The Neighborhood Gardener – February 2017

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Happy gardening!

Bouquet of red roses with white baby's breath flowersCut Flower Care – Cut flowers are a popular gift, particularly for the biggest gift-giving day in February, Valentine’s Day. From Asiatic lilies to zinnias, proper care is the key to a long-lasting arrangement, and UF/IFAS Extension has some helpful tips. To keep your thoughtful floral present looking its best, treat your bouquet to a few simple steps. With some fresh water, a sharp pair of kitchen shears, and that handy little packet that’s typically included, your arrangement will last much longer.

Yellow flowers of the invasive cat's claw vineInvasive Plant Awareness – National Invasive Species Awareness Week is generally at the end of February; this year, it’s February 27 – March 3. This is a national event intended to raise awareness and identify solutions to invasive species issues at local, state, tribal, regional, national, and international scales. Invasive species have a negative impact on the economy, environment, or humans where they are introduced. Sometimes, the terms we use to describe problematic plants can become conflated and confusing. (Cat’s claw vine photo by Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental,

Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — We are in between seasons here in Florida. It doesn’t feel like winter, but we don’t trust the weather enough to think that it is officially spring. This is the time when we find ourselves dreaming about bountiful spring gardens and a yard full of blooms. It is in this time that we gardeners are most vulnerable—suggestible, actually—to spending money on crazy plants and inappropriate varieties that we see in catalogs or on the internet.

Three red strawberriesPlant of the Month: Strawberries – February and March are peak months for fresh strawberries in Florida and to celebrate, strawberry festivals are happening around the state. Florida consistently ranks second in the U.S. in the commercial production of strawberries behind California. And almost all of our strawberries are grown in Hillsborough and Manatee counties (approximately 95 percent). While it’s not time to plant these tasty fruits—that happens in the early fall—you’re likely to find Florida strawberries in grocery stores and farmers markets throughout the state now.

Kent Perkins in UF herbariumHerbariums – Have you ever wondered what exactly a herbarium is? It’s a collection of plant specimens preserved, labeled, and stored in an organized manner that facilitates access. Established in 1891, the University of Florida Herbarium (FLAS) is the oldest and most comprehensive herbarium in Florida. Marc Frank, Extension Botanist with the University of Florida Herbarium, gives us some history on herbariums and their scientific importance. (Photo: Kent Perkins, collection manager at the UF Herbarium)

Citrus on the tree in a groveFebruary in Your Garden – Now is the time to fertilize your citrus and other fruit trees. Fertilizer requirements will vary between different fruits so be sure to check the recommendations for your specific trees. See the UF/IFAS publications, “Citrus Culture in the Home Landscape” and the “Temperate Fruit for the Home Landscape” series for more information.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – May 2013

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Lettuce in raised bedAlternatives to Traditional Vegetable Gardening — Spring is prime vegetable season, so why not try a different approach to traditional vegetable gardening? If you don’t have the proper resources, the physical ability, or the space for a large garden there are alternatives to fulfill your gardening dreams. Two non-traditional vegetable gardens include container gardening and raised bed gardening.

Growing Citrus in Your Backyard – Oranges are Florida’s most famous fruit and backyard citrus is one of the many benefits of living in the sunshine state. Citrus trees can be fun to grow and very rewarding. First introduced to Florida in the 16th century by Spanish explorers, citrus quickly spread throughout the state and today is one of Florida’s largest industries. South and Central Florida are the best places to plant these trees, but certain cold-hardy cultivars can be be grown in North Florida with the proper care.

crotonPlant of the Month: Croton — Known for their bold, tropical foliage, crotons are perennial evergreen shrubs. Not only can these plants be grown outdoors in warmer parts of Florida, but some cultivars can be raised as decorative houseplants as well. The beautiful leaves of the croton are also used to enhance floral arrangements. This plant will draw attention with its stunning color and make a bold statement in your house or yard.

May in Your Garden – Southern vegetable favorites to plant now are okra, southern pea, and sweet potato. Prepare for hurricane season by checking trees for damaged or weak branches and prune if needed. There’s still time in North Florida to apply a fertilizer (not a weed & feed) without phosphorus unless soil test indicates the need for it.

praying mandtidFriend or Foe? Friend: Praying Mantids — Commonly (and incorrectly) referred to as “praying mantis,” these cleverly disguised insects are beneficial predators in your garden. Mantids’ oversized front legs fold in front of their face, giving the appearance that they are praying. Typically 3-4 inches long and are usually green or brown in color, mantids camouflage with their surroundings and are often mistaken for leaves and sticks. They are hunters and will feed on a limitless amount of pests in your garden such as beetles and grasshoppers. Unfortunately, they will also prey on beneficial insects in your garden such as bees and butterflies.

Read the full May issue.

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