You’ll find Master Gardener Volunteer information and more at the UF/IFAS CLUE blog. The MGV program is a part of the UF/IFAS Center for Land Use Efficiency (CLUE). The center brings UF/IFAS agricultural and urban Best Management Practices (BMP) programs together. For more information about CLUE, please visit: https://clue.ifas.ufl.edu/
Removing Problematic Vines — What are a gardener’s options when it’s too late for “right plant, right place?” In dealing with any hard-to-remove plant, it’s helpful to know a little about plant physiology, the study of the functions of a plant’s tissues and organs. This article examines a plant’s “sources and sinks” to help you remove the most obnoxious vines from your landscape.
Seed Sources – One of the most frequently posted questions on the Master Gardener Volunteer (MGV) Program’s social media pages is “where can I get the seeds?” Finding a particular seed can start to feel like treasure hunting, especially for rare and local varieties. To get you started on the hunt we have a list of sources for you, including catalogues, swaps, and even libraries! This article has all of our suggested resources.
Wendy’s Wanderings — Welcome 2021, we have been waiting for you. With the new year comes new year’s resolutions. I like new year’s resolutions, but according to a recent study, only around 12% of people who make them felt that they were successful in achieving their goals. But there is good news too; those folks who do set new year’s resolutions are 10 times more likely to really change their behavior compared to people who do not make these yearly goals. I’ve got a life hack for you — if your goals are gardening goals, it is a little easier to keep those resolutions.
Plant of the Month: Plumbago — Longleaf pines once covered 30 to 60 million acres of the southeastern United States. A wide variety of native wildlife depends on the unique longleaf pine ecosystem, including gopher frogs and the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. This stately pine has been reduced to about 10 percent of its original geographic coverage. Thankfully, recognition of the value of longleaf pine ecosystems is growing. Get to know this “pioneer species” in our article on longleaf pine.
MGV Book Club — We’re excited for another year of reading and growing together with the Florida MGV Book Club. This winter we’re digging into the science of decomposition and learning all we can about soil health. Our first title of the new year is “Composting for a New Generation.” At the end of the season, author Michelle Balz and Florida MVG Coordinator Wendy Wilber will host a live book club meeting. It’s not too late to start reading!
January in Your Garden — Celebrate Florida Arbor Day (the third Friday of January) by planting a tree in your yard or community. Consider a hurricane-resistant tree, such as live oak, bald cypress, cabbage palm, or crapemyrtle. Prune non-spring flowering shrubs and trees this month to improve form. Continue planting cool-season vegetables. Gardeners in North and Central Florida should be prepared to protect landscape plants from frost.
Bird-Friendly Plants — As temperatures plummet up north, Florida plays host to hundreds of species of migratory birds. We all enjoy seeing them flit through our yards, but what can we feed them? Diets differ between species but there is a fool-proof menu you can offer migratory and native birds. Learn more in this new article on bird-friendly plants.
Gifts for Gardeners – Looking for a last-minute gift for a fellow gardener? Working in the garden is made even more pleasurable when you’re using the right tool for the task at hand. How about a new pair of gardening gloves or, if you’re feeling fancy, a hori hori knife? While there are thousands of tools on the market, there are a few that a gardener really should have. Get some gift ideas, in this article on gardening tools.
Wendy’s Wanderings — For the second time in as many weeks I am doing my cold-weather dance, “the tropical plant shuffle.” When freezing temperatures or frosty weather is predicted for my area, the activity begins. All the tropical babies get protected by coming under cover or getting covered with frost cloth. You might be thinking, “Isn’t she the ‘Right Plant in the Right Place Queen’?” And if you have to haul it in or protect it, is it the right place? I ask myself the same questions!
Plant of the Month: Longleaf Pine — Longleaf pines once covered 30 to 60 million acres of the southeastern United States. A wide variety of native wildlife depends on the unique longleaf pine ecosystem, including gopher frogs and the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. This stately pine has been reduced to about 10 percent of its original geographic coverage. Thankfully, recognition of the value of longleaf pine ecosystems is growing. Get to know this “pioneer species” in our article on longleaf pine.
MGV Book Club — The Florida MGV Book Club returns in January! This winter we’re digging into the science of decomposition and learning all we can about soil health. Join us as we read our first title of the new year, “Composting for a New Generation,” by Michelle Balz. We’re excited for another season of reading and growing together. And if you enjoyed reading along with us in 2020, now is a great time to invite a friend to read with you in 2021.
December in Your Garden — Amaryllis is a popular plant for the holiday season. It can be forced to bloom now or planted outdoors for spring blooms. Continue to watch for brown patch and large patch in lawns; since treatment is difficult, prevention with proper cultural practices is key. Use fallen leaves to provide the carbon ingredient needed for successful composting and also to make a good mulch.
Wildflowers for All Seasons — November is the time to sow wildflower seed! Whether you’re trying to save the bees, support native wildlife, or just enjoy the sense of place that native plants offer, Florida’s wildflowers will bring a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes to your garden. This article organizes wildflowers by bloom season to help you add a little color to otherwise dull seasons in your landscape. (Lythrum alatum photo by Jennifer Anderson, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database.)
Florida’s Homegrown Teas – Did you know that dozens of tea plants thrive right here in Florida? Just in time for the first cool weather of the year, here is an article to help you get the most out of the holiday season. Whether you prefer caffeinated and herbal, there are so many options for gardeners seeking homegrown tea.
Wendy’s Wanderings — “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose” is an old saying I consider as fall rolls into our Florida gardens and landscapes. In the yard we see the oh-so-subtle change in the deciduous trees and the fall show of wildflowers. Florida aster, golden rod and native sunflowers let us know that we are getting our mild seasonal change. In the veggie garden, if we planned correctly or got lucky, we can eat with the season too.
Plant of the Month: Seminole Pumpkin — Traditionally grown by the Calusa, Creek, and Miccosukee peoples, Seminole pumpkins remain one of the tastiest and most reliable pumpkins for Florida gardens. They also make an excellent substitute for pumpkins in your favorite pumpkin recipes! This Thanksgiving, why not try this local favorite for a truly Floridian pumpkin pie? We have step-by-step instructions.
Large Patch in Florida Lawns — Large patch is a fungal disease that affects lawns throughout the Southeast. It attacks all warm-season turfgrasses but is especially problematic in St. Augustinegrass and zoysiagrass. Fungicides can stop the spread of large patch in the short term, but to avoid yearly battles with the disease we suggest adjusting your lawn care practices.
MGV Book Club — Next week is the final live meeting of 2020 for the Florida MGV Book Club! We’ve just finished reading “Bringing Nature Home,” an award-winning book about welcoming wildlife to our urban and suburban jungles. If you’re passionate about gardening, interested in native insects and plants, or devoted to caring for the world around you, you can listen in and even join the conversation on November 20th.
November in Your Garden — Even though temperatures are still warm, begin planting for the cooler months ahead. Dianthus, petunia, and pansy are good annuals for the fall garden. Planting bulbs like agapanthus and lilies now will bring spring and summer flowers. Choices for the edible garden are many, including salad greens and turnips.
Growing Your Groceries — Can you save money on your grocery bill by growing food at home? It’s possible, but challenging. In this article, we offer some guidelines for keeping your yields high and your costs low. For the closet mathematicians among us, we also put together a table listing the average selling price of different vegetable crops. If the economics of gardening is something you’d like to know more about, we think this will be an interesting read!
Mushrooms and Other Fascinating Fungi – During Florida’s rainy season fungi flourish. Toadstools, fairy-rings, puffballs and a hundred other alien shapes appear in the landscape, seemingly overnight. In this article we answer frequently asked questions about fungi and explore strategies for identifying and removing them from your landscape. For the mushroom lovers among us, we have some suggestions for cultivating edible varieties, too!
Swamp Sunflower — Florida is home to a number of native sunflower species. One of the most attractive is the swamp sunflower! Born to brighten the landscape, attract pollinators, and shelter wildlife, this plant is a must for Florida gardens. Swamp sunflowers fill fence lines and form beautiful mass plantings that keep the neighborhood bees buzzing with delight. They’re in bloom now and are one of our favorite pieces of fall color.
Wendy’s Wanderings — It’s Halloween season if you haven’t noticed. This is the time when our beloved plants and gardening materials compete with inflatable pumpkins and scary skeleton decorations for floor space at the garden centers. I am all for it this year; I find it a nice distraction and it shows that time is marching on in this epic year of 2020. But I won’t be adding extra Halloween decorations to my landscape this year. There is enough scary stuff going on in the yard. When you think scary in the garden, your mind might go quickly to stinging caterpillars, venomous spiders, or velvet ants but for me it is frightening plants.
Plant of the Month: Lovegrass — We think this grass deserves its name — and a place in your landscape! What’s not to love about a low-maintenance, drought-tolerant, native ornamental that thrives in every hardiness zone of Florida? Purple lovegrass and Elliot’s lovegrass both bloom between October and November, adding a golden-brown or purple mist of fall color that will soften any landscape.
MGV Book Club — This month the Florida MGV Book Club continues to explore the world of backyard ecology as we read “Bringing Nature Home,” and it’s not too late to join us! Our October title is an award-winning book about welcoming wildlife to our urban and suburban jungles. If you’re passionate about gardening, interested in native insects and plants, or devoted to caring for the world around you, this is the book (and the book club) for you.
October in Your Garden — Even though temperatures are still warm, begin planting for the cooler months ahead. Dianthus, petunia, and pansy are good annuals for the fall garden. Planting bulbs like agapanthus and lilies now will bring spring and summer flowers. Choices for the edible garden are many, including salad greens and turnips.
Tropical Date Palms — Date palms have been cultivated for their delicious fruit and elegant foliage for centuries. In fact, the oldest known seed to successfully germinate was a date palm. Nicknamed Methuselah for its longevity, this famous palm sprouted from a date after spending almost two thousand years buried in the fortress of Masada! While this ancient desert species can be cultivated in our humid climate, there are a few things to consider before adding a date palm to your landscape.
Florida MGV Book Club: Bringing Nature Home – This fall you’re invited to explore the world of backyard ecology with the Florida MGV Book Club! We’re reading “Bringing Nature Home,” an award-winning book about welcoming wildlife to our urban and suburban jungles. If you’re passionate about gardening, interested in native insects and plants, or devoted to caring for the world around you, this is the book (and the book club) for you.
Soaps, Detergents, and Pest Management — Today more people than ever recognize the importance of using pesticides wisely, protecting pollinators, and managing gardens with low-impact strategies. Soaps often come up in conversations about pest management, along with misconceptions about their use. This article unravels three common misunderstandings about soaps as homemade pesticides and provides insight into ingredients and concentrations.
Wendy’s Wanderings — It won’t be long before our plant nurseries and garden centers will be filled with autumn-themed mums to let us know that fall is on the way. Mind you, the temperatures will still be in the 90s with humidity levels to match. You can get chrysanthemums in yellow, orange, and bronze and enjoy them in your landscape, but this fall I am considering a different way to bring that pop of autumn color into the garden.
Plant of the Month: Tomatillos — Interested in adding something new to your garden? If you can grow a tomato, you can grow tomatillo and husk tomato! September 15th – October 15th is National Hispanic Heritage Month, and the perfect time of the year to add these versatile vegetables to your garden. From Latin American molés and salsas to ground cherry preserves, they could be great way to break out of your culinary comfort zone.
Pole Beans — Climbing beans like pole beans, winged beans, and yard-long beans are popular plants in Florida vegetable gardens. They’re easy to grow, even in poor soil. And, as the name implies, these beans love to climb. You can trellis the vines in your vegetable garden or plant them along an existing fence to create a foodscape. And because they grow vertically, climbing bean yields per square foot are significantly higher than most bush bean varieties.
September in Your Garden — It’s finally vegetable gardening season, and for North and Central Florida gardeners, that includes strawberries. September is an excellent time to 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.
Jacaranda — Jacaranda, also known as black poui, is one of the botanical treasures of Central and South Florida. Its arching, feathery branches and purple blooms make it a show-stopping specimen plant and a perfect canopy for patios and streets. Pruning is an important part of the maintenance for this species, but otherwise this graceful tree is low maintenance and hardy. Like hibiscus and royal poinciana, jacaranda brings a lush, tropical flair to the landscape.
Florida MGV Book Club: The Triumph of Seeds – This August we are continuing to read “The Triumph of Seeds” and enjoying a fresh look at this enigmatic stage of the plant life cycle. If you are looking for a summer read, it’s not too late to join us! We are also excited to announce the next book title of the Florida MGV Book Club. In September we will be reading “Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants” by Douglas W. Tallamy. Whether you are hoping to dive deeper into home landscape ecology or just a lover of all things gardening, this book is for you!
Starting from Seed — At the beginning of each growing season gardeners are faced with an important choice: sow seeds or use transplants? One good reason to sow is that it is almost always the more economical option. And of course there are the temptations of seed catalogs. Direct sowing does come with some uncertainty, though. Read on for a list of dos and don’ts that can help you start from seed successfully.
Wendy’s Wanderings — Like so many Florida gardeners, I am in love with coontie, Zamia pumila. This Florida native cycad is a workhorse in the landscape. It grows easily in many different soil types and performs well in both sun and in shade. Recently I dropped my daughter back off at college in Deland. Stetson University has extensive native plantings and utilizes coontie in many of their landscape beds. I was admiring how well they were doing when I noticed that I was not the only one loving the coontie.
Plant of the Month: Seagrape — Seagrape is a versatile landscape plant and a tasty treat, but it is also protected. If you are hoping to enjoy this Florida fruit, your best bet is to add it to your home landscape. And why not? Seagrape has a lot going for it! It is a Florida-native species, grows in full sun or partial shade, and is very drought tolerant. It also tolerates salt spray and salty soils, making it a Florida-Friendly choice for beachfront homes.
Eggplant — For most of Florida, August is the time to begin planting cool-season vegetables. How about adding eggplant to your garden this year? This versatile vegetable makes a good meat substitute and comes in a kaleidoscope of colors. Depending on your preferences you can grow fruits that are purple, lavender, black, yellow, white, maroon, or even striped.
August in Your Garden — The hottest days of summer limit annual planting now to vinca, gaillardia, bulbine, and other heat-tolerant plants. In the edible garden, many cool-season crops can be started now, as well as a final crop of warm-season vegetables such as tomatoes, squash, eggplant, and peppers. Pinch back poinsettias and mums before the end of the month to allow time for buds to form for winter bloom.
Shade Landscaping — Shade provides welcome relief from Florida’s intense sun and heat, but gardening in low light can be challenging. We all know that even “shade tolerant” plants need light to survive, but how much shade is too much? In this article we’ll help you understand your landscape’s lighting and bring life and color to dark corners of your yard. We’ve also included a number of plant lists to help you get started.
Florida MGV Book Club: The Triumph of Seeds – What do a morning coffee, a garden flower, a PB&J sandwich, a kitchen table, and a chocolatey late-night snack all have in common? It’s easy to forget how many items we take for granted begin as seeds. This July and August, the Florida MGV Book Club will be diving into the wonderful world of grains, nuts, kernels, pulses, and pips with “The Triumph of Seeds,” by Thor Hanson.
Leaffooted Insect Pests — Can you tell the difference between the nymphs of leaffooted bugs and assassin bugs? Sometimes the good bugs and the bad bugs look too alike for their own good. Leaffooted bugs are found in Florida throughout the year, but are most active during the warmer months. If you’re finding mysterious fruit damage, leaffooted bugs may be the culprit! We can help you identify and control this unique pest.
Wendy’s Wanderings — It seems this is no longer a drill. We are gardeners safe at home. The weeds are pulled, the hedges are trimmed, the beds are mulched, new plants are in, so now what? Learning the names of the insects in your yard can be especially helpful. When you can identify insects and know what their functions are in your landscape, you can appreciate the role they play in your backyard ecosystem. It is important to be able to differentiate between the helpful insects and the harmful pests so you don’t kill off an insect that was just there to help.
Plant of the Month: Caladiums — Originally discovered in the Amazon River basin, caladiums are known for their unique patterns and vibrant colors. They are easy to grow in Florida’s warm, humid climate and will provide beautiful color throughout spring, summer, and fall. Scientifically known as Caladium x hortulanum, the color combinations for this plant include white, pink, rose, red, burgundy, chartreuse, and green. The University of Florida has developed a number of new cultivars and this month we’re excited to show them off.
Not All Roundup® is Glyphosate — (Article by Dr. Brett Wells Bultemeier, Pesticide Information Office, UF/IFAS Extension) Roundup® has become synonymous with the chemical glyphosate, as this was the active ingredient in the first formulations of the product. Today this popular weed control is in the news and on the shelves, but in a variety of different formulas. Knowing exactly what you are buying and how to use it will greatly reduce risk of unintended consequences. We at the UF/IFAS Extension and the Florida Master Gardener Volunteer Program do not endorse one particular product or brand over another. We strive to provide you with up-to-date, research-based information from a source you can trust.
July in Your Garden — Plant heat-tolerant annuals like celosia, coleus, torenia, and ornamental pepper. Butterfly lily and gladiolus are bulbs that can be planted during the middle of summer. Check shrubs and trees for pests. North and Central Florida can plant their Halloween pumpkins now, while South Florida can plant tropical vegetables like boniato, calabaza, and chayote.
Hurricane Landscaping — Hurricane season began June 1 and will last until November 30, with August and September being the most active months. While the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season was expected to be near-normal, it was actually above average. The forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center believe 2020 will be an above-normal hurricane season. Most important during a hurricane is your family’s safety. One thing you can do to protect your family and home is to hurricane-proof your landscape. We have tips to get you started.
Florida MGV Book Club: Pollinator Friendly Gardening – This May, the book club dove in to pollinator-friendly gardening. We’ve learned so much that we’re going to need some time to apply it all! Join us this month for a month of hands-on activities, pollinator features, tutorials, and ways to apply the principles of “Pollinator Friendly Gardening.”
Tomato Insect Pest Management — Tomatoes are a staple in gardens across the county. In Florida, however, year-round high temperatures present a unique problem: year-round tomato pests. Even worse, there’s quite a number of insects pests bedeviling Florida garden tomatoes. While no garden will ever be pest free, with integrated pest management (IPM), you can enjoy your harvest and still protect the pollinators that service your garden.
Wendy’s Wanderings — The gyms may still be closed but your garden and landscape are open for exercise. You know the old saying, “Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes”? Well gardening is also like a gym membership and you get edibles and a good-looking yard. Many standard gardening chores are great for your physical fitness as well as your mental fitness.
Plant of the Month: Milkweed — Milkweed is the poster plant for pollinator gardens. Not only is it attractive, it’s also well known for attracting butterflies and serving as a host plant for their caterpillars. Perhaps most famously, milkweed species serve as the host plant for the monarch butterfly. Florida is home to more than twenty species of milkweed, almost all of which are native. Two milkweed species are commonly offered for sale as “butterfly garden plants.” Which should you choose for your garden?
Preserving Herbs — In vegetable gardening, harvest time can feel like a tidal wave. Herbs, on the other hand, can be harvested as needed during their growing season. It’s easy to enjoy their fresh flavor after their season is over, too. If you’re interested in preserving your herbs, drying is probably the first method that comes to mind, but there are other ways to preserve and enjoy your garden’s flavors throughout the year.
June in Your Garden — Working in the garden during the summer can put Florida gardeners at risk from the unforgiving heat. Be sure to take the necessary precautions. Plant heat-loving annuals like vinca and portulaca, and tropical vegetables, such as boniato, calabaza, and chayote. Summer’s warm, rainy weather is the perfect time to plant palms. Check the lawn frequently for damaged areas and keep insects in check with early treatment. Take time to determine the cause so your remedy is effective.
Florida MGV Book Club: Pollinator Friendly Gardening — We are excited to announce the next book choice of the Florida MGV Book Club! This May you’re invited to a community reading of “Pollinator Friendly Gardening,” by Rhonda Fleming Hayes. Hayes is a Minnesota Extension Master Gardener, and as enthusiastic about research-based solutions as we are. Whether you are out to save the bees, hoping to avoid hand-pollinating squash, or just looking for a good read, we hope you will join us.
Building Raised Beds – Vegetable gardening is a great way to grow your own food and live a more sustainable lifestyle. Unfortunately, Florida’s soils don’t always lend themselves to growing vegetables. If this is true of your landscape, try gardening in raised beds instead. This article will walk you through the materials, construction tips, and cautions you need to get started. We’ll also share some tips on site selection and bed orientation to help you maximize your harvest.
More Webinars to Keep You Growing — For our Master Gardener Volunteers and community of Florida gardeners, continuing education is a priority. Last month’s article, “Webinars to Keep You Growing,” was so popular that we’re adding more highlights from our archive of webinars. This month you can enjoy learning about olives, roses, alternatives to turfgrass, refuges for wildlife, things that make us say “ouch,” and so much more.
Wendy’s Wanderings — Many Floridians are discovering or rediscovering the joys of gardening as we stay home and stay healthy. Did you know that gardening is actually really good for your health in addition to growing fresh produce? Gardening activities such as raking, weeding, and pruning provide moderate exercise to keep gardeners healthy and fit. An analysis in 2016 researchers found that gardening and being in nature reduced symptoms of anxiety. Other reports have seen a decrease in reported stress and mood disturbances in gardeners when compared to other populations.
Plant(s) of the Month: Greens — “Greens” are a staple in traditional Southern cooking. But this terms covers a number of plants, including spinach, collards, kale, mustard, turnip greens, and Swiss chard. Most of these nutritious vegetables are cool-season crops, but Swiss chard can be planted as late as May (March in South Florida). Two lesser known greens, New Zealand spinach and Malabar spinach, also grow well during warm months in Florida.
Sedges — Sedges are grass-like plants and considered one of the world’s most pernicious weeds. They invade gardens and turf across the planet. Even Antarctica is host to an invasive sedge species! With an introduction like that, it’s no surprise that sedges are a problem in Florida’s turf and gardens. Water management and early identification are the keys to keeping this weed at bay.
May in Your Garden — Now’s the time for summer annuals like salvia, torenia, wax begonia, and ornamental peppers. Plant heat-loving herbs like basil, oregano, Mexican tarragon, and rosemary. May is also a good time to prepare for hurricane season by checking trees for damaged or weak branches and pruning if needed. Consider hiring an ISA-certified arborist for bigger jobs.