The Neighborhood Gardener – August 2019

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Purple and white eggplantsSummer Vegetables, Part Deux – As far as the more common edible garden plants go, there isn’t much that can be planted in the heat of Florida’s summers. August is when the number of edible plants you can start growing begins to kick off again. For some plants you can start a second crop, like eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes. Gardeners in Central and South Florida can start growing okra in August. In North and Central Florida, August marks the time you can plant squash again. Check out the infographic on UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions for more information on the edible plants that can be planted in August.

Wide shallow planter filled with colorful plantsSucculent Garden DIY – We’ve created a fast and fun video tutorial on creating a succulent garden. You can use practically any container, just be sure it has drainage holes. Next add your soil; either use a mix intended for succulents or mix soil and sand in equal proportion. Then get to adding plants. For the best-looking planter, vary colors and textures. Don’t forget to include some succulents that will spill nicely over the edge of your container. Once you’re done, admire your efforts and be sure to give your newly planted succulents some water. Watch our video on YouTube.

Hand saw cutting at a small tree branchHurricane Pre-pruning — Hurricane season started in June, but as the summer progresses it starts to kick up more. Healthy trees are a key part of making sure your home and landscape are ready should a hurricane head your way. When in doubt, look for a certified arborist to prune your trees. As far as palms go, avoid anything called “hurricane pruning” as this will do more harm than help to your tree.

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — Why did I ever plant these vines in my landscape? Have you ever asked yourself this question? It rang in my ears again this past week when I was cutting and pulling sky vine (Thunbergia grandiflora) off my citrus trees. “It looks pretty,” they said. “It’ll jazz up the back fence with purple flowers,” they promised. “It’s not too bad to control.” File these under: fibs that plant friends have told me about vines.

Small deep wine-red fruits in a cluster on branch of green plantPlant of the Month: Wild Coffee — Wild coffee is a Florida native shrub that gets its name from the small red fruits it produces which resemble true coffee beans, the difference being that wild coffee’s fruits contain no caffeine. This shrub thrives in shade and is best grown in zones 9-11, as it is not cold-hardy. Aside from being attractive, wild coffee’s berries also attract birds and other wildlife, while the flowers are one of the nectar sources for the rare Atala butterfly found primarily in southeast Florida.

Very close view of a fire antFire Ants — Fire ants are notoriously painful pests. They build large nests, aggressively defend their areas, and are hard to get rid of. There are a variety of treatment options you can employ, and what is best for one landscape may not work well for another. Your local county Extension office can offer you the most individualized help. ((Photo of red imported fire ant by Pest and Diseases Image Library, Bugwood.org))

Orange flowers of crossandraAugust in Your Garden — With the heat of summer reaching its peak, the promise of more pleasant outdoor weather is just around the corner. You have a few options in terms of gardening; one is to continue planting your heat-tolerant flowers and herbs. Alternatively, you can wistfully admire your garden from the temperature-controlled comfort of your home, while planning for your fall garden when the temperatures truly begin to drop.

Read the full August issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – July 2019

It’s watermelon season in Florida. See recipes at Fresh from Florida.

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Long dark green leaf with serrated marginsCulantro – Culantro is a tasty alternative to cilantro as temperatures rise. Fun fact: Did you know culantro is a key ingredient in sofrito, also called recaito? This popular mixture of vegetables is the base of many Caribbean dishes. Plant culantro seeds this summer and in about three weeks you could be harvesting fresh herbs to use in your kitchen! Learn more about this cilantro-like herb that can take the heat and flavor your food.

Sun shining high over pine treesHeat Safety – The summer garden seems to have an endless amount of work to be done. But working outside during the summer can put gardeners at risk from the unforgiving Florida heat. Be sure to take the necessary precautions and try to work in the morning before the temperatures get too high. Read more about the warning signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, as well as some precautions you should be taking before heading outdoors.

Mound of plants with dark green leaves and hot pink simple flowersSunPatiens — Impatiens may be a popular cool-season bedding plant, but for the same wow-worthy color in the heat, try SunPatiens®. Unlike traditional impatiens, this hybrid thrives in full sun and humid, hot weather. Plus, they aren’t susceptible to downy mildew the way traditional impatiens are. SunPatiens® flower year-round in Florida. (Photo by Stephen Mills)

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — Most gardeners that I know grow at least a few vegetable plants, fruit trees, and herbs in their yard. Others have full blown mini-farms that are in max production through each growing season. For many years these edible growing activities have been relegated to the back yard. Never mind if the sunniest part of your yard was by the front walk — edible plants had to be grown in the backyard according to most Florida municipalities’ regulations. But no longer.

Attractive palm tree-like plant in front yard of a yellow housePlant of the Month: Ponytail Palm — The ponytail “palm” might not be a real palm, but it is a great South Florida plant. This tree-sized succulent is a member of the agave family and is named for the long, delicate leaves that drape over the branches, giving it a “ponytail” effect. Being from the dry regions of Mexico, ponytail palm is well suited for rock gardens or for the cooler parts of the state, as a container houseplant. South Florida gardeners can plant ponytail palm in full or part sun in well-drained soil; it’s hardy only in zones 10A to 11.

Grassy weed that looks a lot like St. Augustine turfgrassDoveweed — Doveweed is an aggressive summer annual turfgrass weed. It resembles St. Augustinegrass in appearance, so this weed can grow unnoticed for some time. But doveweed doesn’t just invade St. Augustinegrass, it also takes hold in Bermuda, hybrid Bermuda, and zoysiagrass. Doveweed usually prefers wet areas, so parts of your lawn that have poor drainage or are over-watered are prime spots for it to thrive. It can also cause contact dermatitis in some dogs. (Doveweed photo by John D. Byrd, Mississippi State University, Bugwood.org.)

Orange and yellow flower spikes of celosiaJuly in Your Garden — Despite the heat, some plants can still be planted, just be sure you’re taking care to not overheat your body. Annuals like celosia, coleus, torenia, and ornamental pepper can handle Florida summers. And even in the middle of summer, butterfly lily and gladiolus bulbs can be planted.

Read the full July issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – June 2019

The summer solstice is Friday, June 21, marking the official start of the season.

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Yellow and green palmate leaf of cassavaHeat Tolerant Vegetables – As spring gives way to summer and the temperatures rise, finding edible plants to grow in your garden can be a real challenge. Turning to some of the lesser-known vegetables can be just what Florida gardeners need to keep their edible gardens producing through the summer heat. Learn more about heat tolerant vegetables like cassava, malanga, winged bean, Malabar spinach, and amaranth.

A tiny brown frog sitting in the palm of a handFlorida’s Native Frogs – Gardeners can be particularly in tune with nature. While working or playing outdoors you might see—or even hear—frogs in your garden. Frogs are beneficial creatures to be sure; in their adult stage they are voracious insect consumers. Florida is home to a large number of native frogs, 27 species to be exact, belonging to five different families. Learn more about the terrestrial, arboreal, and aquatic frog species found in Florida.
(Photo: Little grass frog, Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org)

Woody roots of mangrove trees reaching into dark waterMarvelous Mangroves — Mangroves are an essential part of the coastal ecosystem. They are a keystone species, providing essential services that act as the base for the entire estuarine community. Out of the approximately seventy species of mangroves that are classified in the world, three live in Florida. These three species are from distinct genera, since “mangrove” is often a term used to describe both an ecosystem and a type of plant. The three native mangrove trees found in Florida are black mangrove, white mangrove, and red mangrove.

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — As I have been traveling around the state from the panhandle to subtropical South Florida, I have been hearing from gardeners that “we didn’t have much of a winter.” It is true we Florida gardeners didn’t experience a cold winter and that means our plants in the landscape and the vegetable garden are well ahead of the game. But you know who else didn’t have much of a winter? The six-legged pests that like to feed in our yards and gardens.

Deep green oval leaf with yellow veinsPlant of the Month: Sanchezia — Gardeners are often on the lookout for plants that will shine in the shade, and sanchezia is one such plant. This low-maintenance shrub thrives in Central and South Florida; farther north, it will be killed to the ground by frost or freeze, but recovers once temperatures warm up again. Sanchezia performs best in shade and is great for planting underneath a tree canopy. It’s also tolerant of salt spray.

Small brownish green caterpillar on a blade of grassTurfgrass Pests — When it comes to turfgrass, damage can be caused by a variety of factors. As with so much, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of treatment. However, if you have a damaged lawn and you think a pest has been munching on the turfgrass, be sure you discover who the culprit is before you work to remedy the situation. Knowing which pest you are dealing with will determine which course of treatment is best. Learn more about pests of Florida turfgrass, including chafer beetles and fall armyworms.

Red and yellow swirl indicating a hurricane on a radar mapJune in Your Garden — June marks the start of hurricane season and this is the perfect time to make sure your landscape is prepared. There is no time like the present to make sure your trees are as healthy as possible. Take some time now to get any necessary pruning done. And speaking of pruning, June is a great month to prune those azalea plants, as waiting too long can hurt blooming for the next year.

Read the full June issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – April 2019

Earth Day is Monday, April 22. Happy spring, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

The smiling face of Daisy Thompson, a 36-year volunteerForty Years of Memories – April is National Volunteer Month, and as we continue to celebrate 40 years of the Master Gardener Volunteer Program, we’ve chosen to highlight five long-serving volunteers from around the state. Between these five there is more than a century of volunteer experience! Read more about these wonderful volunteers, all the work they have done, and their favorite Master Gardener Volunteer memories.

A white clover flower with a tiny beePollinator Cover Crops – Cover crops can really make a difference in the quality of the soil in your edible garden. They have the potential to improve the physical, chemical, and biological properties of the soil, supply nitrogen, reduce leaching of nutrients and pesticides, reduce erosion, mitigate damage from plant pests and/or reduce their population densities, and attract beneficial insects. It’s that last benefit—attracting beneficial insects—that many gardeners choose to focus on. Learn about cover crops that pollinators love to visit, like buckwheat, clover, vetch, and lupin.

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — April is national volunteer’s month and this week in April is volunteer’s week. This provides me with the platform to stand up and proclaim that the Florida Master Gardener Volunteers are doing amazing volunteer work. Volunteering has its benefits to the person who gives back, too. Research demonstrates that volunteering leads to better health. In fact, the more you volunteer the happier you are. We know that Master Gardener Volunteers are life-long learners and continuing their education is one of the biggest benefits that Florida MGVs enjoy.

Small red cone with tiny yellow flower emerging from its sidePlant of the Month: Spiral Gingers — Gingers are typically low-maintenance plants with attractive foliage and long-lasting, colorful blooms that make great cut flowers. Plants in the Costus genus are often referred to as spiral gingers although the family (Costaceae) has been segregated from the true gingers (Zingiberaceae). Flower appearance with spiral gingers can vary; some form a rigid tube that is usually red to yellow in color, or they can be more open and spreading, in colors from white to pale pink. Learn more about this plant that adds a splash of tropical color to the Florida garden.

Posterboard display with the words Power to Pollinators on itGirl Scout Wins Gold with Pollinator Plan — The Girl Scout Gold Award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. Emily Mayo with Troop 673 in Fort Myers is being recognized with the Gold Award for a project close to the hearts of many gardeners — advocating the importance of pollinators. She developed a lesson plan called “Power to Pollinators,” with help from UF/IFAS Extension Collier County and their Master Gardener volunteers.

A coleus plant with dark red foliageApril in Your Garden — April is the time to plant heat-tolerant annuals like coleus, while continuing to plant warm season edibles like sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, Southern peas, and beans.

Read the full April issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – February 2019

Happy birthday…to us! The Florida Master Gardener program turns 40 this year.

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Banana shrub flower is creamy white with waxy petalsGardening for Fragrance – Floral and herbal scents have been distilled and enjoyed indoors for centuries, and they can be equally delighting in the garden. Scent is one of the strongest human senses, and fragrant plants can add a new dimension to your landscape. With thoughtful planning and design, it’s not hard to create a pleasant fragrance garden. We have some plant suggestions for adding fragrance to your landscape.

Crabgrass uprooted and on concreteCrabgrass – As winter stretches on, you may find yourself with brown lawn areas that you swear were healthy green turf a few months ago. If so, the culprit is likely crabgrass. An important part of preventing crabgrass and other weeds from taking over your lawn is maintaining healthy turf. Unfortunately, once crabgrass has germinated and begins to grow, there are very few or no herbicides available to homeowners or commercial applicators that can kill it without harming most types of turfgrass grown in Florida.

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — The Florida Master Gardener Volunteer program is celebrating 40 years of service in 2019 and I will be highlighting several long-serving counties in this column. The UF/IFAS Hillsborough County Master Gardener program was started in 1980 by the beloved Dr. Sydney Park Brown, and has been going strong ever since. More than 100 active Master Gardeners in Hillsborough County have created a beautiful demonstration garden, introduced thousands of children to agriculture, and so much more.

Frilly green parsley leafPlant of the Month: Parsley — Parsley is a bright green, versatile herb that looks good growing and tastes good too. Parsley contains vitamins A, C, and K as well as several B vitamins, calcium, and iron. You don’t need much space to grow parsley; it even grows well in containers. One idea would be to grow it in a container with other herbs. And here’s a fun fact you may not know about this herb — it’s a host plant for caterpillars of the black swallowtail butterfly.

Green palm frondPalm Leaf Morphology — Palms are an iconic Florida plant, and there are many species and varieties of these tropical emblems. As you admire these trees and shrubs, have you ever wanted to know the difference between the types of palm leaves? Learn more about pinnate, palmate, and costapalmate leaves.

Red rose blossomFebruary in Your Garden — Prune roses this month to remove damaged canes and improve the overall form. After pruning, fertilize and apply a fresh layer of mulch. Blooming will begin 8–9 weeks after pruning. Plant winter annuals like dianthus and verbena. Many bulbs can be planted now as well, like agapanthus and crinum. Continue planting cool-season vegetables, including potatoes.

Read the full February issue.

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

The Neighborhood Gardener – January 2019

White frangipani blooms this month in South Florida

Happy New Year, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

pink and white turnip emerging from soilTurnip the Fun in Your Garden – Turnips are quick-growing, cool weather vegetables that are very nutritious. Some turnip varieties produce delicious roots, while others produce delightful greens. If you are hoping to start your new year off on a sustainable note, you can cultivate one of the turnip varieties that produces both enjoyable roots and greens, cutting down on vegetable waste. However you eat them, turnips are a great way to “turn up” the fun in your garden.

White flowerNighttime Gardens – Gardening for the day is common. Deliberately gardening for the night can take a little reframing, but is well worth it. White and silver plants can really shine in the moonlight. Some flowers are only fragrant at night, adding another sensory dimension to your evening garden experience. The final element to bring your nighttime garden together is the lighting; whether you consult a professional or carefully string your own fairy lights, additional illumination is an important part of making your night garden glow.

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — What does a Mississippi paddleboat have to do with one of the most successful horticulture programs in Florida? Many Master Gardener Volunteers know that the MG program began in Florida in 1979, but they might not know how the idea was introduced. As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Florida Master Gardener program, Wendy takes a look back.

Huge tree towering over housesPlant of the Month: Mahogany — Mahogany is best known as a hardwood, but it’s a beautiful tree in South Florida too! Mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni) casts a light, dappled shade on the ground below, making it a great shade tree for landscapes with enough room for it to thrive. Mahogany is native to southernmost Dade and Monroe counties and is currently listed as a state threatened species due to logging. However, it is readily available for purchase at many native nurseries in South Florida.

Leafy green peace lily plant with tropical white flowersIndoor Gardening Resolutions — With the start of 2019 we’re focusing on the resolutions gardeners can make for their indoor gardening. Maybe this is the year you bring a plant inside to grow. Perhaps you’re just hoping to maintain the plants you cultivated in the past. Or maybe you’re ready to diversify and try something new or a little more challenging in your indoor garden. Whatever your indoor gardening resolution, we have some guidance to offer to help your future be a little greener.

Small broccoli floret on the plantJanuary in Your Garden — Planting cool-weather vegetables and herbs is a great way to start out the new year. Vegetables like Irish potatoes, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, mustard, and turnips can all be planted. Additionally herbs like tarragon, thyme, dill, fennel, and any mints will thrive in the cooler temperatures of the season.

Read the full January issue.

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

What to Plant in December – Infographic

Curly leafed kale in a mulched bed, by Caraline Stephens, UF/IFAS

Happy December’s eve, gardeners! Since the cool season is Florida’s busiest vegetable gardening time, we wanted to share “What to Plant in December” as soon as possible.

There’s so much to plant this month! Leafy greens like arugula, collards, mustard, and Swiss chard; cruciferous vegetables along broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. In South Florida, there’s so much you can plant, it would almost be easier to list what you can’t plant (strawberries, for example).

Illustration listing what edibles to plant in December for Florida

For detailed, text-based information, you can rely on our UF/IFAS gardening publications. These publications are on the UF/IFAS Solutions for Your Life website, and give Florida gardeners a monthly guide for what to plant and do in their gardens; they include links to even more of our gardening resources, all based on University of Florida research and expertise. Three different editions of the calendar provide specific tips for each of Florida’s climate zones—North, Central, and South.

If you would like a printable version of this infographic, you can download it here:
http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/planting_december_graphic.pdf

Happy winter gardening! (Or perhaps we should say, “winter” gardening.)

The featured header photo is curly kale, by Caraline Stephens, UF/IFAS.

 

 

 

Get Ready for Fall Gardening

In Florida, fall is an excellent time to start a vegetable garden. Cool-season vegetables to plant in October include broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts, and radishes.

If you’re planting in an area already used for spring and summer crops, be careful to remove all dead or diseased plant matter, including roots.

You may want to have your soil tested to check the pH level and to determine what nutrients you might need to add. Till your soil a few weeks before planting, and then add organic matter, such as cow manure or compost. Make sure your garden gets at least six hours of full sun, and is close to a water supply.

For more ideas, see the UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions article, Five Fall Vegetables for the Home Garden.

(Photo: Lettuce in a square foot garden, by Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS. All rights reserved.)

Green leafy vegetable in dark soil in a raised wooden bed

Open, Sesame

For a new plant in your garden, how about something really old? Sesame has been cultivated for a very long time; 4,000 years ago it was a highly prized oil crop in Babylon and Assyria.

Sesame plants (Sesamum indicum) usually grow to 2 feet tall, although they can reach heights of 4 feet. Tubular, bell-shaped flowers are light purple, rose, or white in color. Grooved seedpods develop after the flowers and each pod can contain more than 100 seeds. Once they mature, the seedpods burst open and spill the seeds.

As a drought-tolerant crop, sesame doesn’t perform well when soils are too moist. When selecting cultivars for planting be aware that the most drought-tolerant cultivars fair poorest in Florida’s humid climate. Sesame is planted from seed and grows best in full sun.

Sesame is often planted as a cover crop between other plantings. Not only does sesame help break the cycle of pests of other crops, it also provides a food source for pollinators.

Learn more at UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions

(Photo: Sesame plant being grown at the UF/IFAS Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra, FL. UF/IFAS.)

Green plant with long narrow leaves and white bell shaped flowers
This sesame plant is part of a large plot in Citra, at the UF/IFAS Plant Science Research & Education Unit.

The Neighborhood Gardener – September 2018

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Bright purple fruits of beautyberry on stemBeautyberry – If you’re looking for a dazzling plant to attract birds to your yard, look no further than beautyberry. This Florida native is scientifically known as Callicarpa americana, and its bright purple fruits are some of the most striking around. Fun fact: the fruits on beautyberry are actually drupes, not berries. You can plant beautyberry at any time during the year, and it will be drought-tolerant once established.

Sesame plant with narrow green leaves and white bell shaped flowersSesame – Sesame is ancient crop; growing it in your home garden allows you to explore new flavors and ideas in your cooking while connecting with the past. Plus, we can’t forget the aesthetics; this plant is good-looking with its upright growth habit and showy bell-shaped flowers. Sesame also attracts a wide range of pollinators, making it a favorite plant for bumble bees and other insects.

Black and white adult chinch bugChinch Bugs — Southern chinch bugs are a major pest of St. Augustinegrass, and can rapidly cause serious damage. Damaged areas appear as yellow to brown patches and injury typically occurs first in grass that’s water-stressed or in full sun. It’s important to remember that not all brown grass indicates a chinch bug infestation. If you suspect you have chinch bugs, inspect the border between the brown and green grass for the tiny, black-and-white adults or orange nymphs.

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — Mid-September is the peak of hurricane season; you only need to look at a weather forecast to be reminded of that. The mere word hurricane strikes fear in our hearts and sends us running in preparation mode. The words hurricane pruning would strike fear in a palm tree’s heart if it had one.

Green cilantro leaf on cutting boardPlant of the Month: Cilantro — Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is a bright green annual plant with many culinary applications. This flat, feathery-leafed herb is often used in Latin American and Southeast Asian cooking. It can add a fresh flavor to many dishes, including salsa. Of course, this herb may be less exciting to grow if you’re one of the people that finds the taste of cilantro closer to soap. Read more about how to grow this herb, and how you can get coriander from the same plant in the spring.

Healthy shrub with green leaves and red flowersCommon Landscape Pitfalls: Soils Edition — Landscapes with plants that match their preferred growing conditions require less water, fertilizer, pesticides, and maintenance than landscapes with plants growing in the wrong locations. When choosing the right plant for the right place, there are a number of factors to consider to ensure a long-lived, healthy landscape. In our first in this series covering common landscape pitfalls, discover how characteristics of your soil, like pH and compaction, play a huge role in the well-being of your landscape plants.

Flame-like flowers of celosiaSeptember in Your Garden — It’s still hot out, but September brings the promise of cooler temperatures. As such, it’s time to start some of your cool season edibles and herbs. You can also start evaluating your annual beds and determining which plants have peaked and need replacing.

Read the full September issue.

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