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.

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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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