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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 – March 2017

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Happy spring, gardeners!

Man working on the underside of a mowerSpring into Action for a Healthy Lawn – Warmer weather means Florida gardeners will be spending more time keeping their lawns looking lovely. Now is the perfect time to check out equipment, do your research, and create a landscape plan before heading outside. We have four steps that can help you get ready for your lawn’s active growing season.

Artistic rendering of the words International Flower and Garden FestivalEpcot Flower and Garden Festival – There’s a special event that heralds the arrival of spring in Florida—the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. Running now through May 29th, the festival features gorgeous gardens, world-famous topiaries, and special events. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, our very own Master Gardener volunteers will be answering questions at the garden information desk, and Master Gardener Coordinators will give instructional seminars on topics such as hummingbird gardens and orchids.

Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — I never know how spring fever is going to hit me. Sometimes it’s the pleasant shock of finding my shopping cart full of beautiful perennial plants—when I only went to the big box store for light bulbs. Or waking up on Saturday with a full-blown panic attack realizing that if I don’t get to the nursery immediately they will be sold out of my favorite tomatoes, and if they are sold out, I won’t have my favorites and I will suffer with lesser tomatoes all spring omg where are my keys?

Purple blossom of queen's wreathPlant of the Month: Queen’s Wreath – Queen’s wreath is a tropical flowering vine that looks wonderful this time of year. With drooping lavender flowers, this plant resembles wisteria—without that plant’s invasive issues. While usually found growing as a woody vine, queen’s wreath can be maintained as a shrub or a small, single- or multiple-trunked tree. Left to its own devices, queen’s wreath can reach 40 feet tall, but you can keep it much smaller with occasional pruning. Gardeners in zones 9B and further south can plant this long-flowering vine and enjoy blossoms for many months.

Logo for FruitScapes website over a photo of papayaFruitScapes – State Master Gardener Coordinator Wendy Wilber thinks growing fruit trees is a fabulous idea. They provide nutritious food to eat and share with both friends and wildlife, they provide shade, and are an attractive addition to home landscapes. But with so many fruit tree (and shrub) options available to Florida gardeners, it can be difficult to know where to start. Enter FruitScapes, the UF/IFAS website that offers you information on planting and growing over 50 different fruit plants in Florida.

Red zinnia flowersMarch in Your Garden – Spring is one of the busiest seasons for Florida gardeners. There are many edibles that can be planted in your garden this month and we have an updated Edibles to Plant this Month infographic that gives you a glance at what can be planted across the state. Now is also the time to start planting heat-tolerant annuals like angelonia and zinnia in your landscape.

Photo of a doe, mostly her headPlant Damage? Oh, Deer! – Spotting deer in your backyard can be a sweet treat; spotting damaged plants that have been chewed up by deer can sour your joy. While there are no guaranteed deer-proof plants, there are plants that are resistant to deer damage, as well as steps you can take to protect your garden and landscape.

Read the full March issue.

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

The Neighborhood Gardener – March 2016

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Student preparing garden soil with teacherSchool Garden Wins Award of Excellence for Bay County – The Florida Master Gardener Award of Excellence for Service to 4-H and/or Other Youth recognizes volunteers who make outstanding contributions to youth through horticulture. The 2015 award went to the UF/IFAS Extension Bay County Master Gardeners, for their work as part of a community-wide partnership to develop and maintain a horticultural therapy garden at Margaret K. Lewis School for children with disabilities.

Hummingbird approaching feeder photo by Annkatrin RoseHummingbird Feeders
While the best source of food for hummingbirds is one of the many nectar-producing plants they love, a hummingbird feeder can be a great way to provide extra sustenance to these fast-moving little birds. Hummingbirds need to eat a third to half of their body weight each day in order to keep those rapidly beating wings moving. When looking for a hummingbird feeder, choose one in red plastic with multiple feeding stations, and only put an unaltered sugar and water solution—no dye—into the feeder.

WendyWendy’s Wanderings — As a gardener, I am always looking for inspiration for what to plant next. I’m constantly on the lookout for fresh plant varieties, fresh plant combinations, new ways of growing plants, and new ways of communicating with people about plants. When it is spring, I look forward to attending the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival at Walt Disney World. Their world-class horticulturalists plan far in advance to blow gardeners’ boots off and this year is no exception. The theme is “Epcot Fresh” and there are plenty of fresh ideas there to inspire you.

Olives on the treeOlives — Think of olive trees and you may think of the Mediterranean, but did you know that you can grow olives in Florida? If you’re looking for something different, an olive tree may be a great choice. Grown in small numbers here for years, commercial production of olives in Florida is still new and subject to ongoing research. While not suitable for consumption right off the tree, olives can be cured and eaten, or pressed for oil, and the tree’s silvery foliage makes it an attractive addition to the landscape.

Yellow trumpet treePlant of the Month: Trumpet Trees — Trumpet trees are loved for their dazzling display of blossoms that burst forth ahead of their leaves in spring. The common name refers to the elongated flowers that resemble trumpets; depending on the tree, the flowers can be white, yellow, pink or even lavender. Traditionally known as Tabebuia, some of these trees are now recognized with a different botanical name. These Florida-friendly plants grow best in full sun and make a stunning addition to landscapes in Central and South Florida.

TomatoesMarch in Your Garden – We’re heading into spring, which is a great time to try a vegetable garden. Warm season crops can be planted this month throughout the state, like corn, pepper, tomatoes, cucumbers, and sweet potatoes.

two mosquitoesZika Mosquito Update — Zika has been getting a lot of attention in the media recently, as outbreaks of this mosquito-transmitted virus become evermore present in Central and South America. While much is still unknown about the Zika virus, one thing is for sure—limiting mosquito habitats and preventing bites are important precautions in mosquito-prone climates like Florida’s.

Read the full March issue.

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

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.

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

Celebrating National Volunteer Week with Master Gardeners

MG Volunteer with childrenThe highest reward for a person’s work is not what they get for it, but what they become because of it. –John Ruskin

The Presidential Proclamation of National Volunteer week has been designated as April 15 through April 21, 2012.

The Florida Master Gardener Program is celebrating National Volunteer Week with events, such as appreciation luncheons, like Collier and Suwanee counties, and breakfasts, like Charlotte County held last week at a local culinary school.

Duval County Extension is “Celebrating People in Action” with an awards ceremony this week, including Master Gardeners Thomas R. Bruton, Debbie Claxton (Urban Gardening), Linda Cunningham (Master Food & Nutrition Educator), and Christine Lepo-McAteer (Canning program).

An especially fun way you can see Master Gardener volunteers in action is at Epcot, where the International Flower and Garden Festival is going on now through May 20. Last year, nearly 400 Master Gardeners volunteered at the festival. We’ve played a role in the festival ever since it started nineteen years ago.

And it’s not just one yearly event that our volunteers are working. In 2011, more than 4,200 Florida Master Gardener volunteers gave 355,388 hours of their time!

Just a few ways Master Gardener volunteers share their time:

  • Answering questions via, e-mail, telephone, and office visits
  • Working in community gardens
  • Doing demonstrations and appearing at exhibits
  • Horticultural therapy
  • Plant clinics
  • Working with youth organizations (4-H, Junior Master Gardeners, etc.)

Perhaps you’d like to celebrate National Volunteer Week, too? Then come join us! The Florida Master Gardener Program recruits individuals who are interested in gardening and enjoy sharing what they learn with others. Participants complete a 50-hour (or longer) training course sponsored by the University of Florida and local county Extension offices.

The Neighborhood Gardener – April 2012

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Volunteers at EpcotEpcot International Garden and Flower Festival — Each spring, Master Gardeners and county agents take part in the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, a 75-day event that brings together plants, people, and music to create an entertaining and educational experience for gardeners and non-gardeners alike. The Epcot horticulture staff installs rows and rows of bedding plants around the lakes in Future World, creating a huge carpet of color that’s hard to miss. The park staff also installs specialty gardens like a butterfly garden, a water-wise garden, and an English tea garden, plus more than 100 custom topiaries featuring many Disney characters.

hot_pepperPlant of the Month: Hot Peppers — Hot peppers will keep producing even when the temperatures and humidity climb, making them a great vegetable for Florida gardens. For best success, choose varieties that are known to do well in Florida and that are resistant to diseases. Like most vegetables, hot peppers need full sun in order to produce a good harvest. Even if you don’t want to eat them, hot peppers can still be fun to grow. Their colorful fruits can be red, purple, yellow, or orange, and they easily add interest to landscape beds and containers.

April in Your Garden – Apply fertilizer to your lawn after new growth has started. Choose a fertilizer (not a “weed and feed”) with little or no phosphorus unless a soil test indicates the need for it. A fertilizer with controlled-release nitrogen yields longer-lasting results. Check for thrips if leaves and/or flowers of gardenias and roses are damaged.

Orchid thripFriend or Foe? Foe: Thrips — Thrips are very small, yellow, black or brown slender insects. They use a “punch and suck” method to damage flowers and ornamental plants. Infested leaves dry out and sometimes have a silver-flecked appearance. Flower buds fail to open or the flowers are deformed. Thrips are at their peak in the spring.

Read the full April issue.

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