consider container gardening. Make sure to use big enough containers for large vegetables like peppers, tomatoes and squashes so they do not become pot-bound.  A four to five gallon sized container is usually what they require.

Mulch is also an important consideration this time of the year to help keep weeds in check, to help enrich the soil and to prevent the soil from drying out when we get into the dry season.

Pests are also of major concern when growing vegetables.  You may not see stink bugs, cabbage worms, tomato hornworms or big-legged bugs all year, but as soon as their favorite vegetables begin growing, they know it and will be in your garden before you know it.  Hand picking the insects may solve the problem, but if not, please read all the directions and take the proper precautions when applying pesticides for control.  Pesticides are, after all, poisons and they can take a toll on more than just the bad bugs in your garden.  Insecticides do not differentiate between good bugs, bad bugs, birds, fish, pets or you.  They can and will harm all of the above if not used with due care.

Poinsettias bloom when they enter a reproductive state when the nights are 12 hours long  or longer.   This reproductive state can be interrupted by even small light sources that shine on the plants when they are supposed to be in the dark of night.  If this reproductive state is interrupted the plants will not bloom.

If you are growing bougainvilleas this is the last month to prune them and only for the removal of awkward growth.  Do not water or feed them again until the early part of next summer.  If you do not follow this advice it may negatively effect flower production next season.


This is also the last time to prune poinsettias.  Poinsettia flower buds begin forming after the middle of October. If you desire a nice show for the holiday season, do not prune them after this month.  Because the best flowers on poinsettias are produced at the tips of healthy branches, encourage your plants to make as many branches as possible with judicious pruning.  Small, spindly plants will require more pruning than plants with large trunks and strong branches.

After pruning you may give your poinsettias a shot of general purpose fertilizer then some high potash fertilizer at the end of October.  When new foliage begins to show after pruning, watch out for hornworms which are fond of the new tender foliage.  Also be careful of where your poinsettias are planted as they rely on the shortening of the daylight they receive as a cue to begin budding.  Car lights, porch lights and street lights will throw this timing off.

Best bets for starting a traditional garden this month are:

Vegetables :  Beans, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Chinese Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Collards, Cucumbers, Eggplants, Escarole, Kale, Lettuce, Mustard, Onion Sets, Peas, Peppers, Radishes, Romaine, Rutabagas, Spinach, Squash, Strawberries, Sweet Corn, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes and Turnips.

Herbs:   Anise, Basil, Borage, Chevril, Marjoram, Parsley, Sesame and Thyme.

Flowers:   Asters, Baby's Breath, Bachelor's Buttons, Balsam, Calendulas, Candytufts, Carnations, Cosmos, Cockscombs, Daisies, Dianthus, Forget-Me-Nots, Gaillardias, Globe Amaranth, Hollyhocks, Lace Flowers, Lobelias, Lupines, Marigolds, Nasturtiums, Salvias, Scabiosa, Snapdragons, Statice, Stock, Strawflowers, Sweetpeas, Sweet William, Verbenas and Zinnias.

Sources: Florida Home Grown; Florida Gardening Month by Month


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