Since my flower garden looks it’s been squashed, can you recommend some ways I can help it spruce up again for fall?


A lot of things did get trampled by Hurricane Irma. Annuals and perennials are usually not very stout stemmed. They got knocked flat by the constant rains we had for three days before the hurricane even got here and then the high winds that came with the hurricane. But the days are shorter and we can feel that fall is really coming. The plants have known it all along –the days started getting shorter in June but it was so hot we didn’t even notice. But now it’s time to let the garden show its fall colors.

If your plants are due for fertilizer, we are nearing the end of the season when we can fertilize most plants. You can still use fertilizers, but let’s be quick about it. By November, plants will need to be settling into a state of dormancy. Right now, they might need a little encouragement! This is especially critical if you are using a slow-release fertilizer you only apply every three months. In November, it will only just barely be running out!

It’s also about the last time to do a last nip and tuck with the clippers. You’ll find you have some broken stems and those do have to be snipped off. You may find flower stems need a little support after being blown this way and that, even if they usually stand strong.

The longer, cooler nights open all sorts of possibilities for the gardener. Rose bushes will soon rebound and produce larger blooms after being stressed by the heat.

It is an excellent time to install marigolds of all different shades. Although the double-flowered blooms will get broken if we have heavy rains, simply snip off the flowers and wait for the next bloom. They are already painted for Halloween and Thanksgiving.

The slightly more temperamental chrysanthemums will be out shortly to decorate your front door for Thanksgiving in shades of fall. But don’t wait that long. Zinnias have been blooming all summer in sizzling shades of red, orange and yellow. Wax begonias tolerate our cool fall weather and can still add color in areas where things have been wiped out by the storms. Ageratum will be on the fall shelves any day now and the cool blue tones will just glow with the yellows and oranges of the season.

For those with larger areas, please consider blue plumbago, which blooms dependably all season long in a powder blue shade we don’t often see in the garden. Plus, it hosts butterflies. Or try the dwarf Hamelia patens called firebush. Its tubular flowers are favorites of bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Soon to come into bloom are the cassia or senna family of plants with their striking yellow blooms. They are also hosts to the yellow sulfur butterflies.

While I was cleaning up for the hurricane, I found a pot I would like to use to make a herb pot for a friend. Can you suggest some herbs that might be happy in it?

Herbs are coming into their happiest season here, at least in my opinion. They aren’t all that thrilled with the heat and humidity, so as soon as all that is over with and we move on to the drier, cooler weather, things improve for them.

You are thinking of cooking herbs, although the world of herbs is so deep and wide it could have meant medicinal herbs, or herbs for fragrance or I guess a few other directions.

So let’s assume you want cooking herbs for a clay pot that is 12 inches wide by 6 inches deep. A good herb mix is ⅓ peat moss, ⅓ sand, and ⅓ perlite. It will drain well, which is critical to the health of the plants. And you are going to prepare it for a sunny spot. Then you can select according to your friend’s taste: Golden lemon thyme, oregano, rosemary, curled parsley, chives.

You probably only want to select 3-5 plants. A little gravel on top helps retain the soil. What a lovely gift!

When I checked my citrus trees, I noticed that on one of my oranges the fruit was all brown spotted on the bottom half of the fruit. Are they ruined?

No, not at all. This spotting is the result of a mite that took advantage of the softness of the young fruit last spring. In the dry hot spring weather, spider mites breed rapidly and feed by piercing and sucking out juices from tender young fruit. As the fruit gets larger it is too tough for the mites and they die off.

The fruit will be fine, no damage done. The scarring on the peel isn’t of much consequence. Next year, make a point oif forcefully hosing off your fruit twice a week to blast off the mites in the spring. If you do that, no pesticide will be necessary.

Becky Wern is a master gardener with the Duval County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.