October 21, 2020

Fall Fertilizing in Florida

By Amanda Rose Newton

The ban on fertilizer in Brevard county ends at the beginning of October. Now that the rainy season it is over (although, the recent weather has us all fooled), you may be wondering what plants, if any, need fertilizing in your yard.

Luckily, the answer is straightforward, you want to fertilize what is actively growing NOW.

Remember, it takes energy and additional stress for a plant to work to take up fertilizer and nutrients from the soil and plants are less likely to get the most out of a fertilizer addition when it is slowing down for the season. In order to make sure your money and time invested are well spent, be sure to apply fertilizer only to plants that will still be active throughout the cooler months to come.

October in Florida –What’s Growing?

The short answer is most plants! The sweltering heat of summer is backing down, allowing for many plants, like us, to be in a much more comfortable state.

However, December and January are just around the corner, when growth typically slows down. Keep that in mind when planning out your applications.

Herbs and Vegetables

Fall is the best time of the year for growing many small fruits, vegetables, and herbs. If you are starting with a raised bed or using compost, you may find that you do not need to fertilize at all.

If you do feel your seedlings could use a nutritional boost, consider using an organic solution such as Espoma Gardentone. Since organics take much longer to break down, you can apply this once and be good for 3 months, reducing your costs and time spent.

Have compost tea (see our post on vermicomposting for the how and why of this awesome nutritional powerhouse for plants)? Throw that on as an excellent fertilizing solution. Maxicrop Liquid Seaweed is a vegetable garden’s best friend, and with winter coming soon, you will be happy to hear that research suggests it can raise the cold tolerance of plants by several degrees, depending on crop type.

Fruit Trees

Many fruit trees are getting ready to head into prime time, including our beloved Florida citrus! Get your trees in great shape for the cooler months by adding Espoma Citrus-tone, in which one application will have you covered for several months.

We also recommend adding Maxicrop Citrus Micro nutritional spray, partnered with Genysis and Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew to your citrus care routine, to add in extra needed vitamins and minerals as well as keep the leaf miner citrus moth pests at bay.

What would a Florida yard be without a tropical fruit tree? If you are the proud owner of mango, avocado, starfruit, jackfruit, or banana, you can go ahead and use Espoma Citrus-tone on those as well. Just as above, you can expect to need to fertilize less by using an organic fertilizer.
Once again, Maxicrop liquid seaweed can be used on pretty much everything you grow with the added benefit of being safe and lagoon friendly.

Trees and Shrubs

Now I am going to let you in on a secret: pretty much every nonfruiting plant in your yard can be fertilized with Espoma Hollytone.

Hollys, Gardenias, and Azaleas are famous for needing acidic soil in order to be at their best. Our soil here in Florida is jokingly referred to as sand with some soil in it, and that makes it more on the alkaline side than the acidic side.

Most plants like to be around 5-7 on the pH scale, which most of our soil is not hitting. Therefore, the majority of the plants in your landscape will not be upset by a little extra acid, particularly in a safe organic form and Holly-tone can help.


Turfgrass is one of the biggest offenders for nonpoint pollution of excess nutrients in our waterways. For that reason, we have our important fertilizer ban in place through the rainy season, where much of the excess nutrients are leached into our lagoon.

During the drier portion of the year, turfgrass requires some inputs to get into neighbor envy shape.

Follow these tips to stay environmentally friendly while still achieving a healthy, green lawn:

Have your soil tested. This will let you know right off the bat if you need to be fertilizing at all. If your turfgrass shows an adequate level of phosphorous, you do not need to add it. Choose an environmentally friendly option that has a “0” for the middle number on the front of the bag, like Epsoma Organic Lawn Food.

Apply at the correct time. You only want to apply fertilizer when your grass is actively growing. Even here in Florida, grass will slow down (even go dormant) in the Winter months. You likely will not need to fertilize as often during that time. If rain is in the forecast, you also want to avoid fertilizing as the chances of it leaching off with the excess rainwater is much higher.

Use the correct amount. Make sure you use the recommended amount on the package you buy. As a general rule, you do not want to apply more than 1 pound of Nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

If doing the math makes you want to break into a cold sweat, play it safe and choose a slow-release fertilizer, which will take much longer to get to work, but will provide the same level of nutrition in a safer form.

Watch out for weed and feeds. These can do more harm than good, especially if your landscape planting roots extend into your lawn. Liquid nitrogen fertilizers are also not recommended as the chance of burning your grass rises significantly with use.

Watch the Water. Overwatering is just as common in the cooler months and it can be hard to get the irrigation right. For best results, apply at the early morning hours so the blades have time to dry during the day. You want to apply enough water to get to those roots, to encourage deeper development. In Winter, you will need to water less. This means perhaps every 10-14 days instead of every few days like in the prime of Summer.

Fertilizing properly helps keep your plants vigorous which in turn helps deter pests and disease while encouraging flower and fruit production. Visit our composting blog series (here and here) on how to create your own natural fertilizer and take care to use slow release, environmentally friendly options to keep your lawn green and your plants happy.