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The Neighborhood Gardener – April 2015

Happy Gardening!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Illustration of a Minnie Mouse topiaryEpcot International Flower and Garden Festival – Discover dazzling gardens, seasonal cooking, and high-energy entertainment at this spectacular springtime event held annually at the Epcot Walt Disney World Resort. Whether you’re looking for inspiration and advice from a presentation, or have a question for our UF Extension specialists, you can find all this and so much more at the Festival Center—open every weekend through May 17! Each weekend a different topic is featured such as Multiplying Your Plant Collection and Great Container Gardens.

GaillardiaCut Flower Gardens — Bring the sights and scents of your garden into your home with a cut flower garden! Roses usually come to mind when people think of cut flowers, but there are many plants that can be grown in Florida gardens that will be beautiful in your home including salvia, zinnia, gaillardia, gerbera, and bird of paradise. And don’t forget the many tropical plants with uniquely textured or colored leaves.

BasilPlant of the Month: Basil — Basil is often used in Italian, Asian, and other cuisines. Native to India, Africa, and Southeast Asia, all basil species (Ocimum spp.) belong to the mint family. Basil grows well in Florida’s warm climate; plant it from seed in either the early spring or fall, in containers or in your herb garden. It prefers sun (with a bit of afternoon shade to protect it from the heat) and moist, but well-drained soil.

April in Your Garden – This is a great time to get out in the garden and do a little maintenance. You can divide clumps of bulbs, ornamental grasses, and herbaceous shrubs to expand and rejuvenate your garden this month. This is also a good time to plant many bulbs.

paper waspFriend or Foe? Friend: Paper Wasps — Spring is here and with it comes lots of insect pests. Paper wasps are considered beneficial because they are excellent predators, feeding on pest caterpillars like tobacco hornworm and leafrollers. They typically build papery-looking nests (hence their name) under eaves or in other protected areas on structures or plants. Since these particular wasps are less aggressive than yellow jackets or hornets, they only need to be eliminated if their nest is near human activity. The best way to eliminate paper wasp nests is by using an aerosol wasp spray.

Read the full April issue.

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New Book: Trees for North & Central Florida

We’re so excited to announce that our new book, “Trees: North and Central Florida” is now available in the UF/IFAS bookstore!

Trees: North and Central Florida book

“Trees: North and Central Florida” is a pocket-sized, photographic field guide of 140 trees and palms, composed of large, clear, colorful pictures that can be used for quick identification.

Andrew Koeser, co-author and an assistant professor of urban tree and landscape management at UF’s Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, said he wrote the book for people to be able to take with them into the field.

“I want this to be a book where people can just take it out with them. Any tree they see in North and Central Florida, there’s a high probability that it will be in that book,” Koeser said. “We tried to get the most common trees in North and Central Florida.”

The book is now available at the UF/IFAS Extension bookstore, 1374 Sabal Palm Drive, on the UF campus, and online at the bookstore’s website. It sells for $24.95.

Other co-authors are Melissa Friedman, a science and Extension writer, Gitta Hasing, a senior biological scientist at the Gulf Coast REC; and Robert Irving, an urban forester for the city of Tampa.

UF’s Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology (CLCE) funded the project. Dr. Koeser is a faculty member with the CLCE, and the Florida Master Gardener Program is part of the Center as well.

And don’t worry, South Florida gardeners, the authors are also working on a South Florida book for a December release.

The Neighborhood Gardener – March 2015

Happy Gardening!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Close-up of hand using gardening shearsDisinfecting Garden Tools – Get ready for spring and the busy gardening season ahead by taking some time to disinfect your horticultural tools. Regularly disinfecting your tools is a good way to prevent disease from spreading in your landscape. There are multiple products available—regardless of which you choose, it’s always important to read and understand label instructions before using any cleaning product.

Fertilizer Basics — Speaking of labels, the one on your bag of fertilizer is another important label you should be reading and understanding before using the product. Fertilizer labels include a series of numbers that indicate the respective percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium by weight. Remember, you should only apply as much fertilizer as your plants can use and always fertilize responsibly.

award-winning bottle gourdPlant of the Month: Bottle Gourds — Bottle gourds (Lagenaria spp.) are annual vines that can be grown throughout the state. Young, small fruits can be eaten, but it’s the mature fruits that are valued for making useful and durable containers. Grown for centuries, it is the only crop known to have been cultivated in pre-Columbian times in both the Old and New World. Plant your bottle gourd vine like any squash plant. A trellis is advised, but vines may be allowed to run on the ground; be sure to add mulch to avoid fruit rotting.

February in Your Garden – Plant warm season crops now, like beans, cucumbers, sweet corn, and squash. Now is a good time to check your irrigation system for any issues. Refresh and add mulch to your landscape beds; it conserves soil moisture, insulates roots from extreme temperatures, and minimizes weeds.

ladybug larvaFriend or Foe? Friend: Ladybug Larvae — Keep an eye out for ladybug larvae. Gardeners “in the know” welcome these tiny insects, as the larvae feed on garden pests like aphids and psyllids. You might be hard-pressed to recognize them, however. There are many species of ladybugs, and their larvae all look very different. The larvae of one species, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri Mulsant, even resembles its prey, mealybugs! Letting these little critters mature safely can help keep your plants pest-free in the coming spring. See photos of various species of ladybugs at UF/IFAS Featured Creatures.

Read the full March issue.

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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.

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

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.

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