We love our Master Gardener volunteers

April is National Volunteer Month, when we celebrate the work that volunteers do year-round. Volunteer Month recognizes and promotes the spirit of service, and raises awareness about how volunteering changes lives and strengthens communities.

We’ve featured some Master Gardeners from different county Extension programs throughout the state on our website, like Charlie Reynolds in Highlands County. His program coordinator David Austin had so much to say about Charlie:

“Charlie Reynolds has been a Highlands County Master Gardener for 12 years. In the five years that I have worked with him, Charlie never told me no. He never waited for me to give him directions on what to do, either. He jumped in when a local Housing Authority needed help with their community garden. He visited that garden weekly and worked with the tenants. He started his Dream Chaser’s 4-H club before I even caught wind of the idea.”

You can read all of Charlie’s story and more on the Florida Master Gardener website:

Master Gardener Charlie Reynolds

The Neighborhood Gardener – November 2016

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

The staff of the UF/IFAS Florida Master Gardener program wish to thank all veterans for their service to our country.

hydroponic plantHydroponic Vegetable Gardening – A hydroponic garden is a fun way to grow your own herbs and vegetables. Hydroponic systems use nutrient-enriched water instead of soil, avoiding weeds and other pest problems common to soil-grown vegetables. Leafy crops like lettuce, Swiss chard, mint, and kale usually do quite well in hydroponic gardens. Building a simple one for your home garden is easier than you think. And it all starts with a kiddie pool.

Yellow flowers of Mexican tarragonMexican Tarragon – Mexican tarragon is an excellent choice for Florida gardeners. With a flavor similar to traditional French tarragon, but a better tolerance for drought, heat, and humidity, Mexican tarragon is a winner in the Southern herb garden. The leaves have a complex flavor and fragrance: similar to anise/tarragon, coupled with notes of mint, cinnamon, and a touch of sweetness. The bright yellow flowers can be used in salads. A popular method for storing Mexican tarragon is to preserve the leaves in vinegar.

Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings – Years back I was cleaning out my container and pot pile and had to ask myself, “Where did all these pots come from?” Had I really planted all the plants that grew in these pots, and if so, where were they? I remembered the advice of my Master Gardener friend Bill, who had encouraged me to keep a garden journal. If I wrote this stuff down, I would know what was going on in my landscape and garden.

Red berries of coral ardisiaCoral Ardisia — Coral ardisia was promoted in Florida as a landscape ornamental for many years. It is a compact shrub, with attractive, glossy foliage, and bright red berries. Unfortunately, it also forms dense colonies in natural habitats, smothering the seedlings of native species and producing copious amounts of fruit, which are readily dispersed by wildlife. Coral ardisia has been added to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ noxious weed list, making it illegal to possess, propagate, transport, or sell this species within the state. Extension botanist Marc Frank writes in depth about coral ardisia and how Master Gardeners can identify it.

Red berries of Simpson's stopperPlant of the Month: Simpson’s Stopper – Simpson’s stopper is a versatile Florida native with springtime flowering, colorful berries, and evergreen leaves. The fragrant white flowers attract butterflies and bees, while birds flock to the shrub for shelter and its fruit. Found growing naturally in seaside hammocks, Simpson’s stopper is a great choice for coastal gardeners looking for a plant that’s tolerant of salt and alkaline growing conditions. Recommended for Zones 8b to 11, Simpson’s stopper is cold hardy down to 25°F, and can function as a shrub or a small tree depending on the cultivar and how you prune it.

Dark pink crinum flowerNovember in Your Garden – November finally brings cooler weather, and winter annuals like pansies can be planted to freshen up flowerbeds. This is an excellent time to plant bulbs like amaryllis and crinum, and there are many cool-season vegetables you can plant now: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and greens, as well as radishes and turnips.

Read the full November issue.

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

The Neighborhood Gardener – June 2015

Oleander shrub with pink flowers

Happy Summer Gardening!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

The 34th Annual State Master Gardener Conference – The highly anticipated State Master Gardener Conference will take place October 18-21, 2015. Whether this year’s conference will be your first or fifteenth, there will be something for all of Florida’s Master Gardeners. In addition to 24 educational sessions, there will be exciting keynote speakers including John Moran, one of Florida’s best landscape photographers.

WendyWendy’s Wanderings — This month marks the beginning of summer. For Floridians, there are a lot of markers to the month of June—hurricane season, the end of the school year, the rainy season starting, and reaping the harvest of our spring gardens.

Uprooted treeRisky (Tree) Business — Making sure the trees surrounding your home are healthy is always important. Not only are unhealthy trees unattractive, they can be a serious safety hazard. But it’s equally important to remember that not all trees are a risk; they play a vital role in your landscape. The best way to determine if your trees are healthy is to contact a professional. But you can do some scouting in your own landscape and determine if some of your trees are a risk and should be looked at.

OleanderPlant of the Month: Oleander — Oleander (Nerium oleander) may have a bit of a bad-girl reputation, but it is a truly beautiful addition to the Florida landscape. All parts of the plant are toxic, so be sure to plant it far from small children and curious pets. Oleander will grow best in zones 9a-11 and can handle even the poorest of soils. Plant yours in full sunlight for ideal flowering, and while it is very drought-resistant, supplemental irrigation in the driest months will help your oleander thrive.

June in Your Garden – Many gardeners are wrapping up their spring garden harvests as temperatures start to climb. Cover crops are a great way to control weeds and add nutrients to the soil while you take a break from tending to your vegetable patch. Cowpeas, sunhemp, and sorghum are some popular annual summer cover crops.

caterpillarFriend or Foe? Foe: Oleander Caterpillars — Oleander moths are quite beautiful.They’re sometimes called polka-dot moths due to the spots on their bodies and wings. But it’s the larval stage you should keep an eye out for. Oleander caterpillars are voracious eaters and can quickly defoliate a plant. Removing larvae-infested foliage is the most environmentally friendly method of control.

Read the full June issue.

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

Smithsonian Folklife Festival – we were there!

The University of Florida was at the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Morrill Act and the USDA. The Morrill Act laid the groundwork for Extension programs like Master Gardeners.

UF was represented by multiple faculty and staff, including our own Tom Wichman of the Florida Master Gardener Program and Brian Niemann of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping program. They were on hand  during the Festival, which ran from June 27–July 1 and again from July 4–8.

We thought we’d share some images from the UF exhibit at the Folklife Festival. If you’d like to read more about our part in the festival, read our previous post,  Florida MGs in DC for the Folklife Festival.

Folklife Festival banner
The University of Florida and the Florida Master Gardeners were at the 2012 Folklife Festival.

Brian Niemann at the Folklife Festival
Landscaping exhibit at the Festival
Visitors to our Folklife Festival Exhibit
Water exhibit

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.