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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 – November 2015

Happy autumn gardening!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Roselle calycesFlorida “Cranberries” – Wouldn’t it be great if your Thanksgiving cranberry sauce could come from ingredients grown in your own back yard? Ever heard of Florida cranberries? Well if you haven’t, the first thing you should know is they aren’t really cranberries at all. But don’t let that turn you off roselle, the plant that could provide you with the main ingredient to make your own tangy red, locally sourced holiday dressing.

WendyWendy’s Wanderings — “That plant is invasive,” a gardener friend recently said to me. I asked her to be more specific, because I knew the plant she was referring to was a Florida native. “It just takes over everything!” She was right about the plant growing aggressively, but wrong in her use of the word “invasive.”

Master Gardener logoNew Master Gardener Website — We are happy to announce that the new Master Gardener website went live at the beginning of this month. The new site features beautiful and larger photos, easier navigation, and an updated design that may remind you a bit of the Gardening Solutions website.

SaltbushPlant of the Month: Saltbush — Saltbush, also called groundsel tree or sea myrtle, looks like a cloud of white flowers where you least expect it, hovering about 8 feet off the ground. Currently in bloom, you may have seen these often-overlooked shrubs blooming along roadsides and in ditches. While not commonly used in home landscapes, this native woody shrub is perfectly suited to Florida gardens.

November in Your Garden – With a rainier winter than average predicted this year, be on the lookout for plant disease and fungal problems in your landscape. For fall color, try some cool season annuals. North and Central Florida gardeners should try pansies and violas, while those further south should try strawflower and cape daisies.

Monarch on purple flowerFriend or Foe? Friend: Monarch Butterfly — The Monarch migration is underway! Many gardeners have heard by now that planting milkweed in their landscape is important to helping the Monarch butterflies survive, but many aren’t aware that the particular species you plant matters, as not all are Monarch host plants.

Read the full October issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – August

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

boy watering gardenBack-to-School (Gardens) Shopping List — It’s time for kids to go back to school, which also means it’s time for teachers to start thinking about their school gardens.  Although most of the  supplies needed to start gardening or composting will be purchased by the  individual schools, supplemental funding for the program comes from a variety  of other sources.  You can help a local teacher and school garden by purchasing a few things on their school garden shopping list.

man using chainsawBeing Safe with the Chainsaw — Summer is a great time to clean up your yard before hurricane season gets really active. Chain saws can make this really easy, but are also a tool that you want to be careful using. The chains can move up to 68 miles per hour, and the mufflers can be as hot as 900ºF. You can avoid injury with chain saws by taking a few precautions, such as carrying the chain saw backwards and keep the muffler away from your body so you don’t get burned. And when you purchase a chain saw, make sure it has safety features, like a low-kickback chain, a hand guard, and a chain brake.

Perennial peanutPlant of the Month: Perennial Peanut — Perennial peanut is a versatile groundcover that can be planted statewide and blooms all summer long with cheerful golden flowers. It can be planted on its own as a groundcover in larger beds or used as a lawn alternative in areas that receive low levels of foot traffic. It also can be interplanted within some existing lawns. Perennial peaunut flowers best when planted in full sun, but can also be planted in partial shade. Mowing established plants will make them bloom more, but it’s not required.

August in Your Garden – Many cool-season crops such as collards and onion can be planted now, including a final crop of warm-season vegetables, such as pepper. Tomato can also be planted for the fall garden. For a complete list of what can be planted when, consult the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide.

Zebra longwing butterflyFriend or Foe? Friend: Zebra Longwing Butterfly — The zebra longwing is the state butterfly of Florida. It’s a regular sight in many gardens, yards, and parks. The zebra longwing is a medium-sized butterfly with wings that are black with several bold, narrow yellow stripes. Common hosts for zebra longwings are passionflower vines, so plant a few of these in your yard to attract one of these beautiful, native butterflies.

Read the full August issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – October

Christmas cactus flowerThis month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

  • Christmas Cactus Prep — The holidays are coming up on us and it’s time to start getting your Christmas cactus ready to bloom. Many people have these plants for years, but it can be tricky getting them to bloom when you want.
  • Plant of the Month: Muhly Grass — In fall, muhly grass produces fluffy pink to purple flower stalks that can reach up to 5 feet tall and give the plant a distinctive and attractive appearance. This native ornamental grass can be grown throughout Florida and will perform best if it’s planted in a sunny area.
  • October in Your Garden – Plant evergreen hollies now. Their bright berries add color to the landscape when other plants are dormant or have died back for the winter. Water well when planting and mulch to minimize weeds.
  • Pest Alert: Giant African Land Snails — The giant African land snail is considered one of the most damaging snails in the world. It’s known to consume at least 500 different types of plants, and can pose a serious health risk to humans. These invasive pests have recently been found in Miami-Dade County. These snails could be devastating to Florida agriculture and natural areas.
  • It’s Time for ButterflyFest – Celebrate wings and backyard things at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s sixth annual ButterflyFest, Oct. 22 and 23, 2011. ButterflyFest is dedicated to increasing awareness of Florida’s butterflies as fun, fascinating ambassadors to the natural world. There will be speakers, fun activites, a plant sale, and musical performances.
  • Master Gardener Conference – There’s still time to register for the 2011 Florida Master Gardener Continued Training Conference. The conference will be held October 24-26 at the Royal Plaza Hotel in Lake Buena Vista. Don’t miss out on tours, enlightening seminars, the plant ID competition, and so much more.

Read the full October issue.

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