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The Neighborhood Gardener – March 2017

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Happy spring, gardeners!

Man working on the underside of a mowerSpring into Action for a Healthy Lawn – Warmer weather means Florida gardeners will be spending more time keeping their lawns looking lovely. Now is the perfect time to check out equipment, do your research, and create a landscape plan before heading outside. We have four steps that can help you get ready for your lawn’s active growing season.

Artistic rendering of the words International Flower and Garden FestivalEpcot Flower and Garden Festival – There’s a special event that heralds the arrival of spring in Florida—the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. Running now through May 29th, the festival features gorgeous gardens, world-famous topiaries, and special events. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, our very own Master Gardener volunteers will be answering questions at the garden information desk, and Master Gardener Coordinators will give instructional seminars on topics such as hummingbird gardens and orchids.

Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — I never know how spring fever is going to hit me. Sometimes it’s the pleasant shock of finding my shopping cart full of beautiful perennial plants—when I only went to the big box store for light bulbs. Or waking up on Saturday with a full-blown panic attack realizing that if I don’t get to the nursery immediately they will be sold out of my favorite tomatoes, and if they are sold out, I won’t have my favorites and I will suffer with lesser tomatoes all spring omg where are my keys?

Purple blossom of queen's wreathPlant of the Month: Queen’s Wreath – Queen’s wreath is a tropical flowering vine that looks wonderful this time of year. With drooping lavender flowers, this plant resembles wisteria—without that plant’s invasive issues. While usually found growing as a woody vine, queen’s wreath can be maintained as a shrub or a small, single- or multiple-trunked tree. Left to its own devices, queen’s wreath can reach 40 feet tall, but you can keep it much smaller with occasional pruning. Gardeners in zones 9B and further south can plant this long-flowering vine and enjoy blossoms for many months.

Logo for FruitScapes website over a photo of papayaFruitScapes – State Master Gardener Coordinator Wendy Wilber thinks growing fruit trees is a fabulous idea. They provide nutritious food to eat and share with both friends and wildlife, they provide shade, and are an attractive addition to home landscapes. But with so many fruit tree (and shrub) options available to Florida gardeners, it can be difficult to know where to start. Enter FruitScapes, the UF/IFAS website that offers you information on planting and growing over 50 different fruit plants in Florida.

Red zinnia flowersMarch in Your Garden – Spring is one of the busiest seasons for Florida gardeners. There are many edibles that can be planted in your garden this month and we have an updated Edibles to Plant this Month infographic that gives you a glance at what can be planted across the state. Now is also the time to start planting heat-tolerant annuals like angelonia and zinnia in your landscape.

Photo of a doe, mostly her headPlant Damage? Oh, Deer! – Spotting deer in your backyard can be a sweet treat; spotting damaged plants that have been chewed up by deer can sour your joy. While there are no guaranteed deer-proof plants, there are plants that are resistant to deer damage, as well as steps you can take to protect your garden and landscape.

Read the full March issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – March 2016

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Student preparing garden soil with teacherSchool Garden Wins Award of Excellence for Bay County – The Florida Master Gardener Award of Excellence for Service to 4-H and/or Other Youth recognizes volunteers who make outstanding contributions to youth through horticulture. The 2015 award went to the UF/IFAS Extension Bay County Master Gardeners, for their work as part of a community-wide partnership to develop and maintain a horticultural therapy garden at Margaret K. Lewis School for children with disabilities.

Hummingbird approaching feeder photo by Annkatrin RoseHummingbird Feeders
While the best source of food for hummingbirds is one of the many nectar-producing plants they love, a hummingbird feeder can be a great way to provide extra sustenance to these fast-moving little birds. Hummingbirds need to eat a third to half of their body weight each day in order to keep those rapidly beating wings moving. When looking for a hummingbird feeder, choose one in red plastic with multiple feeding stations, and only put an unaltered sugar and water solution—no dye—into the feeder.

WendyWendy’s Wanderings — As a gardener, I am always looking for inspiration for what to plant next. I’m constantly on the lookout for fresh plant varieties, fresh plant combinations, new ways of growing plants, and new ways of communicating with people about plants. When it is spring, I look forward to attending the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival at Walt Disney World. Their world-class horticulturalists plan far in advance to blow gardeners’ boots off and this year is no exception. The theme is “Epcot Fresh” and there are plenty of fresh ideas there to inspire you.

Olives on the treeOlives — Think of olive trees and you may think of the Mediterranean, but did you know that you can grow olives in Florida? If you’re looking for something different, an olive tree may be a great choice. Grown in small numbers here for years, commercial production of olives in Florida is still new and subject to ongoing research. While not suitable for consumption right off the tree, olives can be cured and eaten, or pressed for oil, and the tree’s silvery foliage makes it an attractive addition to the landscape.

Yellow trumpet treePlant of the Month: Trumpet Trees — Trumpet trees are loved for their dazzling display of blossoms that burst forth ahead of their leaves in spring. The common name refers to the elongated flowers that resemble trumpets; depending on the tree, the flowers can be white, yellow, pink or even lavender. Traditionally known as Tabebuia, some of these trees are now recognized with a different botanical name. These Florida-friendly plants grow best in full sun and make a stunning addition to landscapes in Central and South Florida.

TomatoesMarch in Your Garden – We’re heading into spring, which is a great time to try a vegetable garden. Warm season crops can be planted this month throughout the state, like corn, pepper, tomatoes, cucumbers, and sweet potatoes.

two mosquitoesZika Mosquito Update — Zika has been getting a lot of attention in the media recently, as outbreaks of this mosquito-transmitted virus become evermore present in Central and South America. While much is still unknown about the Zika virus, one thing is for sure—limiting mosquito habitats and preventing bites are important precautions in mosquito-prone climates like Florida’s.

Read the full March issue.

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Florida’s Arbor Day is January 15th

While National Arbor Day falls on the last Friday in April, many states observe their own Arbor Day depending on the best tree-planting times for the region. Florida celebrates Arbor Day on the third Friday of January, the 15th this year.

You can celebrate Arbor Day by planting a young tree in your landscape or helping with tree plantings in your community. Trees can reduce home energy costs and raise the value of your property, while adding shade and visual interest to your landscape.

Learn more about planting and establishing trees at UF/IFAS Extension’s Gardening Solutions.

Local Extension offices and other community program often hold tree giveaway events for Arbor Day; check with your local Extension office to find out.

The Neighborhood Gardener – October 2015

Master Gardeners,

There’s still time to register for the 34th State Master Gardener Conference, October 18-21 in Kissimmee. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to hear our keynote speaker, photographer John Moran, or attend some of the 24 concurrent educational sessions.

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Pink dianthus flowerCut Flowers for Cool Weather – While thinking about all the yummy veggies you can grow and harvest in the fall, don’t forget about flowers! While most won’t be destined for your plate (although the pansies could be), flowers can still be harvested—for vases around your home. Bring some floral autumnal fun indoors with cool season bedding plants like dianthus (pictured), calendula, and more.

WendyWendy’s Wanderings — This month we’re reporting on the Oriental fruit fly and the state of emergency associated with the insect in South Florida. You may think, “This doesn’t impact my garden or my landscape personally, so why should I care?” But as Floridians I think we should always care when there is a threat to our agriculture industry and our Florida farmers.

Map showing heavy rain for FloridaEl Niño — You may have heard that El Niño is back in the tropical Pacific Ocean, but what does that mean for your garden? El Niño events bring Florida a cooler and wetter winter, meaning you may find yourself dealing with more fungal diseases on plants, increased nutrient loss in the garden, and changes in the production of deciduous fruits, among other things

Yellow mumsPlant of the Month: Chrysanthemums — While the leaves of most Florida trees won’t give us those traditional autumnal colors, we can still paint our landscape with the colors of fall. Chrysanthemums, or mums, are easy to grow and come in a range of warm, welcoming hues. When buying potted mums, look for healthy, well-shaped plants with many flower buds. These perennials are cold hardy and prefer full sun, but can also thrive with just morning or afternoon sun.

October in Your Garden – October is a great time to be planting in the vegetable garden. Many herbs and vegetables thrive during Florida’s mild winter. What better way to know what to plant this and every month than with a handy-dandy infographic. See what vegetables to plant, broken down by area of the state.

Oriental fruit flyFriend or Foe? Foe: Oriental Fruit Fly — The Oriental fruit fly infestation in Miami-Dade County has become a problem warranting the declaration of a state of agricultural emergency. While this may not directly impact your home garden at the moment, an infestation here in Florida could be devastating. Read more about the Oriental fruit fly and what is being done to keep this aggressive pest in check by visiting Fresh from Florida.

Read the full October issue.

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

The Neighborhood Gardener – September 2015

Happy Gardening!

The deadline is approaching; you only have one more week to register for the 34th State Master Gardener Conference at the early bird rate. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to hear our keynote speaker from the Florida Wildlife Corridor or attend some of the 24 concurrent educational sessions.

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Chinese evergreen plantPlants That Clean the Air – With summer ending and school back in session, people are spending more time indoors and thinking about how that is affecting them. While many people know that having a houseplant in their home or office can cheer up the space, they may not know that it can also help clean the air. Many popular houseplants are actually quite good at removing toxins like formaldehyde and benzene.

WendyWendy’s Wanderings — The Florida Master Gardener Volunteers that work with school gardens have a special place in my heart. It takes a huge amount of planning, planting, and heart to work with students and teachers in their school gardens, but payoffs are more than worth it. I understand just how much hard work and fun it can be helping young gardeners nurture a love of growing their own food.

calico flowerPlant of the Month: Calico Flower — Named for the mottled pattern on its blossoms, calico flower is native to Brazil. This vining plant climbs and covers chain link and wire structures well, transforming plain structures into a lovely green screen. It’s ideal for butterfly gardens, serving as the larval host plant to two types of swallowtail butterflies. Gardeners should plant this vine in a sunny location with well-drained soil.

September in Your Garden – September is a great time to divide and replant your perennials, such as daylilies and amaryllis, which have grown too large or need a little rejuvenation. Be sure to add organic matter to your new planting areas and keep weeds in check while the plants establish themselves.

web in treeFriend or Foe? Neither: Fall Webworm — While the fall webworm isn’t really a garden friend, neither is it a true pest. The nests these caterpillars build on the ends of tree branches may be unsightly, but they won’t last long in your landscape. Trying to rid your trees of these caterpillars can often cause more harm than leaving them be.

Read the full September issue.

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

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 – 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.