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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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

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 http://2014beecollege.eventbrite.com/.

You can learn more about the UF Bee College at their website: www.UFhoneybee.com.

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.

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

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