Fall is finally starting to arrive in north Florida! The morning air is chilly. The humidity is gone, and we can open our windows to enjoy cool breezes. At Tree Hill Nature Center, our staff and volunteers welcome the change in weather as do our animals. It’s hard to imagine, but even the goats are more active! Tree Hill educators have the option of tweaking their programs to mention the autumn changes. As fall settles in we begin to turn our attention to planning the annual Joseph A. Strasser Butterfly Festival, which is our sole fundraiser.
Autumn in Florida takes longer to arrive than it does up north, but it’s worth the wait. The maples and the hickory change colors as do the dogwoods, sweet gums, and crepe myrtles. Exploring the trails at Tree Hill will give way to reds, oranges, and yellows before the leaves fall. Animals that can normally be found on the trails or by our boardwalk might be harder to spot. Cold-blooded reptiles, such as the box turtle or the northern pine snake, are starting to spend their days burrowed in leaf piles or under decomposing logs. However, birders will enjoy seeing some familiar favorites that have begun their migration south to enjoy temperate winters.
Many of the plants in our gardens flower and go to seed, laying the groundwork for new plants when spring comes around again. Another big change occurs in the garden, the Arlington Community Garden. Volunteers have planted some of the raised beds with cold weather crops, such as onions, collard greens, and turnip greens. Other raised beds are planted with a cover crop to help rest the intensely managed beds. The cover crop will eventually be turned under and allowed to turn into nutrient rich soil for the spring planting. Fall is a great time for gardening in north Florida, with lots of varieties thriving in the cooler temperatures. A wide variety of lettuces, kale, and cabbage can be planted as well as broccoli, beets, and carrots.
Looking for other ways to enjoy the fall weather?
- Visit the library for a cookbook and try a new soup or stew recipe.
- Rent a kayak and explore a Florida State Park.
- Buy some seeds and start a container garden.
- Become a member of Tree Hill Nature Center, and come out with a journal to record your observations. Visit often to see how the landscape changes during the year.