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The Neighborhood Gardener – November 2016

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

The staff of the UF/IFAS Florida Master Gardener program wish to thank all veterans for their service to our country.

hydroponic plantHydroponic Vegetable Gardening – A hydroponic garden is a fun way to grow your own herbs and vegetables. Hydroponic systems use nutrient-enriched water instead of soil, avoiding weeds and other pest problems common to soil-grown vegetables. Leafy crops like lettuce, Swiss chard, mint, and kale usually do quite well in hydroponic gardens. Building a simple one for your home garden is easier than you think. And it all starts with a kiddie pool.

Yellow flowers of Mexican tarragonMexican Tarragon – Mexican tarragon is an excellent choice for Florida gardeners. With a flavor similar to traditional French tarragon, but a better tolerance for drought, heat, and humidity, Mexican tarragon is a winner in the Southern herb garden. The leaves have a complex flavor and fragrance: similar to anise/tarragon, coupled with notes of mint, cinnamon, and a touch of sweetness. The bright yellow flowers can be used in salads. A popular method for storing Mexican tarragon is to preserve the leaves in vinegar.

Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings – Years back I was cleaning out my container and pot pile and had to ask myself, “Where did all these pots come from?” Had I really planted all the plants that grew in these pots, and if so, where were they? I remembered the advice of my Master Gardener friend Bill, who had encouraged me to keep a garden journal. If I wrote this stuff down, I would know what was going on in my landscape and garden.

Red berries of coral ardisiaCoral Ardisia — Coral ardisia was promoted in Florida as a landscape ornamental for many years. It is a compact shrub, with attractive, glossy foliage, and bright red berries. Unfortunately, it also forms dense colonies in natural habitats, smothering the seedlings of native species and producing copious amounts of fruit, which are readily dispersed by wildlife. Coral ardisia has been added to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ noxious weed list, making it illegal to possess, propagate, transport, or sell this species within the state. Extension botanist Marc Frank writes in depth about coral ardisia and how Master Gardeners can identify it.

Red berries of Simpson's stopperPlant of the Month: Simpson’s Stopper – Simpson’s stopper is a versatile Florida native with springtime flowering, colorful berries, and evergreen leaves. The fragrant white flowers attract butterflies and bees, while birds flock to the shrub for shelter and its fruit. Found growing naturally in seaside hammocks, Simpson’s stopper is a great choice for coastal gardeners looking for a plant that’s tolerant of salt and alkaline growing conditions. Recommended for Zones 8b to 11, Simpson’s stopper is cold hardy down to 25°F, and can function as a shrub or a small tree depending on the cultivar and how you prune it.

Dark pink crinum flowerNovember in Your Garden – November finally brings cooler weather, and winter annuals like pansies can be planted to freshen up flowerbeds. This is an excellent time to plant bulbs like amaryllis and crinum, and there are many cool-season vegetables you can plant now: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and greens, as well as radishes and turnips.

Read the full November issue.

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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.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – July 2016

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Service Award Reminder – Master Gardener Coordinators, don’t forget to submit the names of your Master Gardeners for service awards. Florida Master Gardeners who have donated 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, or 35 years of continuous service will be recognized and receive a service award.

A variegated form of Cuban oreganoCuban Oregano – Cuban oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus) is an herb of ambiguous origin and many names. Mexican mint, Spanish thyme, and Indian borage are just a few; some people even call it “Vicks plant,” because its camphor and menthol aroma is similar to the cough salve.

WendyWendy’s Wanderings — For most Florida gardeners, vegetable gardening season is coming to a close. Hopefully your harvest has been bountiful. If you are holding on to those last tomato plants that are trying to ripen a couple more fruit, let me encourage you to let it go.

Hands working a clay mixture in bowlDIY Seed Balls — Making clay seed balls can be a fun summer project that will help keep you connected to your gardening when the temperatures make working outside difficult. This DIY tutorial will walk you through the steps for constructing seed balls. This is a great summer project for kids and adults alike. Not only is this an interesting and effective way of preserving seeds for your garden, the finished seed balls can make a unique and fun gardening gift!

Fruit of mulberry treePlant of the Month: Mulberry — Mulberry (Moras spp.) is a fruit producing tree that can provide gardeners tasty fruits and a rich history. Native red mulberry trees (M. rubra) have been enjoyed by people in North America for centuries; however there are also introduced white and black mulberry trees. The quality of fruit varies between trees with black mulberry trees producing the best fruits. Black mulberry trees have another quality that home gardeners often prefer—their mature height is much more appropriate for a home landscape than the quite tall native red mulberry tree.

Coleus plantsJuly in Your Garden – Plant heat-loving annuals like coleus and ornamental pepper, and be sure to water regularly. Continue planting palms while the rainy season is in full swing. Support large palms with braces for 6-8 months after planting. Nails should not be driven directly into a palm trunk.

watering container plants with watering canVacation Plant Care — Getting ready for a trip involves a fair bit of preparation, and considering the needs of your plants while you’re away is part of that. Whether you’re taking a summer sojourn to the beach or a long cross-country trek, your plants can be kept happy and healthy while you’re away.

whiteflies photo by Lance OsborneNew Whitefly — While the B-biotype whitefly has been in Florida since the mid-1980s, the Q-biotype whitefly was recently discovered in Palm Beach County. This new whitefly biotype is likely to cause problems for growers and even gardeners in Florida. If you suspect an infestation contact your local Extension office, but NEVER bring insects or affected plants to the Extension office. For more information on whiteflies, visit the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center’s website.

Read the full July issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – December 2015

Happy holidays, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Sydney Park BrownLifetime Honorary Master Gardener Award – Sydney Park Brown, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Horticulturist and Associate Professor Emeritus, was awarded the Lifetime Honorary Master Gardener Award at the 34th Annual State Master Gardner Conference in October. “The effects of Sydney’s dedication to the Florida Master Gardener Volunteer program will be felt for decades to come,” says Wendy Wilber, statewide program coordinator. “Her vision helped to shape the program into one of the best in the country.”

WendyWendy’s Wanderings — If you are anything like me, you are still rushing to finish your holiday shopping. Some people are impossible to shop for and other people are gardeners. You might be lucky enough to have a gardener on your “to buy for” list. If you do, I have some great gift ideas for the gardener in your life.

Rosemary topiariesRosemary Topiary Trees — A useful and delicious holiday gift, rosemary plants shaped to look like Christmas trees require minimal care and will continue to reward you long after the holidays pass. A topiary can be used as a table centerpiece, mantle decoration, or even a decoration in a child’s room—you can feel safe knowing if a bit of the topiary ends up ingested it’s no problem at all. After the holidays, your rosemary can be planted outside in an area with full sun and good drainage.

Yaupon holly foliageYaupon Holly Tea — The days are getting shorter and there is a chill in the air. A nice warm cup of tea or coffee may be just what you need to warm up after a nice outside gardening session. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to brew tea with leaves from your own garden? Yaupon holly is the only plant native to North America that contains caffeine.

Firethorn berriesPlant of the Month: Firethorn — Looking to add some color to your winter landscape? Firethorn is an evergreen shrub known for the colorful berries it produces in cooler weather. Not only are they attractive, the berries also serve as an important food source for wildlife. The branches hold up well in cut arrangements and make a festive accent in holiday centerpieces. This thorny shrub performs best in north and central parts of Florida, and will thrive when planted in well-drained soil and full sun.

pink snapdragonsDecember in Your Garden – With cooler temperatures outside many people will be bringing plants indoors for the winter. Be on the lookout for houseplant damage from pests or disease. In North and Central Florida, add color with winter annuals like petunias and snapdragons. In South Florida, plant begonias or geraniums.

fungus gnatFriend or Foe? Foe: Fungus Gnat — Fungus gnats are a common pest of indoor plants. The larvae of these tiny flying pests can be found in the soil, feeding on rotting vegetation and plant roots. They’re drawn to plants that are overwatered, so one way to control these flies is to let the soil dry out between waterings. You can also use yellow “sticky traps,” placed near light to attract the adults. Coat a piece of yellow plastic (like that from a Solo cup) with petroleum jelly and stick it in the soil of your infected houseplant to attract the gnats.

Read the full December issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – April 2015

Happy Gardening!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Illustration of a Minnie Mouse topiaryEpcot International Flower and Garden Festival – Discover dazzling gardens, seasonal cooking, and high-energy entertainment at this spectacular springtime event held annually at the Epcot Walt Disney World Resort. Whether you’re looking for inspiration and advice from a presentation, or have a question for our UF Extension specialists, you can find all this and so much more at the Festival Center—open every weekend through May 17! Each weekend a different topic is featured such as Multiplying Your Plant Collection and Great Container Gardens.

GaillardiaCut Flower Gardens — Bring the sights and scents of your garden into your home with a cut flower garden! Roses usually come to mind when people think of cut flowers, but there are many plants that can be grown in Florida gardens that will be beautiful in your home including salvia, zinnia, gaillardia, gerbera, and bird of paradise. And don’t forget the many tropical plants with uniquely textured or colored leaves.

BasilPlant of the Month: Basil — Basil is often used in Italian, Asian, and other cuisines. Native to India, Africa, and Southeast Asia, all basil species (Ocimum spp.) belong to the mint family. Basil grows well in Florida’s warm climate; plant it from seed in either the early spring or fall, in containers or in your herb garden. It prefers sun (with a bit of afternoon shade to protect it from the heat) and moist, but well-drained soil.

April in Your Garden – This is a great time to get out in the garden and do a little maintenance. You can divide clumps of bulbs, ornamental grasses, and herbaceous shrubs to expand and rejuvenate your garden this month. This is also a good time to plant many bulbs.

paper waspFriend or Foe? Friend: Paper Wasps — Spring is here and with it comes lots of insect pests. Paper wasps are considered beneficial because they are excellent predators, feeding on pest caterpillars like tobacco hornworm and leafrollers. They typically build papery-looking nests (hence their name) under eaves or in other protected areas on structures or plants. Since these particular wasps are less aggressive than yellow jackets or hornets, they only need to be eliminated if their nest is near human activity. The best way to eliminate paper wasp nests is by using an aerosol wasp spray.

Read the full April issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – December 2014

Happy Holidays, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

poinsettia in basketCreative Container Plants for Gifts – It’s the time of year when people are thinking about gifts, and what better gift to give than a potted plant? A plant in a lovely container is a thoughtful and creative gift. There’s a variety of plants to choose from, allowing you to select one that’s perfect for the recipient. Keep in mind their growing experience and the plant’s care requirements. If you are purchasing a flowering plant, try to select one that hasn’t fully bloomed yet. And it’s actually two gifts in one—finding a beautiful container can make it even more personal.

 

calendar2015 Master Gardener Wall Calendar — Shopping for a Florida gardener or plant lover? Check out our brand new 2015 Florida Master Gardener Wall Calendar! This beautiful and useful calendar features full color photos, Florida-Friendly gardening tips, and a list of blooming plants each month. The calendar is now available for $12.95 in the IFAS Extension Bookstore.

 

mintPlant of the Month: Mint — The smell of mint is often associated with the holidays. Why not bring the scents of the season into your garden by growing this fragrant and useful herb? The refreshing aromatic leaves and small flowers can be added to many dishes including desserts, beverages, meat, salads, as well as jellies and sauces. Mints are excellent perennial herbs for beginning gardeners to grow. Be careful though—mint is sometimes too easy to grow and when left unchecked, it can take over your whole garden.

December in Your Garden – This year consider a Christmas tree that will live on after the holidays. Southern red cedar, Arizona cypress, or sand pine can be enjoyed in a container and then planted in the landscape when the holidays are over. Living Christmas trees create memories that last a lifetime. As an added bonus you can decorate the planted tree with suet, bird feed, or popcorn balls to encourage birds to nest and enjoy the tree, too.

mistletoe in treeFriend or Foe? Foe: Mistletoe — Mistletoe has been used as a Yuletide decoration for centuries. But this plant can be dangerous, and not just for people. Mistletoe is poisonous if eaten, so be careful if you choose to use it for holiday decorating. It’s also damaging to the trees it grows on. Because of its parasitic nature, mistletoe can weaken or even destroy the trees it infests, especially if the tree has been compromised by pests, storms, or old age.

Read the full December issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – September 2014

Happy September, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

rosemaryFall Herbs – Fall is right around the corner and this is a great time to plant an herb garden. There are many perennial herbs that can be started this time of year, including the ever-popular rosemary, sage, and thyme. There are also some great annual herbs that can be planted now, like cilantro and parsley.

 

Layering techniquePlant Propagation – There are many different ways to make new plants, and the best method will vary depending on the plant you are propagating. Air layering, cuttings, and plant division are different ways that you can take a plant you like in your garden (or a friend’s) and grow more.

 

red salviaPlant of the Month: Salvias — Salvias are great plants for bringing butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden and as a bonus, they have no serious pests. With hundreds of annual and perennial species coming in an array of colors and sizes, you can easily find one or more to complement your landscape. Most salvias perform best in full to partial sun, prefer well-drained soil, and are considered relatively drought tolerant.

September in Your Garden – 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. Refresh flower beds with celosia or wax begonias for fall color.

Cuban treefrogFriend or Foe? Foe: Cuban Treefrog — Cuban treefrogs likely came to Florida as stowaways in shipping crates from the Caribbean. These frogs are considered an invasive species in Florida and have been observed eating native treefrogs. You can do your part by reporting, capturing, and humanely euthanizing these invasive jumpers. A good way to tell the difference between Cuban treefrogs and our natives is by size—native treefrogs will usually not be longer than 2.5 inches. When in doubt, take a picture of the frog in question and email it to the UF Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation for identification.

Read the full September issue.

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