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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 – June 2014

Happy June, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Soil Solarization – Looking for a way to manage soil pests in your vegetable garden without using chemicals? Try soil solarization. With soil solarization, a sheet of plastic is used to cover the soil surface, trapping the heat and allowing the soil to reach temperatures that are lethal to many pests and weeds. When done effectively, soil solarization can reduce pest populations for three to four months, and in some cases even longer.

Crapemyrtle in church gardenTurning Sand into a Sacred Garden in Polk County — Even before she became a Master Gardener in Polk County, Molly Griner was working on gardens. Her church, Hope Presbyterian in Winter Haven was located on the site of a former orange grove, its “landscape” mostly sandy soil and grass. Through Molly’s efforts, it has been turned into a Florida-Friendly garden for church-goers and community visitors to meditate or pray while surrounded by nature.

pink crinum flowerPlant of the Month: Crinums — Crinum lilies are a hallmark of Southern gardens and have been cherished and cultivated by Florida gardeners for years. They’re known for their easygoing nature, growing for years on old home sites or cemeteries with little or no care. Plant your crinum bulbs up to their necks in partial shade for best results. They are equally at home in dry sandy soils and on moist pond banks.

June in Your Garden – Summer flowering shrubs like hibiscus, oleander, and crapemyrtle bloom on new growth; lightly prune often during warmer months to keep them blooming and looking sharp.

beetleFriend or Foe? Friend: Air Potato Leaf Beetle — While many people know about the invasive air potato vine, few are aware of air potato leaf beetles. Native to Asia, these beetles feed and develop only on air potato plants, posing no risk to other plant species. In 2012, air potato leaf beetles were released in Florida as a potential biological control of the aggressive air potato vine. Within three months of their release, extensive damage to air potato plants was observed at the initial release sites.

Read the full June issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – April 2014

Hello, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

PodocarpusPlant a Tree, Save Energy – Earth Day is April 22 and celebrations to demonstrate support for environmental protection are taking place throughout the state. One way to observe Earth Day is by reducing household energy use, which in turn can save you money. Strategically planted trees, shrubs, and even vines in the landscape create shade to cool your home, helping your AC unit run more efficiently, and even less often. Trees also cool outdoor spaces for you and your family to enjoy all summer. For more information on using landscape plants to cool your home more efficiently, read Planting Trees for Energy Savings on Gardening Solutions.

stepping stonesWalkways in the Landscape — At its most basic, a path directs visitors through your garden, keeps your feet dry, and reduces soil compaction to the rest of your landscape. However, your walkway can serve more than these utilitarian purposes; it can be a place of relaxation with the addition of seating and other design elements. And walkways can be made with a variety of materials including gravel, pavers, or mulch. With some planning and imagination you can create the perfect walkway for your home landscape.

Spanish bayonetPlant of the Month: Spanish Bayonet — Spanish bayonet is a great accent plant for the Florida landscape. With its dramatic flower spikes and sharp, pointed foliage, this plant is sure to grab attention. Its leaves have been known to pierce through even thick clothing, so select a planting location away from walkways. Spanish bayonet has a high salt tolerance, making it a excellent choice for coastal gardens, and requires little maintenance; it’s highly drought tolerant and once established, requires almost no supplemental irrigation.

April in Your Garden – With temperatures on the rise, be on the lookout for garden pests; monitoring insect activity can help you to catch any potential problems before they get out of hand. Gardeners in north and central Florida can plant coleus, while those in south Florida should plant vinca, portulaca, and other heat-tolerant annuals.

Hover flyFriend or Foe? Friend: Hover Fly — Hover flies are abundant year-round in south Florida and common throughout the rest of the state during spring and summer. Often mistaken for harmful fruit flies, these colorful little flies are actually beneficial; mature hover flies are pollinators and their larvae are important aphid predators. When hover fly larval populations are high, they may be able to control 70 to 100 percent of aphid populations. (Image: Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org)

Read the full April issue.

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