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,

Read the full April issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – March 2014

Hello, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Smartirrigation app imageIrrigation Advice from Your Smartphone — Have you ever wished you could get individualized information on watering your lawn sent straight to your phone? Well, there’s an app for that. The Smartirrigation Turf app allows you to input information about your lawn, such as location, soil type, and irrigation system, and gives irrigation suggestions based on local weather conditions. The app is easy to use; there’s even a step-by-step tutorial to get you started. The Smartirrigation Turf app is available for purchase from Google Play for Android users and from the iTunes store for iPhone users.

UF Insect ID Lab — With the warm weather coming back the bugs are becoming more noticeable. With so many species of insects, identification can be difficult. That’s where the UF Insect ID Lab can help. A host of experts are available to help Floridians identify any insect or related arthropod. If your mystery creature has six or more legs, the UF Insect ID Lab is the place to call.

CornPlant of the Month: Sweet Corn — Sweet corn is a favorite among home gardeners. As long as the space is available, it’s not difficult to grow. Look for sugary enhanced varieties. Sweet corn needs at least eight hours of sun per day, and should be planted in blocks of four or more rows for adequate pollination. Be sure to plant only one kind. Sweet corn is ready to harvest when the kernels are filled and tightly packed.

March in Your Garden – If you haven’t yet fertilized palms and ornamental shrubs, now is the time. Make sure you use a fertilizer that has at least 30 percent of its nitrogen as slow release.

Chinese wisteriaFriend or Foe? Foe: Wisteria — Wisteria is a perennial vine with wonderfully fragrant flowers, often lavender, that grow in clusters, similar to grapes. But the wisteria common throughout the Southeast is actually an invasive from China. Chinese wisteria grows so rapidly that it covers plants, shading out others and even killing trees. The best way to eliminate wisteria from your landscape is to cut the vines off as close the root as possible and “paint” the cut stem with herbicide. Wisteria can grow from seeds or rooted stolons, so be sure to properly dispose of your cut vines to prevent an infestation. Luckily, there are non-invasive alternatives.

Read the full March issue.

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UF Bee College Offering a Discount to Master Gardeners

UF Bee College 2014 LogoThe state’s biggest educational event for honey bee hobbyists, professionals and anyone interested in honey bees is back for a seventh year.

The University of Florida’s Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory has organized and hosted the Bee College since 2008. It will be held at the UF Whitney Marine Laboratory in Marineland, March 7-8, 2014.

The two-day event offers classes for all ages and experience levels, from novice to seasoned beekeeper. This year’s schedule includes more than 50 classes, and nearly half of the course material is new.

Special guest speakers include Dewey Caron, a 40-year veteran in apicultural research, extension and instruction, and Jim and Maryann Frazier of Penn State University. The entomologists are considered experts in honey bees, chemical ecology, pesticides and pest management.

The Junior Bee College, an all-day event on Saturday, March 8, is open to children ages 6 through 16; kids will learn everything from basic entomology and bee biology to practical beekeeping through hands-on, fun, interactive, games and lessons.

Bee College attendees have their choice of a minimum of five class options at any given time of the day. Courses cover everything from basics, such as setting up an apiary to more complicated topics, such as making beekeeping a business. Many classes are hands on and take participants into lab settings to detect honeybee diseases or teach participants the laws that govern honey bottling, labeling and sales in Florida.

Anyone can register, but Florida Master Gardeners are being offered a discount on two-day attendance at $150 (it’s $185 for anyone else, or $125 for just one day). Register by Tuesday, March 4 at

You can learn more about the UF Bee College at their website:

The Neighborhood Gardener – February 2014

Hello, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Fruit affected by citrus greeningCitrus Greening — It seems news agencies everywhere are discussing citrus greening and the effect it’s having on Florida’s citrus industry. While many people know that it’s ravaging citrus trees, there is some confusion as to what citrus greening actually is. Citrus greening, or huanglongbing (HLB), is caused by a bacterium that causes trees to deteriorate and eventually die. Learn more about this disease and what researchers are doing to fight it in our Citrus Greening FAQ.

An illustrated garden layoutPlan Your Garden — Spring is just around the corner and that means it’s time to start thinking about changes you might want to make to your landscape. Whether you’re interested in a complete redesign or simply making a few improvements, there are some important factors to consider before you start planting. Check out “10 Important Things to Consider when Planning your Landscape Design.” These tips will help you develop a plan and put you on the road to creating a beautiful home landscape.

Potted philodendronPlant of the Month: Heart-leaf Philodendron — If you’re looking for a fool-proof house plant, you couldn’t do much better than a heart-leaf philodendron. These easy-growing foliage plants thrive with indirect light and very little maintenance. They’re often grown in hanging baskets which allow the thin stems and heart-shaped leaves to beautifully spill out of their container. While philodendrons are easy to maintain, too much water or too little light can cause yellowing leaves, and too much fertilizer can cause the leaf tips of your plant to brown and curl.

February in Your Garden – February is a good time to plant bulbs like crinum and agapanthus. It’s also the perfect time for pruning roses to encourage new growth. Remove any dead, dying, or crossing branches, and shorten the mature canes by one-third to one-half.

Rose plant affected by virusFriend or Foe? Foe: Rose Rosette Virus — Rose rosette virus (RRV) has infected Knock Out® roses in three counties in Florida. Spread by a microscopic mite, RRV causes bizarre symptoms, including severe thorn proliferation, rapid elongation of branches, and unusual reddening of leaves. Plants infected with RRV usually die within one to two years. However, confirming the disease is difficult, as it is often confused with other ailments, such as herbicide damage.

Read the full February issue.

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Happy New Year! The Neighborhood Gardener – January 2014

Happy New Year, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

tree plantingJanuary 17 is Florida’s State Arbor Day — While National Arbor Day falls on the last Friday in April, many states observe their own Arbor Day depending on the best tree-planting times for the region. Florida celebrates Arbor Day on the third Friday of January, the 17th this year. You can celebrate Arbor Day by planting a young tree in your landscape or helping with tree plantings in your community. Trees can reduce home energy costs and raise the value of your property, while adding shade and visual interest to your landscape.

Charles ReynoldsOutstanding Master Gardener Nominee — Each year Master Gardeners from around the state are nominated to receive the Outstanding Master Gardener Award at the annual state conference. This award recognizes an individual who has made outstanding efforts in several Master Gardener projects and activities. The 2013 Outstanding Master Gardener Award went to Linda Krausnick of Marion County. There were a number of wonderful nominees this year, and this month we would like to focus on Charles Reynolds of Highlands County.

KalePlant of the Month: Kale — Kale is a dark-green leafy vegetable that can be grown during the winter months in Florida. It’s often referred to as a “superfood” because it’s rich in iron, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K. Kale (Brassica oleracea L.) can be started from seed anytime from September through January or February. Be sure to plant it in a sunny spot and water regularly. To ensure success, pick Florida-friendly varieties like ‘Vates Dwarf Blue Curled’, ‘Tuscan’, ‘Winterbor’, and ‘Redbor’.

January in Your Garden – January is the last month in most areas of the state to plant cool season crops like beets, broccoli, cabbage, and turnips. Now is also a great time to prune non-spring flowering shrubs and trees to improve their form.

Tea scale on leafFriend or Foe? Foe: Tea Scale — Tea scale is a major camellia and holly pest in Florida. It appears as a fuzzy whitish coating on the bottom of leaves and causes yellow speckling on top. Tea scale is a difficult pest to control due to its habit of primarily infesting the underside of leaves, making spray coverage difficult. You can manage the tea scale problems in your landscape with horticultural oil products or choose a systemic product for season long protection.

Read the full January issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – December 2013

Happy holidays, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

poinsettiaGifting Plants — Plants make great gifts with beauty that continues long after the holidays are over. Christmas cactus and poinsettias are popular holiday gift plants. Amaryllis, rosemary topiaries, and even ornamental peppers make for festive gifts as well. When selecting a plant, make sure it has healthy foliage and that no roots are coming out of the pot. If you are purchasing a flowering plant, try to select one that hasn’t fully bloomed yet. Of course, always be sure to include care instructions.

Natural arrangementHave Yourself a Florida-Friendly Christmas — Polk Master Gardener Molly Griner has lots of helpful tips for decorating your home and garden this holiday season using Florida-Friendly plants. Consider evergreens, dried/preserved plant materials, and color (fruits and blossoms) when planning your natural holiday decorations. Decorating with these materials is easy; don’t think of it as arranging so much as gathering. This will make your decorating less stressful and more fun!

Firethorn berriesPlant of the Month: Firethorn — To add a pop of color in your winter garden, try planting firethorn. This evergreen shrub is known for the colorful berries it produces in cooler weather. Firethorn (Pyracantha coccinea) can be grown as an espalier, used on slopes requiring little maintenance, or even as topiary. Just mind the thorns, which also make this plant an excellent barrier. It performs best in north and central parts of Florida and will thrive when planted in well-drained soil where it will receive full sun.

December in Your Garden – Inspect your houseplants regularly for pests. Keep in mind that specific temperature, light, and humidity are key to ensuring that indoor plants thrive. Before you throw away fallen leaves from your yard, consider using them as mulch in your garden or adding them to your compost bin. Fallen leaves are a great source of carbon, a necessary ingredient for successful composting.

A diamondback moth larvaFriend or Foe? Foe: Diamondback Moth — The larvae of the diamondback moth only chews on plants in the Brassicaceae family, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard, kale, and radish. Larvae start out small and colorless, quickly becoming green with small white patches. Their feeding results in irregular holes, where the leaf tissue has been removed except for the leaf veins. The easiest way to manage these pests is to scout for them frequently. When you see holes in leaves, search your plants for the larvae and pick them off and destroy them. This method is not only cheap and pesticide free, but also extremely effective.

Read the full December issue.

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

It’s Poinsettia Time! The UF Poinsettia Show and Sale, December 5th and 6th


The Florida Master Gardener program’s state office is located on the Gainesville campus of the University of Florida, so the annual Poinsettia Show and Sale always feels like the official start of the holiday season for us.

The 2013 Poinsettia Show and Sale
Thursday, December 5th
8am – 5:30pm

Friday, December 6th
8am – 3pm

At Fifield Hall on Hull Road, UF Campus

The Poinsettia Show and Sale is one of the biggest fundraisers for the UF Environmental Horticulture Club, and features over 30 varieties for sale, including traditional reds and novelties such as Shimmer Surprise, Orange Spice, Winter Rose, and Ice Punch. Dr. Jim Barrett and his research team hold their annual show at the same time. The poinsettia show displays 150 varieties (more than 6,000 plants) and is the largest of its kind in North America. Many of these are the newest and most novel poinsettias. The researchers conduct a consumer survey during the show to determine preferences of the public. They encourage all attendees to participate in this survey while visiting the sale.

Visit their website for more information:

Cinnamon Stick Poinsettia


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