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The Neighborhood Gardener – February 2017

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Happy gardening!

Bouquet of red roses with white baby's breath flowersCut Flower Care – Cut flowers are a popular gift, particularly for the biggest gift-giving day in February, Valentine’s Day. From Asiatic lilies to zinnias, proper care is the key to a long-lasting arrangement, and UF/IFAS Extension has some helpful tips. To keep your thoughtful floral present looking its best, treat your bouquet to a few simple steps. With some fresh water, a sharp pair of kitchen shears, and that handy little packet that’s typically included, your arrangement will last much longer.

Yellow flowers of the invasive cat's claw vineInvasive Plant Awareness – National Invasive Species Awareness Week is generally at the end of February; this year, it’s February 27 – March 3. This is a national event intended to raise awareness and identify solutions to invasive species issues at local, state, tribal, regional, national, and international scales. Invasive species have a negative impact on the economy, environment, or humans where they are introduced. Sometimes, the terms we use to describe problematic plants can become conflated and confusing. (Cat’s claw vine photo by Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org)

Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — We are in between seasons here in Florida. It doesn’t feel like winter, but we don’t trust the weather enough to think that it is officially spring. This is the time when we find ourselves dreaming about bountiful spring gardens and a yard full of blooms. It is in this time that we gardeners are most vulnerable—suggestible, actually—to spending money on crazy plants and inappropriate varieties that we see in catalogs or on the internet.

Three red strawberriesPlant of the Month: Strawberries – February and March are peak months for fresh strawberries in Florida and to celebrate, strawberry festivals are happening around the state. Florida consistently ranks second in the U.S. in the commercial production of strawberries behind California. And almost all of our strawberries are grown in Hillsborough and Manatee counties (approximately 95 percent). While it’s not time to plant these tasty fruits—that happens in the early fall—you’re likely to find Florida strawberries in grocery stores and farmers markets throughout the state now.

Kent Perkins in UF herbariumHerbariums – Have you ever wondered what exactly a herbarium is? It’s a collection of plant specimens preserved, labeled, and stored in an organized manner that facilitates access. Established in 1891, the University of Florida Herbarium (FLAS) is the oldest and most comprehensive herbarium in Florida. Marc Frank, Extension Botanist with the University of Florida Herbarium, gives us some history on herbariums and their scientific importance. (Photo: Kent Perkins, collection manager at the UF Herbarium)

Citrus on the tree in a groveFebruary in Your Garden – Now is the time to fertilize your citrus and other fruit trees. Fertilizer requirements will vary between different fruits so be sure to check the recommendations for your specific trees. See the UF/IFAS publications, “Citrus Culture in the Home Landscape” and the “Temperate Fruit for the Home Landscape” series for more information.

Read the full February issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – November 2013

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Potted plantHomemade Potting Mix — While a number of commercial pre-packaged potting mixtures are available at gardening centers, you may not know that you can make your own at home. Creating your own potting soil allows you to regulate the ingredients and control the proportions added to the mixture to meet your individual plants needs.

Meyer lemonsPlant of the Month: Myer Lemon — Rich orange-yellow Meyer lemon fruits provide a sweeter alternative to common lemons while bringing color and interest to your winter landscape. While able to handle cold weather better than other citrus plants, Meyer lemon plants do need to be protected from temperatures below 20°F. This plant can even be successfully grown in containers or inside as a houseplant, although it is unlikely to fruit when kept inside.

November in Your Garden – Continue planting cool weather vegetables like lettuce, carrots, broccoli, and kale this month. If you’re looking to plant flowers this month, pansies are a great cool weather bedding plant. Now that temperatures are lower, use dormant oil sprays to control scale insects in your garden. Cooler weather also means your plants will need less supplemental watering, so turn off automated systems and water only when needed.

Raccoon getting into bird feederFriend or Foe? Foe: Raccoons — Raccoons are a common and resourceful urban animal nuisance, well known for digging through trash cans and wreaking havoc in gardens. Adding cayenne pepper, mothballs, or wildlife repellent to the soil around new plantings will keeping raccoons away for a time, but when it comes to ripe fruits and vegetables, very little will deter these tenacious critters. Using a single strand electric fence with the wire 8 inches above the ground can provide an effective deterrent without physically harming the animals. Avoid contact; remember, raccoons are wild animals and the primary carrier of rabies in Florida.

Read the full November issue.

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Want to grow citrus, but worried about the chilly weather we’ve had lately? Try kumquats!

kumquatsKumquats are called “the little gold gems of the citrus family.” They have a thin, sweet peel and a zesty, tart center, and you can eat kumquats just like you’d eat grapes!

The kumquat tastes best when gently rolled between the fingers before being eaten. It’s the only citrus fruit that can you can eat “skin and all.”

The kumquat’s unique flavor makes it a pleasant addition to many recipes, and it’s a favorite for jelly, marmalade, and chutney.

Kumquat trees grow well throughout Florida, planted in the yard or in large containers. Several types are available. The trees are very cold hardy, and are highly resistant to citrus canker. The trees require the same care as other citrus, so add one to a sunny location in your garden!