The Neighborhood Gardener – October

Webmaster Jennifer never tires of this photo of a wall of golden swamp sunflowers in October

safesubscribe logo


Open palm of hand holding three red coffee fruits and three pale tan coffee seedsAlthough coffee is typically grown in tropical regions with high elevation, it can also be grown in the southernmost parts of Florida. The small trees feature tiny fragrant flowers, shiny green foliage, and of course, the red fruits from which we process coffee beans. This new article from Gardening Solutions has instructions on planting coffee and how to harvest and prepare the beans.
(Photo of coffee fruits and seeds courtesy of Natasha Atlas)


A glass bottle of honey colored liquid soap made from soapberryLooking to add more functional ornamentals to your landscape? Soapberry is an attractive tree that also supplies fruits for making soap. We have two species that will thrive in Florida, but both trees produce berries that can be turned into dish soap, laundry detergent, shampoo, and more. This new article on soapberry has growing advice and includes a video tutorial on making the soap.

Keystone Plants

Naturally shaped slate pavers spaced far enough apart for grass to grow in betweenWe all know that native plants are a valuable addition to the landscape. However, there is a certain category of native plants that is most crucial: keystone plants. By incorporating keystone plants into your landscape, you can do your part in sustaining our declining insect and bird populations. Learn why keystone plants are so important in a new article from UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions.
(Photo: Coastal plain willow is a larval host plant for several butterflies.)

Wendy's Wanderings

Wendy WilberMy neighborhood is going crazy with fall decorations and I am inspired by their creativity. There are displays of pumpkins, skeletons, witches, and ghosts. It got me thinking about the real ghosts you might encounter in Florida. Not the spooky kind — the botanical kind. But you will have to get out your hiking shoes and have a little luck to see a couple of them. Ready to get spooky? Read on for Wendy's ghost story.

Plant of the Month: Coral Bean

A spike of red tubular flowersNative coral bean adds interest to the landscape from spring through fall. Vibrant red flowers are followed by black seed pods that crack open to reveal striking crimson seeds. If you’re hoping to attract hummingbirds to your yard, this is the plant for you. Coral bean can be planted in zones 8 through 11. As for the seeds, they're very pretty — and very poisonous, so be sure to keep them away from kids and pets. Learn more about Erythrina herbacea.

Shampoo Ginger

Pinecone-shaped red showy bracts of shampoo gingerShampoo ginger brings a tropical flair to the landscape and can be used in the shower. The foliage resembles other ornamental gingers, but in the spring, the flowers appear within bracts that resemble red pine cones. As the name implies, squeezing these cones causes them to release a clear liquid that can be used as shampoo! It thrives in zones 9 through 11 and will die back in the winter. Lather up and learn more about Zingiber zerumbet.

October in Your Garden

Big red strawberryIt's truly, finally gardening season in Florida. October is the month for planting cool-loving annuals like dianthus, impatiens, and pansies. It's also a great month for planting vegetables like beets, broccoli, leafy greens, and radish. And don't forget the strawberries—this is Florida's short window for planting.

For more month-by-month gardening tips, check out the Florida Gardening Calendar. Three different editions of the calendar provide specific tips for each of Florida's gardening regions—North, Central, and South.

What's Going On?

If your Master Gardener Volunteer program or Extension office is having an event, be sure to share it with us.