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The Neighborhood Gardener – August 2015

Happy Summer Gardening!

Master Gardeners, don’t forget to register for the 34th Annual State Master Gardener Conference to be held this October.

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Fresh soil in raised bedSquare Foot Gardening – August is a great time to start planning your fall garden. There are so many ways to grow edible plants in your landscape. While many people are familiar with traditional rows of edible plants, square-foot gardening offers something a little different. Square-foot gardening allows you to make your vegetable garden more of a landscape feature.

WendyWendy’s Wanderings — I have often joked with new Master Gardener classes that the MG program is a support group for plant addicts. We love trying new plants and seeing what boundaries we can push with them. I find myself going to the nursery just to see what is new to try. On a recent visit to a nursery in St. Johns County I bought a plant that is meant for zone 9B and I live in 8B. I guess like many gardeners I have “zone envy.”

Dr. Jack PayneUF Leader Writes About Wendy Wilber — Recently, Jack Payne wrote a great piece about our new State Master Gardener Coordinator, Wendy Wilber for an industry publication. Jack Payne is the Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and the administrative head of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) at the University of Florida. You can follow him on Twitter at @JackPayneIFAS, where he shares horticulture news, his thoughts on the state’s agriculture industry, photos of Florida’s natural resources, and more.

watermelonPlant of the Month: Watermelon — With winding vines and large ripe fruits, watermelon can take up quite a bit of room in the garden. If you have the space, it can be well worth the opportunity to have these delicious fruit treats right in your own back yard. If you missed planting your watermelon at the beginning of the year, August gives gardeners across the state another chance. Those in South Florida can even continue to plant through September.

August in Your Garden – Keep track of rainfall and be sure to adjust your irrigation accordingly. UF/IFAS even has an app to help you figure out how much water your lawn really needs.

moleFriend or Foe? Neither: Moles — Moles are really more of a nuisance animal than a true garden foe. While their tunneling is unsightly to many gardeners, the damage is usually aesthetic. Moles themselves do not intentionally harm plants. These tiny mammals tunnel through landscapes to find the soil insects and invertebrates that make up their diets. If you can learn to live with their tunnels, moles may actually do you a favor by eating potentially harmful insects like mole crickets, grubs, ants, and slugs.

Read the full August issue.

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

The Neighborhood Gardener – July 2015

Wasp on flower

A pollinator wasp visits a partridge pea flower.

Happy Summer Gardening!

Master Gardeners, don’t forget to register for the 34th Annual State Master Gardener Conference to be held this October.

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Cute pollinator hotelPollinator Hotels – While some may run for the hills when anything with a stinger flies by, gardeners know that it might be a helpful pollinator. Having pollinators like bees and wasps set up their home right in your garden can be great for your plants. And while you can’t tell a bee where to nest, you can provide pollinators with an ideal structure should they decide to move in—a pollinator hotel.

WendyWendy’s Wanderings — Whew! Is it too hot to garden? Floridian gardeners have to be as heat tolerant as our plants and come up with our own summertime coping techniques. We sneak out early or venture out once the sun goes down.

Dr. David ShiblesDavid Shibles Retires as Polk MG Coordinator — Dr. David Shibles retired last month after 15 years as the Master Gardener Coordinator for Polk County. Dr. Shibles took a program with only two members when he arrived and turned it into an active organization with more than 100 members. As Lakeland’s Ledger.com reports, he leaves behind a “green legacy.”

Red royal Poinciana flowerPlant of the Month: Royal Poinciana — Royal poinciana (Delonix regia) provides South Florida landscapes with dappled shade in summer with wide, spreading branches and brilliantly-colored flowers. It prefers frost-free areas and will grow in a variety of soil conditions. With a potential height of 40 feet and a canopy as wide or even wider, many find that royal poinciana is best for larger landscapes.

July in Your Garden – While some may find it too hot to work in the garden right now, you can put the climbing temperatures to use and solarize your garden. Effective solarization takes 4 to 6 weeks, so start now to get your garden ready for fall planting.

foamy spittlebug massFriend or Foe? Foe: Spittlebugs — Named for the frothy mass they produce as nymphs, spittlebugs can surge in numbers during rainy, warm months, feeding on plants and turfgrass, especially centipedegrass. On ornamental plants, these pests can be managed by spraying the plant with a good, strong stream of water. If your lawn is being damaged by these bugs, reduce thatch in your lawn and avoid overwatering as spittlebugs can’t survive a dry environment.

Read the full July issue.

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

The Neighborhood Gardener – June 2015

Happy Summer Gardening!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

The 34th Annual State Master Gardener Conference – The highly anticipated State Master Gardener Conference will take place October 18-21, 2015. Whether this year’s conference will be your first or fifteenth, there will be something for all of Florida’s Master Gardeners. In addition to 24 educational sessions, there will be exciting keynote speakers including John Moran, one of Florida’s best landscape photographers.

WendyWendy’s Wanderings — This month marks the beginning of summer. For Floridians, there are a lot of markers to the month of June—hurricane season, the end of the school year, the rainy season starting, and reaping the harvest of our spring gardens.

Uprooted treeRisky (Tree) Business — Making sure the trees surrounding your home are healthy is always important. Not only are unhealthy trees unattractive, they can be a serious safety hazard. But it’s equally important to remember that not all trees are a risk; they play a vital role in your landscape. The best way to determine if your trees are healthy is to contact a professional. But you can do some scouting in your own landscape and determine if some of your trees are a risk and should be looked at.

OleanderPlant of the Month: Oleander — Oleander (Nerium oleander) may have a bit of a bad-girl reputation, but it is a truly beautiful addition to the Florida landscape. All parts of the plant are toxic, so be sure to plant it far from small children and curious pets. Oleander will grow best in zones 9a-11 and can handle even the poorest of soils. Plant yours in full sunlight for ideal flowering, and while it is very drought-resistant, supplemental irrigation in the driest months will help your oleander thrive.

June in Your Garden – Many gardeners are wrapping up their spring garden harvests as temperatures start to climb. Cover crops are a great way to control weeds and add nutrients to the soil while you take a break from tending to your vegetable patch. Cowpeas, sunhemp, and sorghum are some popular annual summer cover crops.

caterpillarFriend or Foe? Foe: Oleander Caterpillars — Oleander moths are quite beautiful.They’re sometimes called polka-dot moths due to the spots on their bodies and wings. But it’s the larval stage you should keep an eye out for. Oleander caterpillars are voracious eaters and can quickly defoliate a plant. Removing larvae-infested foliage is the most environmentally friendly method of control.

Read the full June issue.

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

The Neighborhood Gardener – May 2015

Happy Gardening!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Wendy WilberWelcome from Wendy – Hi, I’m Wendy Wilber, the new state Master Gardener coordinator. Before taking this job I served as a Horticulture Extension Agent in Alachua County Florida for 15 years. In this role I was the Master Gardener coordinator and the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ agent. It was a privilege to work side by side with Master Gardeners in my county.

I now look forward to working with the Master Gardener Coordinators and Master Gardener volunteers across the state. Working with volunteers is a wonderful career because you usually end up learning more than you teach and getting back much more than you give. I am excited to support the Master Gardener program and share my enthusiasm about Florida’s plants, protecting Florida’s environment, and Florida’s best volunteer program, the UF/IFAS Florida Master Gardener Volunteer Program.

Master Gardeners remind me that: “Life is a gift and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.” (T. Robbins)

compostComposting at Home — As they say, April showers bring May flowers. Give those flowers a nutrient rich soil by adding compost to your landscape beds. Composting is a great way to turn kitchen scraps and yard waste into what gardeners call “black gold.”

gardeniaPlant of the Month: Gardenias — Probably the most distinguishing characteristic of the gardenia is its sweet scent. Gardenias may be a bit fussy to grow, but the effort is worth the payoff for many. A popular Mother’s Day gift, gardenias can be planted in the landscape and enjoyed for years to come. There are over 200 species of these evergreen shrubs, so depending on the cultivar, they will grow in height from 2-15 feet; all have glossy, dark-green foliage. Gardenias will do best in well-drained, rich soil, so consider amending your chosen planting site with compost or peat moss. Soil pH is important and should be between 5.0 and 6.5. Plant your gardenia in full sun or partial shade.

May in Your Garden – Watch for damage from chinch bugs in St. Augustine and begin scouting for newly hatched mole crickets in Bahia lawns.

hummingbirdFriend or Foe? Friend: Hummingbirds — Did you know that hummingbirds are found only in the Americas? It was once thought that their plumage was a source of mystical powers, but today we love them for the beautiful pollinators they are. You can plant nectar-producing plants (or install a hummingbird feeder) to try and catch a glimpse of these tiny treasures.

Read the full May issue.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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