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The Neighborhood Gardener – October 2014

Happy October, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

bat houseBat Houses – Bats are an important part of Florida’s ecology. A single bat can eat thousands of insects each night. Unfortunately, bat populations are declining due to loss of habitat. You help address that loss with a bat house, providing these unique flying animals with a cozy place to roost and reproduce.

 

FFL houseFlorida-Friendly Really Does Save Water – New research has demonstrated that the claims that Florida-Friendly landscapes really do use less water than traditionally landscaped yards really do well, hold water. The analysis indicated that FFL homes used at least 50 percent less irrigation than homes with more traditional landscaping. You can read more about this research on the UF/IFAS IrriGator blog.

 

ghost plantPlant of the Month: Ghost Plant — Ghost plant is a cold-hardy succulent with pale gray or whitish leaves on sprawling stems. This low-maintenance plant will stand out in your landscape as an unusual groundcover, cascading down a container, or even as a houseplant. As with most succulents, when planting your ghost plant in a container, make sure the pot has drainage holes and use a well-drained potting media. Ghost plant is one of the easiest succulents to propagate, making it a great pass-along plant for friends and relatives.

October in Your Garden – Even though temperatures are still warm, begin planting for the cooler months ahead. Alyssum, dianthus, and petunia are good plants for the fall garden. Many vegetables that will produce through the winter can be planted now like beets, carrots, and onions.

batFriend or Foe? Friend: Bats — Bats get a bad reputation—after all, they dart about silently through the night and hang out in small, dark places. But these amazing little creatures—the only mammals capable of true flight—are an incredibly important part of Florida’s ecology. All resident bats in Florida eat insects, although a few species that eat fruit, nectar, or pollen show up in South Florida occasionally. Many bat species eat human or agricultural pests.

Read the full October issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – September 2014

Happy September, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

rosemaryFall Herbs – Fall is right around the corner and this is a great time to plant an herb garden. There are many perennial herbs that can be started this time of year, including the ever-popular rosemary, sage, and thyme. There are also some great annual herbs that can be planted now, like cilantro and parsley.

 

Layering techniquePlant Propagation – There are many different ways to make new plants, and the best method will vary depending on the plant you are propagating. Air layering, cuttings, and plant division are different ways that you can take a plant you like in your garden (or a friend’s) and grow more.

 

red salviaPlant of the Month: Salvias — Salvias are great plants for bringing butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden and as a bonus, they have no serious pests. With hundreds of annual and perennial species coming in an array of colors and sizes, you can easily find one or more to complement your landscape. Most salvias perform best in full to partial sun, prefer well-drained soil, and are considered relatively drought tolerant.

September in Your Garden – Divide and replant perennials and bulbs that have grown too large or need rejuvenation. Add organic matter to planting beds and monitor water needs during establishment. Refresh flower beds with celosia or wax begonias for fall color.

Cuban treefrogFriend or Foe? Foe: Cuban Treefrog — Cuban treefrogs likely came to Florida as stowaways in shipping crates from the Caribbean. These frogs are considered an invasive species in Florida and have been observed eating native treefrogs. You can do your part by reporting, capturing, and humanely euthanizing these invasive jumpers. A good way to tell the difference between Cuban treefrogs and our natives is by size—native treefrogs will usually not be longer than 2.5 inches. When in doubt, take a picture of the frog in question and email it to the UF Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation for identification.

Read the full September issue.

Or subscribe today, and receive it directly by e-mail.

The Neighborhood Gardener – August 2014

Happy August, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

seedlingsPlanning Your Fall Garden – The oppressive heat of August can make getting out in the garden difficult. All that extra time indoors gives you a great chance to plan your fall garden. If you’re planting an autumn vegetable garden, think about what you like to eat when you are planning. A soil test is always a good idea too. Willing to brave the heat? There are some vegetables you can plant in August—see the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide for planting dates.

Mosquito Control – We’re seeing a number of cases of mosquito-borne diseases throughout Florida this summer. With wet weather and warm temperatures these sucking bugs flourish. Vigilance in your landscape can help cut down on the places mosquitoes breed. And remember, an FDA approved insect repellant containing DEET is the best way to keep mosquitoes off your body. Get more tips from this UF/IFAS infographic, “Essential Mosquito Control Tips for Homeowners.”

IrisPlant of the Month: Walking Iris — Walking iris (Neomarica sp.) is a clumping perennial with long, glossy leaves and small, iris-like flowers. The flower color will vary depending on the species; they can be white, yellow, or blue-purple. The plant is suited to Zones 9 through 11. It can be grown in the northern parts of the state; just note that it will likely freeze to the ground, returning in the spring. Walking iris can be grown in full or partial shade, can tolerate a range of soil types, and will thrive in moist locations.

August in Your Garden – Check older fronds of palms for yellowing as this may indicate a magnesium or potassium deficiency. If your palm has a deficiency, apply an appropriate palm fertilizer.

kudzuFriend or Foe? Foe: Kudzu — While kudzu may seem as Southern as Georgia peaches or Florida oranges, this invasive vine was actually introduced to the United States from Asia. Today kudzu covers about two million acres in the South and has been found throughout Florida. Removal can take time for full eradication, but it is possible to remove this choking vine and take back your landscape.

Read the full August issue.

Or subscribe today, and receive it directly by e-mail.

The Neighborhood Gardener – July 2014

Happy July, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

EPA graphic about stormwaterStormwater Runoff – Summer marks the beginning of Florida’s rainy season, which means lots of water could be running through your landscape. While it’s great for most plants, the rainwater running off your landscape is not so great for our water supply. What most people don’t realize is that water running through storm drains doesn’t go to a treatment facility like the wastewater from homes does. There are a number of things you can do to keep water in your landscape and ensure that the runoff that does leave is as clean as possible.

New Gardening Web Tools from UF/IFAS – Gardening decisions are now easier with the release of new mobile web tools from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The Florida-Friendly Landscaping Plant Guide is a web-based mobile application with information on more than 400 plants, and Landscape Pests lets users identify pests by plant or damage symptoms.

Purple evergreen wisteria flowersPlant of the Month: Evergreen Wisteria — Evergreen wisteria is not only a beautiful vine, it’s also an excellent alternative to the more commonly seen Chinese wisteria, which is invasive. Sometimes called summer wisteria, this plant thrives in USDA zones 8 to 10 and will grow best in areas with full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. It will adapt to most soil pHs and can grow in any soil type, so long as it is well drained.

July in Your Garden – Use summer heat to solarize the vegetable garden for fall planting. It takes 4–6 weeks to kill weeds, disease, and nematodes, so start now.

infested sagoFriend or Foe? Foe: Asian Cycad Scale — The Asian cycad scale put a major dent in the sago population throughout Florida, but the problem is seeing something of a decline. The damage from these tiny sucking insects initially appears as yellow or bleached-looking spots, eventually making the leaves brown and crispy. But the introduction of two beneficial predators, along with use of horticultural oils, is slowly making a difference.

Read the full July issue.

Or subscribe today, and receive it directly by e-mail.

The Neighborhood Gardener – June 2014

Happy June, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Soil Solarization – Looking for a way to manage soil pests in your vegetable garden without using chemicals? Try soil solarization. With soil solarization, a sheet of plastic is used to cover the soil surface, trapping the heat and allowing the soil to reach temperatures that are lethal to many pests and weeds. When done effectively, soil solarization can reduce pest populations for three to four months, and in some cases even longer.

Crapemyrtle in church gardenTurning Sand into a Sacred Garden in Polk County — Even before she became a Master Gardener in Polk County, Molly Griner was working on gardens. Her church, Hope Presbyterian in Winter Haven was located on the site of a former orange grove, its “landscape” mostly sandy soil and grass. Through Molly’s efforts, it has been turned into a Florida-Friendly garden for church-goers and community visitors to meditate or pray while surrounded by nature.

pink crinum flowerPlant of the Month: Crinums — Crinum lilies are a hallmark of Southern gardens and have been cherished and cultivated by Florida gardeners for years. They’re known for their easygoing nature, growing for years on old home sites or cemeteries with little or no care. Plant your crinum bulbs up to their necks in partial shade for best results. They are equally at home in dry sandy soils and on moist pond banks.

June in Your Garden – Summer flowering shrubs like hibiscus, oleander, and crapemyrtle bloom on new growth; lightly prune often during warmer months to keep them blooming and looking sharp.

beetleFriend or Foe? Friend: Air Potato Leaf Beetle — While many people know about the invasive air potato vine, few are aware of air potato leaf beetles. Native to Asia, these beetles feed and develop only on air potato plants, posing no risk to other plant species. In 2012, air potato leaf beetles were released in Florida as a potential biological control of the aggressive air potato vine. Within three months of their release, extensive damage to air potato plants was observed at the initial release sites.

Read the full June issue.

Or subscribe today, and receive it directly by e-mail.

The Neighborhood Gardener – May 2014

Happy May, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

ZinniasSummer Annuals – Even during the oppressive heat of summer, your Florida landscape can still be home to colorful annuals. If you like plants with cool-colored blooms, try torenia, also called the wishbone flower. Zinnias come in an array of colors and are great cut flowers. If you’re looking for colorful foliage, try coleus or caladium. Learn more about annuals—and perennials—for the summer in “Summer Bedding Plants.”

Junior Master Fun in Hillsborough — Students at LaVoy Exceptional Center recently participated in a Junior Master Gardener activity that coupled education, creativity, and fun. With help from Hillsborough County Master Gardener Lesley Fleming, students created sombreros using newspaper and then decorated them with paints and ribbons. The activity comes from the Junior Master Gardener curriculum and teaches students about recycling and sun protection.

Gerbera daisyPlant of the Month: Gerbera Daisy — Unlike the rest of the country, Florida gardeners can enjoy Gerbera daisies throughout the year. Native to South Africa, these plants have long-lasting flowers that come in many colors. Gerbera daisies do well in containers and flower beds that receive morning sun. In areas where prolonged freezes are likely, they should be treated as annuals or over-wintered indoors.

May in Your Garden – Harmful insects become more active as the weather warms; keep an eye out for pests in the garden to stay ahead of potential infestations. Plant heat-loving herbs like basil, Mexican tarragon, and rosemary.

Mimosa flowersFriend or Foe? Foe: Mimosa Tree — Commonly known as the mimosa tree or silk tree, Albizia julibrissin has long been popular in the landscape for its fragrant pink flowers and feathery, fern-like foliage. However, this tree has a bad habit of taking over native Florida landscapes. The mimosa tree is considered an invasive plant and not recommended for any use by the IFAS Assessment. If you want something that looks similar to mimosa without the invasive qualities, try sweet acacia, red bottlebrush, or dwarf powderpuff.

Read the full May issue.

Or subscribe today, and receive it directly by e-mail.

The Neighborhood Gardener – April 2014

Hello, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

PodocarpusPlant a Tree, Save Energy – Earth Day is April 22 and celebrations to demonstrate support for environmental protection are taking place throughout the state. One way to observe Earth Day is by reducing household energy use, which in turn can save you money. Strategically planted trees, shrubs, and even vines in the landscape create shade to cool your home, helping your AC unit run more efficiently, and even less often. Trees also cool outdoor spaces for you and your family to enjoy all summer. For more information on using landscape plants to cool your home more efficiently, read Planting Trees for Energy Savings on Gardening Solutions.

stepping stonesWalkways in the Landscape — At its most basic, a path directs visitors through your garden, keeps your feet dry, and reduces soil compaction to the rest of your landscape. However, your walkway can serve more than these utilitarian purposes; it can be a place of relaxation with the addition of seating and other design elements. And walkways can be made with a variety of materials including gravel, pavers, or mulch. With some planning and imagination you can create the perfect walkway for your home landscape.

Spanish bayonetPlant of the Month: Spanish Bayonet — Spanish bayonet is a great accent plant for the Florida landscape. With its dramatic flower spikes and sharp, pointed foliage, this plant is sure to grab attention. Its leaves have been known to pierce through even thick clothing, so select a planting location away from walkways. Spanish bayonet has a high salt tolerance, making it a excellent choice for coastal gardens, and requires little maintenance; it’s highly drought tolerant and once established, requires almost no supplemental irrigation.

April in Your Garden – With temperatures on the rise, be on the lookout for garden pests; monitoring insect activity can help you to catch any potential problems before they get out of hand. Gardeners in north and central Florida can plant coleus, while those in south Florida should plant vinca, portulaca, and other heat-tolerant annuals.

Hover flyFriend or Foe? Friend: Hover Fly — Hover flies are abundant year-round in south Florida and common throughout the rest of the state during spring and summer. Often mistaken for harmful fruit flies, these colorful little flies are actually beneficial; mature hover flies are pollinators and their larvae are important aphid predators. When hover fly larval populations are high, they may be able to control 70 to 100 percent of aphid populations. (Image: Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org)

Read the full April issue.

Or subscribe today, and receive it directly by e-mail.

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