By Master Gardener Volunteer Lesley Arrandale

It’s been dry again in my neighborhood, but we’re not subject to flash floods or other unpredictable weather events, and for that I’m grateful. I do have some relatively new shrubs and a young tree, which is why I need to pay attention to rainfall. Autumn is a good time of year to plant trees and woody plants, as it gives them the chance to establish their root systems over the cooler months; however, it’s wise to wait until the dry season is over. When you decide to plant, make sure to pay attention to rainfall amounts and take care to water new plants adequately. These websites are particularly useful: and

Hardy perennials that have been established for a few years can still be dug up and divided before winter. Each division makes a new plant at no cost, which is much appreciated! For more information, see

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I recently drove to Gainesville and really enjoyed the roadside attractions, which for me are the wildflowers that grace the hedgerows and ditches along the highway. From late September into October there are plenty of fall-blooming sunflowers and coreopsis — those yellow daisy flowers — and tall clumps of frothy goldenrods. With a little more time to look, I would have expected to see lavender colored asters, threading their long stems up through shrubs. The deciduous trees along the way had dull foliage, a prelude to them dropping. Maple leaves were beginning to turn to their fall red color. It was a lovely time to see the countryside on the cusp of seasonal change.

I have plenty of seeds on the goldenrod (Solidago sp.), ironweed (Vernonia sp.), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and wandflower (Liatris sp.) in my own front garden bed, which I expect will sow themselves around. I won’t leave them all on the plants; some will be left for the birds to eat, and I’ll sow some in small pots to overwinter in a sheltered position. The flower bed was only planted up in early summer and I’m really looking forward to seeing how it matures and changes through the seasons. 

If you like strawberries, you have just enough time to plant them now. If you don’t have space for a bed, they grow well in large containers. For more information, see

I’m trying again to grow some methi greens which are used in Indian cuisine. Hopefully I’ll do better than in the spring, when nothing came up. Fingers crossed. Talk to any gardener who grows vegetables, however seasoned they are, and you’ll find similar stories. One season the okra was beautiful and the following year it did badly. The squash vine borer was a demon this year, destroying every plant, but last year there was enough zucchini to share with neighbors. The moral is: don’t give up, and learn from your successes and failures. For sound advice, refer to The Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide (

Rotating crops to different areas of your garden will help to minimize pests and diseases returning to damage the same crop. Tackle any problems with the most benign products and methods and use flowering plants to attract a wide range of insects to your yard. Ladybugs are a great helper, devouring aphids in both larval and adult stages, as are tiny parasitoid wasps, which are totally harmless to us.

I love to see insects in my yard. I can’t always identify them, but most insect life in the garden is beneficial, and with insects declining around the globe we should cherish them. But no one would blame you for simply aiming to attract the beautiful creatures. Just know that where the butterflies and hummingbirds feed, all sorts of other insects will feed there too. Each species has its own ecological niche and brings balance to the life in our yards, which can only help in our gardening ventures.

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