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.

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

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.

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

The Neighborhood Gardener – March 2019

Spring is right around the corner, gardeners! (The first official day of Spring is March 20th.)

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Pine straw mulch with bright green leaves of a plant peeking into the frameMulch Madness – Mulch is a magnificent addition to any landscape; it helps planting beds conserve moisture while also providing a beautiful texture and a bit of weed barrier. With so many types of mulch, it can be a bit overwhelming to decide which to choose. We help you decide which mulch is best—and which mulches may not be good—for your landscape. Learn which mulch is best to fill in your garden brackets.

A head of cabbage still in the groundCabbage – Did you know that St. Johns County leads the state in production of cabbage? Farmers call their busiest production time right before the holiday the “St. Paddy’s Day Push”! While it isn’t a good time for planting cabbage in Florida, it’s a great time for harvesting it in your garden or finding it freshly harvested from Florida farmers. Learn more about this vegetable so closely associated with St. Patrick’s Day.

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. Brevard County on Florida’s Space Coast is home to Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, and the UF/IFAS Brevard County Master Gardener Volunteers. Brevard is one of the original three counties that started their Master Gardener Volunteer program in 1979.

Three small white pinwheel-shaped flowersPlant of the Month: Crepe Jasmine — Crepe jasmine has abundant white flowers that are shaped much like a pinwheel. The flowers are particularly prominent in the warmer months of the year, but they stand out against the dark green, glossy evergreen leaves in any season. Forming a moderately dense, rounded, evergreen shrub that flowers even in filtered shade, this plant is a great addition to many gardens. Crepe jasmine plants thrive in Zones 9B to 11.

Sandhill crane's head and long curved neckFlorida Snowbirds — Quite a few birds can be seen migrating through Florida, and some even call our state home for the winter. While the term “snowbirds” can have more than one meaning, we’re referring to the feathered friends who flock to the state to enjoy a little warmth in the winter. Learn more about migratory birds who overwinter in Florida: sandhill cranes, cedar waxwings, and American robins.

Striped watermelon in the fieldMarch in Your Garden — North Florida gardeners are still experiencing winter, so hold off on planting those summer annuals just yet. Bulbs can be planted this month. In Central Florida, you can start replacing those declining winter plants with angelonia and gazania. Gardeners throughout the state can plant beans, squash, corn, and watermelon.

Read the full March 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.

A Year in Review

Say what you will about 2018, at least you can’t say it was boring.

In gardening, it was an interesting year, too. We thought we’d look back at the top ten articles from the UF/IFAS gardening website, Gardening Solutions. Florida gardeners were interested in a range of subjects, but edible gardening and native plants stood out.

firebush_butterfly500
Zebra longwing butterfly on native firebush. UF/IFAS.

The top articles, in order of page views, for January 1 through December 20:

  1. Vegetable Gardening by Season – An overview of what to plant when in the vegetable garden, plus timely chores by season.
  2. Landscaping in the Shade – Advice on how and what to plant in those parts of your yard that don’t receive the necessary six hours of sunlight that most flowering and edible plants require.
  3. Firebush – This native shrub blooms throughout much of the year, attracting both butterflies and hummingbirds with its tubular red flowers. Plus, it’s practically indestructible once established.
  4. Asiatic Jasmine – A low-maintenance groundcover that tolerates a wide range of conditions, including coastal areas (P.S. – not actually jasmine).
  5. Native Plants – Basically a list of the plants covered in Gardening Solutions that are native to Florida.
  6. Tomatoes – We’re actually surprised this one isn’t ranked higher. Perhaps we’re all getting the hang of growing tomatoes?
  7. Citrus – An overview of all types of citrus in Florida and how to grow it in the home landscape. Alas, harder than it used to be…
  8. Native Trees – Another list of natives, this time it’s the big guys.
  9. Ixora – This old South Florida favorite flowers throughout the year with plenty of sunlight.
  10. Different Pests, Different Damage – A breakdown of pests by the way they ruin your plants.

 

persian_shield
Beautiful, shade-loving Persian shield. UF/IFAS.

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

May Brings the Heat

Happy May, gardeners! As temperatures rise, thoughts turn to summer vegetable gardening. Southern favorites to plant now in North and Central Florida include Swiss chard, okra, and sweet potatoes. In addition to sweet potatoes, South Florida gardeners might consider boniato, hot peppers, and tropical “spinach” such as Sisso, Malabar, and New Zealand.

 

edibles_may

May is also a good time to start preparing for hurricane season. Start by checking trees for damaged or weak branches and prune if needed. If you’re looking for a pro, hire an ISA-certified arborist.

For more information and resources, visit the UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions website.

The Neighborhood Gardener – March 2018

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

The first day of spring is March 20th – happy gardening!

Yellow squashSummer Squash – Despite the name, summer squashes don’t actually grow in Florida during the heat of the summer. Zucchini, yellow squash, crookneck, and pattypan are all summer squashes, and all have tender flesh and a thin, edible skin. These vegetables can be great fun to grow in your vegetable garden. Summer squash work well for cooking or eating raw, and recently have gained popularity as vegetable noodles or “zoodles”.

A very large staghorn fern mounted to the outside wall of a buildingStaghorn Remounting Tutorial — Staghorn ferns (Platycerium spp.) are tropical plants that, despite their exotic appearance, are not too intimidating to casual gardeners since they are easy to grow and require little care. Did you know that large mature staghorn ferns can be divided into separate plants? We have a tutorial that will walk you through the steps to divide your staghorn and then mount it to a wooden board or set in a hanging basket.

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — We are amending soil, picking the right plants, watering, fertilizing, scouting insects, and weeding in our landscape beds—and no food crops are allowed in. What if you slipped some edibles in those landscaped beds? Start with herbs, advance to leafy greens, and then grow tomatoes, eggplants, and squash in plain sight. There are lots of places to grow food even in a way your HOA will approve of. This is the philosophy behind Brie Arthur’s book, “The Foodscape Revolution.”

A large clump of green ornamental grassPlant of the Month: Fakahatchee Grass — MFakahatchee grass brings a touch of native Florida into your landscape and adds texture to any yard. Fakahatchee grass (Tripsacum dactyloides) has tall, green, grass-like foliage rising upright to form large clumps—there is also a dwarf cultivar if you are limited by space constraints. For those who like the plants in their landscape to benefit wildlife, Fakahatchee grass is the larval food plant for the Byssus Skipper butterfly.

A creepy-looking but beneficial lacewing larvaLacewings — Beneficial insects are an important part of integrated pest management in your Florida-Friendly landscape. One such beneficial insect is the green lacewing. In its larval form, it is proficient at attacking pests like aphids, scale insects, whiteflies, and others. Lacewing larvae resemble small caterpillars, but move more quickly and have longer legs and mouthparts. Adult lacewings are less than an inch long and light green, with two pairs wings that have a netted appearance.

Bush beansMarch in Your Garden — March is a good month to replace cool season annuals with plants that will thrive as temperatures rise, such as angelonia in North and Central Florida. Gardeners in South Florida can plant heat-tolerant annuals. Many warm season edibles like beans and squash can be planted this month as well. Just remember in some areas of the state there is still a risk that temperatures may dip, so keep an eye on the forecast.

Read the full March issue.

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

The Neighborhood Gardener – January 2018

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Happy New Year, gardeners!

Cut away view of microgreens in dark soilMicrogreens – Relatively easy to grow and bursting with nutrients, microgreens can be a fun growing project for the New Year. Microgreens are harvested when the first true leaves emerge; both the stems and leaves are eaten. They are great for use in soups, stews, salads, sandwiches, main dishes, and as garnishes. The kitchen window is a good place to grow them. There are dozens of microgreens you can choose from offering a variety of flavors and colors to add to your dishes.

Curly leafed kale in mulched bedKale Varieties — Say “kale yeah” to healthy eating and a lovely garden in 2018! Kale is good for you, easy-to-grow, and good looking — it has it all. However, all kale is not exactly the same; there are a number of varieties with differing growth and leaf forms, colors, and edible or ornamental qualities. Check out our piece on some of the delicious varieties to grow in your Florida garden.

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — How are those New Year’s resolutions coming along? Was choosing a healthier lifestyle on the list? I hope so! Your gardening habit is one you don’t want to break because it is beneficial to your mental and physical health. Gardening activities are known to be associated with mental clarity as well as with reduced stress levels.

Tiny dark purple fruit of flatwoods plumPlant of the Month: Flatwoods Plum — Flatwoods plum can be a beautiful and interesting sight when it blooms in the spring. Like its relative the Chickasaw plum, it flowers before leaves appear, leaving you with a tree adorned with nothing but blossoms. The flatwoods plum produces small edible fruit that range from very tart to very sweet. This Florida-friendly tree is a great choice for growing in North and Central Florida. (Photo by James H. Miller and Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society, Bugwood.org)

A healthy green Florida-Friendly lawn in front of a stucco homeHealthy Yards with FFL Principle #3 — The third principle of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ is to fertilize appropriately. Here in Florida that generally means passing on the seemingly convenient—but actually potentially harmful—”weed and feed.” Learn more about why “weed and feed” products are best avoided in your Florida lawn.

Woman kneeling to plant tree in holeJanuary in Your Garden — With our recent cold weather some plants may not be looking their best in your landscape. While it may be tempting to start pruning, it’s best to wait until spring. It may not look great, but this will benefit the plant in the long-term. And you could celebrate Florida Arbor Day (the third Friday of January) by planting a tree in your yard or community.

Read the full January issue.

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