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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 – May 2014

Happy May, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

ZinniasSummer Annuals – Even during the oppressive heat of summer, your Florida landscape can still be home to colorful annuals. If you like plants with cool-colored blooms, try torenia, also called the wishbone flower. Zinnias come in an array of colors and are great cut flowers. If you’re looking for colorful foliage, try coleus or caladium. Learn more about annuals—and perennials—for the summer in “Summer Bedding Plants.”

Junior Master Fun in Hillsborough — Students at LaVoy Exceptional Center recently participated in a Junior Master Gardener activity that coupled education, creativity, and fun. With help from Hillsborough County Master Gardener Lesley Fleming, students created sombreros using newspaper and then decorated them with paints and ribbons. The activity comes from the Junior Master Gardener curriculum and teaches students about recycling and sun protection.

Gerbera daisyPlant of the Month: Gerbera Daisy — Unlike the rest of the country, Florida gardeners can enjoy Gerbera daisies throughout the year. Native to South Africa, these plants have long-lasting flowers that come in many colors. Gerbera daisies do well in containers and flower beds that receive morning sun. In areas where prolonged freezes are likely, they should be treated as annuals or over-wintered indoors.

May in Your Garden – Harmful insects become more active as the weather warms; keep an eye out for pests in the garden to stay ahead of potential infestations. Plant heat-loving herbs like basil, Mexican tarragon, and rosemary.

Mimosa flowersFriend or Foe? Foe: Mimosa Tree — Commonly known as the mimosa tree or silk tree, Albizia julibrissin has long been popular in the landscape for its fragrant pink flowers and feathery, fern-like foliage. However, this tree has a bad habit of taking over native Florida landscapes. The mimosa tree is considered an invasive plant and not recommended for any use by the IFAS Assessment. If you want something that looks similar to mimosa without the invasive qualities, try sweet acacia, red bottlebrush, or dwarf powderpuff.

Read the full May issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – July

powderpuff mismosaThis month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

  • Ten Beautiful (and Resilient) Plants for Hot Southern Gardens — Looking for some showstoppers for your summer garden? We’ve got recommendations for attractive plants that can withstand the Florida heat.
  • FruitScapes — Many Floridians are lucky enough to have fruit trees in their gardens, but practical information on how to plant and care for these trees is necessary in order to enjoy this edible landscape. The UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center hosts FruitScapes, a helpful website featuring fact sheets and videos to help home gardeners understand how to successfully plant and grow fruit trees.
  • Plant of the Month: Powderpuff Mimosa — Few groundcovers offer a more cheerful appearance than powderpuff mimosa. From spring through fall, this versatile native plant blooms nonstop with pink, ball-shaped flowers.
  • July in Your Garden — Plant heat-tolerant annuals like celosia, coleus, and ornamental peppers. Use the summer heat as a tool in preparing the vegetable garden for fall planting. Soil solarization takes four to six weeks to kill weeds, disease, and nematodes, so start now.
  • Friend or Foe? Foe: Silverfish — These pests are very common in homes, often coming in with storage boxes, and may cause damage by feeding on paper, wallpaper paste, fabrics, and book bindings. Reducing humidity in the home helps control silverfish.

Read the full July issue.

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