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The Neighborhood Gardener – February 2015

Happy Gardening!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Succulents in terra cotta potGardening with Succulents – Gardeners, especially beginners or those with busy schedules, can’t go wrong with a succulent garden. This low-maintenance group of plants includes cacti, aloe, agaves, sedums, and “hens and chicks”. Succulents have thick, fleshy stems, leaves, or roots designed to hold water. In Florida’s rainy, humid climate, most grow best in containers. Choose a few succulents with contrasting forms and place them in well-drained media with room to grow.

 

Gardening Solutions app iconThe New Gardening Solutions App — The University of Florida has released a new gardening app created to help homeowners stay on top of their lawn and garden maintenance. The Gardening Solutions app provides Florida residents with the ability to create a personalized virtual landscape. The app will send helpful maintenance notifications to users, based on their zip code and the plants in their virtual landscape. The Florida Gardening Solution app is free to download and is available for both iOS and Android mobile devices.

 

fringetree flowersPlant of the Month: Fringetree — Fringetree is a small deciduous tree that bursts into bloom in the spring. The flowers are composed of narrow, ribbon-like petals that are snowy white. As part of the olive family, female fringetrees will produce dark, olive-like fruits that are attractive to birds. Fringetrees are easy to care for and grow well in North and Central Florida. The ideal location for your fringetree is an area where it will receive sunlight through most of the day and some shade during the afternoon.

 

February in Your Garden – Most roses should be pruned this month to reduce their size and improve their form. The exception are some of the old fashioned roses that may need only a light grooming. After pruning, fertilize and apply a fresh layer of mulch. Blooming will begin eight to nine weeks after pruning.

scientist with armadilloFriend or Foe? Neither: Armadillo — Armadillos are prehistoric-looking mammals that are often considered a pest because their “rooting” behavior damages lawns, vegetable gardens, and flower beds. Less noticeable but more destructive are their burrows when dug under foundations, driveways, or other structures. But they are more of a nuisance than a true garden foe. Armadillos are also beneficial because they eat adult insects and larvae. Recommended methods of control include live-trapping, creating barriers such as fences, and reducing over-watering and fertilizing to cut down on insect pests, their food source.

Read the full February issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – January 2015

Happy New Year, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Cold Weather Protection – The cold weather is here, and if you haven’t already, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll protect your plants this winter. Be ready to move tender potted plants to warmer sheltered areas if a freeze or frost is predicted. Also, check your inventory of plant covers and frost blankets so that you’ll be prepared when the time comes.

 

concrete birdbathBirdbaths — You can kick off the New Year by adding a splash of color and water to your landscape with a birdbath! While you’ll find lots of birdbaths made of gray concrete, many are made today in bright colors and interesting designs. When selecting your birdbath remember, birds prefer those with textured bottoms, gently sloping sides, and water no deeper than two to three inches in the middle.

 

air plantPlant of the Month: Air Plant — When people use the term “air plant,” they’re usually referring to Tillandsia spp. Most species of Tillandsia have thin, stiff leaves covered in scales, often giving them a fuzzy, gray-green appearance. Since they anchor themselves to something other than soil, air plants can grow on or in a variety of creative surfaces like glass globes, shells, or laid on a bed of dry pebbles in a shallow dish. Air plants are incredibly low-maintenance, requiring only light, air circulation, and an occasional light mist of water.

 

January in Your Garden – The third Friday in January is Arbor Day for Florida. You can celebrate by planting a tree in your landscape or community. Consider planting a hurricane-resistant tree like live oak, bald cypress, cabbage palm, or crapemyrtle, ensuring you’ll have a tree to enjoy for years to come.

wolf spiderFriend or Foe? Friend: Carolina Wolf Spider — The sight of a Carolina wolf spider (Lycosa carolinensis) may startle you, but these eight legged critters are actually great hunters and feed on insects in your home or landscape. These spiders are between 1 and 1½ inches long and are one of the largest spiders in the US. Their size is just one reason these spiders sometimes cause alarm; the other reason people fear them is a case of mistaken identity. Carolina wolf spiders are often confused with the brown recluse, a much smaller spider (between ¼ and ¾ inch long), rarely found in Florida.

Read the full January issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – December 2014

Happy Holidays, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

poinsettia in basketCreative Container Plants for Gifts – It’s the time of year when people are thinking about gifts, and what better gift to give than a potted plant? A plant in a lovely container is a thoughtful and creative gift. There’s a variety of plants to choose from, allowing you to select one that’s perfect for the recipient. Keep in mind their growing experience and the plant’s care requirements. If you are purchasing a flowering plant, try to select one that hasn’t fully bloomed yet. And it’s actually two gifts in one—finding a beautiful container can make it even more personal.

 

calendar2015 Master Gardener Wall Calendar — Shopping for a Florida gardener or plant lover? Check out our brand new 2015 Florida Master Gardener Wall Calendar! This beautiful and useful calendar features full color photos, Florida-Friendly gardening tips, and a list of blooming plants each month. The calendar is now available for $12.95 in the IFAS Extension Bookstore.

 

mintPlant of the Month: Mint — The smell of mint is often associated with the holidays. Why not bring the scents of the season into your garden by growing this fragrant and useful herb? The refreshing aromatic leaves and small flowers can be added to many dishes including desserts, beverages, meat, salads, as well as jellies and sauces. Mints are excellent perennial herbs for beginning gardeners to grow. Be careful though—mint is sometimes too easy to grow and when left unchecked, it can take over your whole garden.

December in Your Garden – This year consider a Christmas tree that will live on after the holidays. Southern red cedar, Arizona cypress, or sand pine can be enjoyed in a container and then planted in the landscape when the holidays are over. Living Christmas trees create memories that last a lifetime. As an added bonus you can decorate the planted tree with suet, bird feed, or popcorn balls to encourage birds to nest and enjoy the tree, too.

mistletoe in treeFriend or Foe? Foe: Mistletoe — Mistletoe has been used as a Yuletide decoration for centuries. But this plant can be dangerous, and not just for people. Mistletoe is poisonous if eaten, so be careful if you choose to use it for holiday decorating. It’s also damaging to the trees it grows on. Because of its parasitic nature, mistletoe can weaken or even destroy the trees it infests, especially if the tree has been compromised by pests, storms, or old age.

Read the full December issue.

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

The Neighborhood Gardener – November 2014

Happy November, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

ornamental gourdsDecorating with Gourds – Gourds are a common symbol of the fall season. These interesting fruits come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors and to many people they are a decorating staple this time of year. Ornamental gourds are related to edible squashes and pumpkins but are grown to full maturity and then dried. While gourds are mostly used for decoration, they can also be made into birdhouses, containers, and in the case of the Luffa gourd, natural sponges.

 

campfireOutdoor Fire Safety –In crisp fall weather, the heat and flicker of a fire can add warmth and atmosphere to outdoor gatherings. Sitting around a crackling fire is fun for family and friends, but there are some things you should consider to keep your backyard fire safe. A freestanding patio hearth, fire pit, or chiminea should be placed in an area clear of grass, brush, and low-hanging trees. Choose a dense wood—like oak, hickory, or ash—that’s been “seasoned,” which burns cleaner and produces more heat than a soft wood like pine. And be sure to check out local codes on backyard burning as well as fire conditions in your area.

 

calendar2015 Master Gardener Wall Calendar — Shopping for a Florida gardener or plant lover? Check out our brand new 2015 Florida Master Gardener Wall Calendar! This beautiful and useful calendar features full color photos, Florida-Friendly gardening tips, and a list of blooming plants each month. The calendar is now available for $12.95 in the IFAS Extension Bookstore.

 

holly fernPlant of the Month: Holly Fern — Holly fern, named for the pointy tips on its leaves, is a great choice for the shady parts of your Florida landscape. Drought-tolerant once established, this low-maintenance plant is also deer resistant. Holly fern can be grown in USDA Zones 6–11. Plant in partial to full shade. The dark green foliage of holly fern will persist year-round when protected from frost, and the sturdy fronds can be used in cut flower arrangements. Winter-damaged fronds can be cut back in February before new spring growth begins in March.

November 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.

dragonflyFriend or Foe? Friend: Dragonflies — In the buggy environment of Florida, dragonflies may be the best friend a human can have. These elegant insects hunt mostly flies and mosquitoes and they can eat their weight in pesky bugs in a half-hour! Couple their hunting prowess with their attractive appearance and it’s obvious why dragonflies are considered beneficial.

Read the full November issue.

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

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.

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

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.

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