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Gainesville, FL 32605

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October in the Southern Garden

The word October comes from the Latin "octo," meaning "eighth." After the Romans changed it to the tenth month, many notables -- including two emperors -- tried unsuccessfully to correct its name.

Calendula -- the October flower -- received its Latin name because it bloomed in the "Calends" or the early part of each month. Calendula means "little-first-day-of-the-month" and indeed it does bloom well throughout the year if protected from extreme cold.

The Calendula has been called the Marigold for centuries. In ancient times it enjoyed many names: "Yolk of Egg," "Shining Herb," and "Gold Flower." European monks gave this gold flower the prefix "Mary" because all bright and beautiful things were associated with her. The flower was dedicated to her and in England was called "Mary's Gold." With the passage of time, the pronunciation is the now-familiar "Marigold."

This flower has a long history of cultivation as an ornamental and seasoning herb -- flavoring soups, stews or drinks. Its blooms may be pickled, candied or even made into wine. During our civil war, great quantities of Marigolds were used to treat wounds. A hardy annual, it's easy to grow -- blooming early and long.

If you haven't started your vegetable garden, it's not too late to begin a tasty selection of cold-hardy varieties. Each word a story yet to be told: Beet, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrot, Cauliflower, Celery, Chinese Cabbage, Collards, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Mustard, Onion, Leek, English Pea, Radish, Rutabaga, Spinach, Strawberry and Turnip can all be planted now.

Small amounts of fertilizer can be applied when planting and as a side-dressing as the plants grow. Over the years, I've applied generous amounts of grass clippings, leaves, rotted hay, horse manure, and peat moss to my garden. As a consequence, I don't need chemical fertilizers. I have thousands of living, solar-powered tractor/fertilizers eating the raw materials of the above mulches and excreting the amplified nutrients that the vegetables need. I'm referring to earthworms. They are just the most visible of the myriad soil-life forms that work for free if we give them something to chew on. An organic gardener needs a good sense of humus.

Many herbs can be planted now: Dill, Rosemary, Sage, Sweet Fennel, Sweet Marjoram and Thyme. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, 4625 SW 63 Blvd. (North off Archer Road) has one of the best herb gardens in the south and often has starter plants for sale. Phone: 372-4981.

If you want flowers in your landscape, plant Begonia, Pansy, Petunia, Phlox, Shasta Daisy, Snapdragon, Statice and Verbena. Pentas and Shrimp Plant will bloom nearly all year long and will attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

A great variety of flowering bulbs may be planted now for beauty later: Amaryllis, Calla, Easter Lily and dozens of others. Prepare the soil with generous amounts of well-composted organic matter.

For a green lawn all winter -- overseed with Annual Rye Grass. Use five to fifteen pounds per one-hundred square feet. Water for a few hours or so each day (early or late) to germinate the seed.

If some of your outdoor plants are attractive to aphids or other sap-sucking insects, they can be controlled safely with a spray of one ounce liquid detergent to one gallon of water. I leave pest control to the many varieties of predators that share my habitat: birds, frogs, toads, lizards, wasps, spiders, preying mantids and innumerable, nearly invisible soil-dwelling allies. Besides healthy plants are less attractive to pests and disease. The same is true for people -- and we're not that different.

Any time of year is fine for planting trees and shrubs that were grown in containers. Wait until December and colder weather to transplant those already growing in the ground.

For more detail on landscape and garden care, visit our County Agricultural Extension Office: 2800 NE 39 Avenue. Phone: 955-2402. They have many free bulletins and educational programs.

Enjoy October to the fullest.



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