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The Neighborhood Gardener – November 2017

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

We’d like to thank our veterans for their service, and we wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving.

View of home landscape from the streetCurb Appeal – Your front yard is the first impression visitors get of your home. It’s the first thing you see after a long day at work. Why not make this part of your home a fabulous reflection of your personality and design aesthetic? Your landscape can be anything you dream of, but there are a few guiding tips to help make sure that you have a lovely and welcoming look to the front of your home.

A cute gopher tortoiseWho Made That Hole? — Gardeners are generally pretty attentive to any disturbances in “the force,” and holes in the yard can be quite disturbing to some. For most homeowners, a few holes here and there are not a huge issue. But where some gardeners welcome the signs of wildlife in their landscape, others find the disturbances a nuisance. Whatever your stance on the digging of critters, almost everyone wants to know who made that hole.

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — As a former county Master Gardener coordinator, I recall the frustration of hearing great MG ideas, but having no funds to support them. Now, as state coordinator, I see this occurring in many counties: Master Gardeners diverting valuable time and energy towards project fundraising rather than community service. This was further brought home as I read the county entries for the 2017 Search for Excellence awards. I thought, “How much further could this project have gone if there was money to enhance their efforts?”

Several bright orange carrots being held in a fieldPlant of the Month: Carrots — Originating in central Asia, carrots have been cultivated for centuries. But this cold-hardy plant still deserves a spot in the modern fall vegetable garden. Carrots are a root vegetable well-loved by many and heralded as an excellent source of vitamin A. This healthy vegetable is pretty easy to grow and doesn’t require a lot of room. And carrots are wonderful to grow with kids—they love being able to pull something out of the ground and eat it (after washing, of course).

A cluster of tan mushrooms growing on a lawnMushroom Root Rot — Have you noticed a wilting tree or shrub in your landscape? Perhaps it has very little foliage and what leaves do remain look dry and shriveled. This often happens in a hedge row, where you’ll notice only one plant with symptoms while the rest look healthy. Loquat, ligustrum, and azalea are a few plants you might have seen with these symptoms, but many other trees and shrubs are susceptible. But susceptible to what? If what we’ve described has happened in your landscape, mushroom root rot may be to blame. (Photo: David Stephens, Bugwood.org)

Head of broccoli in a gardenNovember in Your Garden — This month is prime vegetable gardening time. Plant some winter annuals like pansies for great fall color. A wide variety of herbs like cilantro, parsley, sage, and thyme thrive in cooler, drier weather. Turn off systems and water only if needed; plants need less supplemental watering in cooler weather.

Read the full November issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – October 2017

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Happy October, gardeners! Be sure to check out our events calendar — there are many plant sales going on this weekend!

Pale gray oyster mushroomsGrowing Mushrooms – Being able to grow their own food is a big motivation for many gardeners, and they’re always looking to grow new things. Fungi are generally something gardeners try to avoid—but why not try growing them? Two edible mushrooms that are great for beginners are Shiitake and oyster. These savory eats can be grown right in your own home. We offer advice on taking the first step on your mushroom growing journey.

A coyote facing the cameraCoyotes — What’s that spooky noise? You may be listening for howls around Halloween, but coyotes howl year-round here in Florida. This member of the dog family is found in every county throughout the state, but generally doesn’t interact with people much. What’s more, they’re a predator of small nuisance animals like rats. There’s much to learn more about these loud, yet often unseen, critters.

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — In our Master Gardener trainings we have been taught to recognize hazardous trees and to wage an educated guess on whether a tree will fail. Often times we can identify hazardous trees with a casual glance. If we look with more attention to the canopy, we might see decline and dead or dying branches; that is also an indication of poor tree health. Prior to the latest hurricane, I felt that I knew which of my neighborhood trees would fail and which trees would remain standing strong.

The fuchsia-red flowers of jatropha with a black and yellow butterflyPlant of the Month: Jatropha — Jatropha is a wonderful shrub for South Florida plant lovers. This tropical evergreen has slender stems, multiple trunks, and bright red or pink flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Jatropha grows best in zones 10 to 11, and thrives in full sun and well-drained soil. There are two species of Jatropha that grow quite well in South and Central Florida, Jatropha integerrima and Jatropha multifidi. With plentiful flowers and few maintenance needs, what’s not to love?

UF/IFAS Florida Master Gardener logoWe Want to Hear from You (Again) — What do you think about the newsletter? Is the information relevant to you? Is there something you wish we would cover more or less? Well, we want to hear what you have to say! We appreciated all the wonderful feedback we received from our survey last year and would like to hear from you again. Keep an eye out for the survey link which will be coming in the next few weeks.

Yellow sunn hemp flower resembles a pea blossomAllelopathy — Perhaps you’ve heard that you’re not supposed to plant a black walnut tree in your garden. Have you ever wondered why, exactly? Allelopathy is a challenging and interesting topic that looks at how one plant can suppress the growth of other plants nearby. Wade into the basics of this topic with us as we explore what allelopathy is and some examples to keep in mind for your landscape.

A strawberryOctober in Your Garden — It may not feel like fall yet, but October is the month for planting those cool-loving annuals like dianthus, impatiens, and pansies. It’s also a good time to plant herbs like basil, chives, fennel, dill, thyme, and oregano, as well as vegetables like beets, broccoli, leafy greens, and radish. And it’s practically the only time we can plant strawberries in Florida.

Read the full October issue.

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

The Neighborhood Gardener – August 2013

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

potato transplantTransplanting Vegetables — Jump start your vegetable garden with transplants! You can start them at home or buy them from a garden center. If growing your own, use a good potting soil and any type of container—recycled milk and egg cartons for example—that has good drainage. When planting seeds directly in the garden, remember that some vegetables don’t easily transplant from the seed row to another part of the garden.

Mosquito Control in Your Landscape – Mosquitoes are so prolific here in the summer that they’re often jokingly referred to as “Florida’s other state bird.” These pests can ruin your outdoor activities immediately. A mosquito’s bite is not only itchy and sometimes painful, but can also transmit diseases in both humans and animals. Learn how to control mosquitoes and protect yourself.

Spider plantWatering Houseplants — Houseplants are a wonderful addition to your home. They provide warmth and color, and if you choose the right plants, they’re not difficult to care for. One of the most important steps in caring for your indoor plants is irrigation. Plant species differ on the amount of water they need, so do your research to determine the proper amount to keep your particular plant healthy.

Asiatic jasmine groundcoverPlant of the Month: Asiatic Jasmine — Asiatic jasmine is an evergreen, vine-like woody plant that is commonly used in Florida landscapes due to its hardiness and drought tolerance. Once established, Asiatic jasmine requires little maintenance, and is salt tolerant and can be grown in coastal areas. This versatile plant can be grown in all areas of Florida, as it can handle cold temperatures as well as very hot ones. It grows well in both dense shade and full sun, and has very few pest, disease, or weed problems.

August in Your Garden – Mid-August is a good time to plant warm-season annuals such as marigolds, salvia, nicotiana, verbena, ornamental peppers, and sunflowers. As older plants decline you should add new ones; inspect the soil for pest infestations before planting new plants. Start cucumbers, beans, squash, and corn from seeds this month and transplant eggplant, pumpkin, pepper, tomato and watermelon seedlings.

false parasol mushroomsFriend or Foe? Foe: False Parasol — Often seen growing in grassy landscapes, false parasol (Chlorophyllum molybdites) is a highly poisonous mushroom. White or tan, it has a domed or flat cap and a thick stem; at maturity it may be several inches tall. Colonies often grow in circles, called “fairy rings.” If ingested, false parasol causes gastrointestinal distress in people and can be fatal to dogs and horses. If your animal does eat one of these mushrooms, they should be taken to a veterinarian immediately. Mushrooms sprout up quickly, so pet owners should check their yards often.

Read the full August issue.

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

The Neighborhood Gardener – February 2012

Japanese magnolia flowerThis month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

  • Growing Shiitake Mushrooms — You can grow shiitake mushrooms in your own garden by following a few simple tips. First, find a good hardwood log about 4 feet in length. You can inoculate the logs by drilling holes and inserting mushroom spawn. It typically takes six to eighteen months after this for the fungus to become established enough to start sprouting mushrooms.
  • The Florida School Garden Competition is Back! – Encourage teachers and volunteers to submit an application on behalf of their school garden to the 2012 Florida School Garden Competition. Entries are due March 8. Last year’s winner for the entire school garden division was the Orlando Junior Academy. Their “Schoolyard Garden” had four themed areas: a vegetable garden, a pollinator garden, a native garden, and a small citrus grove.
  • Plant of the Month: Japanese Magnolia — Sometimes called saucer magnolia, Japanese magnolia is a deciduous ornamental tree with white, yelow, pink, or purple flowers. The flowers appear before the tree starts leafing out, which is part of what makes the display so striking. These small- to medium-sized trees can be a good choice for many of today’s smaller yards. Japanese magnolia can be successfully planted in North and North Central Florida.
  • February in Your Garden – Replenish tired flowerbeds with cool-weather annuals for a bright display that will last until the heat arrives in early summer. Choices include snapdragons, dianthus, nemesias, diascias, sweet alyssums, petunias, or calibrachoas. Before new growth emerges on ornamental grasses, trim brown or damaged leaves.
  • Friend or Foe? Foe: Frangipani Hornworm — While the tetrio sphinx moth is a drab gray color, its larval form is a large, brightly colored caterpillar, called a frangipani hornworm. This pest feeds on frangipani, or plumeria, trees in South Florida. Eating up to three leaves a day, it can quickly defoliate a tree. Hand-picking larvae is probably the best way to eliminate frangipani hornworms from trees.

Read the full February issue.

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