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The Neighborhood Gardener – July 2018

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Orange-red tubular flowers of firebushFloral Fire – Florida gardens are certainly full of heat in July; and that inspired us to discuss some of the “fiery” flowers that flourish in Florida landscapes. Firebush, firecracker plant, firespike, and firethorn — they all have fire in the name but each bring something different to your garden.

Bright red peppers hanging from plantHot Peppers for Hot Weather – The heat is rising outside and for some, a little heat in your foods and beverages can offer relief from the rising mercury outdoors. Pepper heat is not the same between different varieties; from the heat-free bell peppers to the world’s third-hottest pepper, the bhut jolokia, there is surely a pepper for any taste. We list some of the peppers that grow well in Florida by heat.

Rectangles of sheet metal laid on a lawn at interesting angles to serve as a walkwayModern Landscape Design — A modern design aesthetic appeals to those who favor clean lines, open spaces, and repetition of a few choice plants. We have a few suggestions to help make your modern landscape look magnificent.

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — It is nearly impossible to keep up with the landscaping chores during this year’s rainy season. You can sneak out to prune plants or dump the rain gauge, but keeping up with the mega lawn is nearly impossible. Just when you have it mowed to the proper height, four days later it is almost ready to mow again, and it’s raining when you try, so you just wait another day.

Close view of deep green fern frondsPlant of the Month: Australian Tree Fern — Also known in its native country as the lacy tree fern because of its delicate fronds, the Australian tree fern is a tropical giant whose trunk can reach a height of 15 or even 30 feet. The long, large leaves form a handsome canopy and give a tropical feel to the landscape. Australian tree fern grows best in areas with high humidity and very warm temperatures. In South and Central Florida, it can be grown outside; farther north it should be grown in an area where it is protected from the cold.

A gray and white mottled moth on green leavesSphingidae Moths — Moths often don’t receive the same love as their day-time counterparts, butterflies. But the number of moth species world-wide far outnumbers the number of butterfly species. Some of the largest moths belong to the Sphingid family. While some are considered to be beneficial pollinators, their larval stage of caterpillars can be a destructive garden pest. Learn more about these large and interesting moths.
(Tetrio sphinx moth photo: William M. Ciesla, Forest Health Management International, Bugwood.org)

Delicate red flower of royal poinciana treeJuly in Your Garden — While it may be too hot to start herbs from seed in your garden, some like oregano and mint will do well when started from small plants. Some bulbs can be planted now as well, including butterfly lily, gladiolus, and society garlic. Some municipalities prohibit the application of fertilizer to lawns and/or landscape plants during the summer rainy season. See if such an ordinance exists in your area.

Read the full July issue.

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

Plant of the Month: Australian Tree Fern

July’s featured plant is the Australian tree fern:

A shrub sized green fern outside a campus building

This Australian tree fern is growing outside one of the UF campus buildings in Gainesville.

Also known in its native country as the lacy tree fern because of its delicate fronds, the Australian tree fern is a tropical giant whose trunk can reach a height of 15 or even 30 feet. The long, large leaves form a handsome canopy and give a tropical feel to the landscape.

Other than an occasional irrigation during dry times and the removal of spent, lower fronds, Australian tree fern should be regarded as a low-maintenance plant worth a place in Florida landscapes.

Read the full article at UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions.

Happy July 4th, gardeners!

From all of us at the UF/IFAS Florida Master Gardener program,  a happy Independence Day to all the gardeners in the USA.

Let’s celebrate with a firecracker…plant!

Red tubular flowers of the firecracker plant. Photo by John Tann.

Firecracker plant attracts hummingbirds and butterflies with a profusion of red, tubular flowers. Its narrow, soft leaves give it a fine texture in the landscape, making it a great contrast to broad-leaf plants.

Read more about firecracker plant at UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions.

Mosquito Control and Bees

Honey bee on orange blossomThere are some bugs you just don’t want around, like mosquitoes. Mosquito control protects the public from disease outbreaks, reduces nuisance mosquitoes, and protects Florida’s economy.

But then there are the bugs you do want around, like bees. It’s no exaggeration to say that almost everyone who eats food benefits from the honey bee. A common estimate is that one in three U.S. crops is pollinated by bees, but in Florida the ratio is three out of four.

So, how do mosquito control efforts affect our honey bees? The UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education (PIE Center) addresses that in a new campaign to educate Floridians on mosquito control:

While insecticides used on mosquitoes can kill bees outside of their hives, treatment that is applied before dawn or after dusk can reduce impact because bees are usually inside their hives. However, it is not always appropriate to treat before dawn or after dusk for certain mosquito species. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studies show that honey production between hives in treated and untreated sites did not show significantly different quantities of honey over the course of a season. Beekeepers and concerned citizens should work with their local mosquito control program to determine when and where they treat for mosquitoes.

They’ve created a very helpful fact sheet that you can download and print:
http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/mosquito_control_bee_impact_piecenter.pdf

Impact of Mosquito Control on Honey Bees

An infographic with some of the information from the PIE Center’s fact sheet titled, “Impact of Mosquito Control on Honey Bees,” in an illustrated format.

And you can read more about honey bees in Florida in this excellent article written for UF/IFAS Extension Bug Week 2018.

Friday Flowers: Hairy Leafcup

Take a walk in natural areas of North Central Florida or the panhandle, and you might find these bright yellow flowers “staring” right back at you. Hairy leafcup (Smallanthus uvedalia) is in the daisy family. This native wildflower has deeply lobed leaves, which gave it another common name, bear’s foot. It typically blooms in summer and attracts a variety of bees and other pollinators. It can get quite large, as tall as ten feet, but dies back in the winter. In the early 1900s, a tincture was made from the plant’s roots and used to treat rheumatism and in hair tonics. It’s not terribly common, so count yourself lucky if you spot it.

 

 

 

Prevent & Protect

It’s summer, and in Florida that means mosquitoes. The American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) has declared June 24 – June 30 as National Mosquito Control Awareness Week, which makes it a pretty good time to talk about what we can do as individuals to control mosquitoes in our community.

One way we can prevent mosquito-borne diseases is by eliminating standing water from around our homes. Did you know that as little as one bottlecap of water standing for five days is enough for mosquitoes to develop? Standing water can be found in places like birdbaths, tarps, flower pots, tires, kid pools, and even in some plants like bromeliads.

Infographic listing sources of standing water around the home

 

Learn more about how you can prevent & protect at UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions.

 

The Neighborhood Gardener – June 2018

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Bright yellow cactus flowerPrickly Pear – Prickly pear cactus may not give up easily to being eaten, but if you put in the work the payoff is worth the effort. Both the pads (nopales) and the red fruits can be eaten. The pads are said to taste a bit like green beans while the fruits are sweet. The flowers come in a range of warm-hued colors like orange, yellow, red, and pink, depending on the species and variety. Best yet, it thrives in sandy soil and requires little to no maintenance.
(Photo: Gary Knox, UF/IFAS. Used with permission, all rights reserved.)

Two strips of cloth dyed yellowCoreopsis Dye — Egg-dying season may have passed but fiber-dying season could just be starting depending on what you have growing. We were interested in the prospect of using flowers from the garden to dye fabric, and the plethora of coreopsis blooming right now got us inspired. You can check out our tutorial on creating dye from these cheerful wildflowers.

A window lit from within framed by delicate bamboo and fernPlanting Around Your Windows — Breaking your landscape up into different areas can help you develop a design aesthetic. This can make an entire landscape overhaul seem less daunting. You can keep costs down by chunking it out and working on one area at a time, or you can just make changes to one area that has needed some attention. This month we discuss some tricks to making sure the landscaping around your windows is picture perfect.

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — June is here and while most of the country is celebrating graduation and preparing for summer vacation, Floridians are preparing for hurricane season. My battery and flashlight drawers are ready and I will be thinking about my “go bag” contents later, because the phrase “sheltering in place” is equal to “riding the storm out” and I’m not sure I’m ready to do that again. Luckily for us the season doesn’t usually heat up until a little later in the summer, so now is a perfect time to take stock of your trees and landscape and to get a plan together.

Yellow daisy like flower with brown centerPlant of the Month: Beach Sunflower — Beach sunflower is a butterfly-attracting Florida native that’s perfect for hot, dry sites, including coastal areas. Fun fact: the flower heads always follow the sun throughout the day. Beach sunflower can be grown throughout most of the state; it works well as a groundcover and is great for borders, mass plantings, and even cascading down a wall. Plant your beach sunflower in a full-sun location, ideally with sandy or well-drained soil. Growing to a height and spread of 2 to 4 feet, this plant can quickly cover its growing area.

A gopher tortoise peering at usGopher Tortoise — Gopher tortoises may have been around for millions of years, but these days they are threatened by human development that keeps encroaching on their native habitat. Not only are these animals important in their own right, they are a keystone species, meaning that many other creatures in the environment rely on them for survival. If you have a gopher tortoise on your property, keep pets or children away from its burrow. Since they’re a threatened species, both the tortoises and their burrows are protected under state law and must be left alone.

Pale pink oleander flowerJune in Your Garden — Hurricane season begins, so check around your landscape and make any preparations now. Summer’s warm, rainy months are perfect for planting palms. Summer-flowering shrubs like hibiscus, oleander, crapemyrtle, and ixora can be lightly pruned now as they bloom on new growth. Azaleas can still be pruned without harming next season’s budding.

Non-descript green leaves and small white flowersGopher Apple — Gopher apple is a native evergreen groundcover that is a favorite food source of wildlife, including gopher tortoises, thus its common name. Little white flowers appear in the summer and are followed by the fruits that animals devour. Salt, drought, and fire tolerant, gopher apple is ideal for stabilizing sandy banks; its tolerance of harsh conditions makes it an almost indestructible groundcover. It’s an especially great choice for gardeners along the coast.
(Photo of gopher apple by Scott Zona. Some rights reserved.)

Read the full June issue.

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