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The Neighborhood Gardener – April 2017

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Happy spring, gardeners!

Oranges cut into chunksNatural Pest Control with Oils – Growing interest in organic gardening, coupled with risks associated with traditional synthetic products, has increased attention to natural products that can manage landscape and garden pests. Plant- and petroleum-derived oils are one group of natural pest control products that can be successfully used in your garden. They’re typically used to target soft-bodied pests like caterpillars or aphids. We go through the options, how they’re used, and what to watch out for.

Artistic rendering of the words International Flower and Garden FestivalEpcot Flower and Garden Festival – Spring is in full swing and the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival blooms on. Running now through May 29th, the festival features fun Disney-themed topiaries, gorgeous gardens, and special events in the Festival Center on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, including instructional seminars from University of Florida experts.

Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — My grandmother always made sure she had her trusty Farmers’ Almanac close at hand whenever she was making any gardening decision. To make their forecasts, the authors of the Farmers’ Almanac claim to use a “secret formula that is locked in a black box.” I prefer to use more updated forecast projections that are based on transparent science by meteorologists, and I would encourage you to do the same.

Small red tomatoesPlant of the Month: Cherry Tomatoes – Cherry tomatoes are ideal for the hot and steamy Florida garden. While large tomatoes have a brief planting season here, cherry tomatoes can provide you with fruit throughout the heat of summer. Cherry tomatoes have the same growing requirements as their larger cousins: four to six hours of sunlight per day, regular fertilization, and one to two inches of water a week. There are quite a few varieties which grow well in Florida gardens including ‘BHN 268’, ‘Black Cherry’, ‘Yellow Pear’, and ‘Sun Gold’ to name a few.

Yellow male cloudless sulphur butterflyCloudless Sulphur Butterfly – A pretty butterfly with an odd name, the cloudless sulphur is one of Florida’s most common. These small yellow butterflies have long tongues, perfect for sipping nectar from the tubular flowers of plants like scarlet creeper and scarlet sage. Cloudless sulphur caterpillars are usually green with yellow and blue markings; their host plants include several “sensitive plant” species and shrubs in the Senna group, such as candlestick plant.

Coleus plant with deep red leavesApril in Your Garden – April is a great time to plant heat-tolerant annuals like coleus and bulbs like cannas. This is also a good time to divide large clumps of ornamental grasses and bulbing plants. Edibles that can be planted throughout the state this month include sweet potatoes, southern peas, and beans (bush, pole, and lima).

Yellow flower of coreopsisGrow Your Own Dyes – Growing plants that can be used for the ancient art of creating natural dyes at home is suddenly trending again. For thousands of years, people have looked to plants for color: for clothing, art materials, and more. Luckily, Florida gardeners have a number of colorful options for providing dye-making materials that can also add beauty and even food to the landscape. Of course, many plants can be used to make green dye, but there’s much more color in the garden.

Read the full April issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – January 2017

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Happy New Year!

Cupcake with candlesCelebrating 100 – The December issue was our 100th edition of the Neighborhood Gardener. The first Neighborhood Gardener newsletter went out in August 2008. Since then our subscribership has flourished, we have sent out hundreds of informational pieces, and promoted as many local and state gardening events. We hope that you’ve enjoyed the information we’ve shared and we look forward to sharing another 100 newsletters with you in the coming years.

Peach on the treePruning Mature Deciduous Fruit Trees – Pruning is an important part of deciduous fruit tree maintenance. There are two training systems that will depend on the type of tree you’re growing and will dictate how you need to prune. Now is the time to plan for pruning and possibly make cuts to your tree, assuming the danger of a freeze has passed for your area. Check out our piece and the linked EDIS articles for the information you need to prune your tree properly for the best crop yield.

Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — Florida’s Arbor Day is celebrated every year on the third Friday of January. This month it is January 20th, so mark your calendar to plant a tree or to help someone else plant a tree. Florida’s Arbor Day is held a little earlier than the national day—celebrated in April—because January is a great time to plant a tree in Florida and our soil isn’t frozen like many other states.

Creamy white pinwheel shaped frangipani flower with yellow centerWinter-flowering Trees and Shrubs — The start of a new year brings flowers to many trees in the Sunshine State. January, and February for that matter, see many trees and shrubs flowering in the coldest parts of the year and on into the spring. Our monthly “What’s Flowering in Florida” infographics tell you what is in bloom each month; this piece will give you a little more information on the featured plants for January and February.

Foliage of Fortune's mahoniaPlant of the Month: Mahonia – Mahonia is the name of an entire genus of woody, evergreen shrubs with dozens of different species. A few of those species will grow well in north and central Florida gardens. Mahonia plants thrive in the shade and are drought tolerant once established. Both their yellow flowers in winter and blue-purple berries in the spring will add some unusual interest to the landscape. Foliage varies with each species, from holly-like and spiky to delicate and feathery.

Male green anole with dewflap showingAnoles – A competition for shelter and food is raging across Florida, and two related lizard species have been adapting to the presence of each other for decades. The native green anoles found themselves in competition with the Cuban brown anoles over a century ago. While not much can be done to eradicate brown anoles, having tall shrubs and trees in your landscape offers refuge for green anoles, as they move vertically in habitats when brown anoles are present.

Purple flowers of agapanthusJanuary in Your Garden – While it may be cold out, there are still many bulbs or annuals to plant. Bulbs like crinum and agapanthus can be planted throughout the state. Gardeners in North and Central Florida can also plant gloriosa lily bulbs, and those in South Florida can plant clivia lily this month. In North and Central Florida, annuals like pansy, viola, petunia, and snapdragon are great for planting this time of year. South Florida gardeners can plant begonia, browallia, lobelia, dianthus, dusty miller, and nicotiana.

Read the full January issue.

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

The Neighborhood Gardener – August 2016

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Bright pink flower of shaving brush treePlant ID Service – Do you have a burning plant identification question, but wonder who to ask for help? Well, wonder no more: for the first time in nearly three decades, the UF/IFAS Plant Identification and Information Service has a full-time extension botanist! Marc Frank joined the service on July 1, 2016 and has extensive experience in identifying a wide variety of plant materials.

Turmeric rhizome cut in halfTurmeric – Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a beautiful and healthy addition to your Florida garden. Turmeric has been used in dishes for thousands of years and is a major component in curry. Researchers are also looking at the possible health benefits related to turmeric, including potentially anti-inflammatory properties.

Charlotte County Master Gardeners in gardenCharlotte County FFL Training a Success – Each year, Tom Becker with the UF/IFAS Charlotte County Extension Service conducts Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL) training for all the county’s Master Gardener trainees. Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ is a key, overarching concept that guides not only horticultural decision-making, but also recommendations to the public. After a test to determine the 14 trainees’ understanding of FFL concepts and practices, it was clear that the training was a success.

WendyWendy’s Wanderings — As Master Gardener Volunteers and gardening enthusiasts, we are often faced with plant problems in the garden or landscape that need to be solved. If you are a Master Gardener working the horticulture hot line or at a plant clinic, people bring plant problems directly to you. Where do you even begin to start on the unsolved mysteries of the horticulture world?

Staghorn fern mounted to wallPlant of the Month: Staghorn Fern — Once an uncommon plant find, staghorn ferns (Platycerium spp.) are now quite popular and widely available. These plants are great for beginners or easily distracted gardeners. Staghorn ferns have beautiful and unusual foliage and are found throughout much of the tropical world. They thrive in South Florida and can be grown in North and Central Florida as long as they’re protected from frost or freezes. Staghorn ferns are epiphytes, meaning they get moisture and nutrients from the air— they’re found growing harmlessly on tree trunks, branches, or rocks.

Tomatoes on the vineAugust in Your Garden – August is a great time to start planning your fall garden. While it’s still a little too warm to start cool-season vegetables, North and Central Florida gardeners may be able to plant a second crop of warm-season vegetables like tomato and eggplant. All Florida gardeners can start preparing for cool-season planting. Have your soil tested so you can add the proper amendments before planting, and plan out what you want to grow and where you’ll plant it.

pond feature set in patioWater Gardens — Adding a water garden is a great way to introduce new textures to your landscape; even a gentle fountain can add relaxing sounds to your backyard oasis. Just make sure that your water garden isn’t providing mosquitoes with a breeding ground. Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) is safe for plants and animals; added to any permanent water feature in the landscape, it will prevent mosquitoes from becoming a problem.

Dog vomit slime mold on ground under shrubSlime Molds — Slime molds can be a shocking sight in the garden, but they are relatively harmless and usually dissipate on their own. Slime mold is caused by the fruiting bodies of Myxomycetes, a type of fungi regularly present in soil. It’s during these humid summer days that you may see slime mold develop. It may look like your lawn has been spray painted with black or grey paint. Or, in the case of “dog vomit” slime mold (Fuligo septica), you may see what looks like yellow foam in your landscape. There are no fungicides to treat slime mold, but you can lightly mow, rake, or use a forceful stream of water to break it up and restore your landscape to its aesthetic glory.

Read the full August issue.

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

The Neighborhood Gardener – April 2016

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

UF2000 peachPeaches Don’t Have to Come from a Can – Georgia may be known for its peaches, but here in Florida we can also grow these tender stone fruits. Well, at least all gardeners north of Fort Meyers can give it a try. While you will need a variety that requires fewer chill hours (in the 300-hours range), there are still plenty of options for those interested in growing peaches in the Sunshine State

Australian shepherd photo by Jennifer SykesPetscaping
“Landscaping” is a common term, but have you heard of “petscaping”? This new term is being batted around by businesses interested in reaching out to the 60 percent of Americans who own pets. “Petscaping” looks at creating a landscape that is both beautiful to look at and safe for our furry family members

WendyWendy’s Wanderings — In my gardening classes I often ask, “Who has really good soil?” Most times the silence tells the truth about Florida’s soils. Other times, one or two hands will go up and I can tell by their faces that these are gardeners that work on building their soil all year round. Organic matter helps to increase the moisture-holding capacity of the soil, as well as the nutrient-hold ability of the soil. A great garden starts with great soil; that is truly where it all begins.

Partial look at the tree plateSupport Tree Research with a Specialty Tag — The Florida Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture has a specialty license plate that supports tree research, such as the work by UF/IFAS researchers on the urban tree-planting program. And, for a limited time, if you purchase a new Trees Are Cool license plate, you can get a voucher for a free seminar.

Pink loropetalum flowersPlant of the Month: Loropetalum — A long way from its native home in the Himalayas, loropetalum is a Florida-Friendly shrub that blooms in spectacular fashion come springtime. Most often found with reddish-bronze foliage, this evergreen (or perhaps “everbronze”) usually sports pink frilly flowers this time of year. Loropetalum will grow best in full sun, but can also be grown in partial shade. This eye-catching shrub prefers acidic and well-drained soils.

the beneficial air potato beetleApril in Your Garden – While you continue to plant warm season vegetables, be on the lookout for pests. It’s important to protect the beneficial insects in your landscape, so before applying pesticides, be sure to identify the culprit behind your plant damage and use the proper treatment method.

Bag of fertilizerFertilizer — It’s around this time of year that people start thinking about and applying fertilizer. Fertilizer provides specific nutrients for your plants, and it’s available in a variety of forms. Inorganic fertilizers are mined or synthesized, while organic fertilizers are derived from living organisms. Remember, the best fertilizer is the one that provides your plants with what they need, so getting a soil test is really the ideal first step. Either way you start, make sure you look for a slow-release fertilizer with low phosphorous.

Read the full April issue.

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

The Neighborhood Gardener – February 2016

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Florida Fresh app iconFlorida Fresh App – For those who love the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide, guess what? There’s an app for that! Florida Fresh is a new mobile app that provides a list of fruits and vegetables available fresh in stores and markets at this time of year based on your zip code. There’s also a list of what edibles you can plant in your garden right now. Detailed information on each fruit and vegetable is provided, along with links to other educational resources. The app is free and available at the iTunes app store and Google Play.

Leafy vegetable with dark red leavesRed Leafy Vegetables
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Lettuce is green
But it is red too!

Yes, even your greens come in different colors.

WendyWendy’s Wanderings — When it’s too cold to garden, Wendy peruses garden catalogs and books about landscape plants. This month, she curls up with a book that’s sure to educate and entertain any gardener. Beatrix Potter is well-known for such children’s books as “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” and “The Tale of Tom Kitten,” but did you know that she was also an accomplished botanist?

An uprooted clump of crabgrassDon’t Let Crabgrass Make You Crabby — As cooler temperatures arrive, have you found brown patches of lawn where there was green and healthy turf just a few months ago? If so, you may have a crabgrass problem, but don’t let it get you down. Now is the time to do something about this pesky lawn weed, before it grows back in the spring.

a Mrs. B.R. Cant rosePlant of the Month: Roses for Florida — Roses are an iconic (and expensive) symbol of Valentine’s Day, but you don’t have to settle for pricey roses in a vase. Not everyone knows it, but you can actually grow roses in Florida! Of course, as with so many plants, what works everywhere else doesn’t always work for Florida gardeners. Researchers at UF/IFAS have been looking into which roses strike the perfect balance of tough and beautiful for growing in Florida.

Pink crinum flowerFebruary in Your Garden – While we’re talking about roses, don’t forget that now is the time to prune any you have growing in your landscape. Many bulbs can be planted now; some to try are crinum and agapanthus.

Hands planting baby lettuce in pot“Harvest as Your Grow” Container Gardening — Growing your own vegetables is becoming quite the popular hobby across the country. Container gardening allows anyone—from those with acres of land to apartment dwellers with no more than a tiny balcony—to try their hand at growing their own produce. It’s also a great project for the beginning gardener. This tutorial will walk you through the basics of creating your own “harvest as you grow” leafy greens container.

New Look for the e-Newsletter
Starting in March, we’ll be moving the email version of the Neighborhood Gardener into a more mobile-friendly template. This won’t change the content we provide, but it will make reading easier for nearly half of our subscribers that are reading the newsletter on a mobile device.

Read the full February 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 – February 2015

Happy Gardening!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Succulents in terra cotta potGardening with Succulents – Gardeners, especially beginners or those with busy schedules, can’t go wrong with a succulent garden. This low-maintenance group of plants includes cacti, aloe, agaves, sedums, and “hens and chicks”. Succulents have thick, fleshy stems, leaves, or roots designed to hold water. In Florida’s rainy, humid climate, most grow best in containers. Choose a few succulents with contrasting forms and place them in well-drained media with room to grow.

 

Gardening Solutions app iconThe New Gardening Solutions App — The University of Florida has released a new gardening app created to help homeowners stay on top of their lawn and garden maintenance. The Gardening Solutions app provides Florida residents with the ability to create a personalized virtual landscape. The app will send helpful maintenance notifications to users, based on their zip code and the plants in their virtual landscape. The Florida Gardening Solution app is free to download and is available for both iOS and Android mobile devices.

 

fringetree flowersPlant of the Month: Fringetree — Fringetree is a small deciduous tree that bursts into bloom in the spring. The flowers are composed of narrow, ribbon-like petals that are snowy white. As part of the olive family, female fringetrees will produce dark, olive-like fruits that are attractive to birds. Fringetrees are easy to care for and grow well in North and Central Florida. The ideal location for your fringetree is an area where it will receive sunlight through most of the day and some shade during the afternoon.

 

February in Your Garden – Most roses should be pruned this month to reduce their size and improve their form. The exception are some of the old fashioned roses that may need only a light grooming. After pruning, fertilize and apply a fresh layer of mulch. Blooming will begin eight to nine weeks after pruning.

scientist with armadilloFriend or Foe? Neither: Armadillo — Armadillos are prehistoric-looking mammals that are often considered a pest because their “rooting” behavior damages lawns, vegetable gardens, and flower beds. Less noticeable but more destructive are their burrows when dug under foundations, driveways, or other structures. But they are more of a nuisance than a true garden foe. Armadillos are also beneficial because they eat adult insects and larvae. Recommended methods of control include live-trapping, creating barriers such as fences, and reducing over-watering and fertilizing to cut down on insect pests, their food source.

Read the full February issue.

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