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The Neighborhood Gardener – July 2017

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Hello, gardeners!

Dark green leaves of Algerian ivy, wet with rainGroundcovers for Shade – Everyone associates Florida with sun; after all, we are the Sunshine State. Despite all the talk of our sensational sunshine, we can’t forget about the challenges growing in the shade presents. Finding the right groundcover for a shady area can seem like a struggle but never fear—there are many options, from dense, low-growing plants to taller, more dimensional options.

Small leaf turned over to show dusty coating of powdery mildewDowny or Powdery Mildew? Mildew isn’t usually something you want to think about, but when you have it in your garden you may find it consumes your thoughts. As when treating any disease in the garden, it’s important to know exactly what you’re working against before selecting a course of treatment. A potential spot for further confusion is when plant diseases have similar names, like downy mildew and powdery mildew. Learn the differences between these two mildews, as well as how they can be treated, and better yet, prevented.

Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — While it has been said that “the best stories are found between the pages of your passport,” some of your best plants can be found on the road, too. Most gardeners know their local nurseries and garden centers like the back of their hand, so when they’re traveling, they look for cool nurseries to visit. Florida has many garden centers that can broaden your horticulture horizons beyond the big box stores.

White flowers of a wax begoniaPlant of the Month: Begonia – Begonias are a popular bedding plant that can provide striking color in the landscape throughout the year, and handle shade quite well. The begonia family contains more than 1,300 species and hybrids, but the begonias that do best in the landscape generally fall into three groups: wax begonias, cane or angel-wing begonias, and rhizomatous begonias. These tropical plants can be grown in USDA Hardiness Zones 8b to 11. If you live in a cooler part of the state, be sure to protect your outdoor begonias from frost.

small green worm in the roots of turgrassTropical Sod Webworm – Florida lawns can face challenges from a variety of sources, including tropical sod webworms. These pests are most active from spring to fall, so we’re right in the middle of the time of their potential damage. Find out more about these hungry caterpillars, as well as how active Master Gardeners can help a UF graduate student conducting research on tropical sod webworms.

A square of light green with a hint of yellow reading Color of the Year 2017 Pantone Greenery 15-0343A Better Lawn on Less Water – Deep in the midst of summer is the perfect time to sing the wonders of greenery, but it was back in winter when Pantone announced the Color of the Year as Greenery. Gardeners are well aware that greenery is, as Pantone put it, “nature’s neutral.” Greenery in the garden can create the perfect backdrop for your statement plants, or it can shine on its own as a delightful and inspirational force.

A palm tree in an attractive yardJuly in Your Garden – It’s not too late to use summer heat to solarize your vegetable garden soil in preparation for fall planting. Solarization takes 4 to 6 weeks and is a great way to kill weeds, diseases, and nematodes, giving you a fresh start for your fall vegetable garden. Continue planting palms while rainy season is in full swing. North and Central Florida gardeners can start their Halloween pumpkins from seed, but watch out for mildew diseases.

Read the full July issue.

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

The Neighborhood Gardener – November 2014

Happy November, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

ornamental gourdsDecorating with Gourds – Gourds are a common symbol of the fall season. These interesting fruits come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors and to many people they are a decorating staple this time of year. Ornamental gourds are related to edible squashes and pumpkins but are grown to full maturity and then dried. While gourds are mostly used for decoration, they can also be made into birdhouses, containers, and in the case of the Luffa gourd, natural sponges.

 

campfireOutdoor Fire Safety –In crisp fall weather, the heat and flicker of a fire can add warmth and atmosphere to outdoor gatherings. Sitting around a crackling fire is fun for family and friends, but there are some things you should consider to keep your backyard fire safe. A freestanding patio hearth, fire pit, or chiminea should be placed in an area clear of grass, brush, and low-hanging trees. Choose a dense wood—like oak, hickory, or ash—that’s been “seasoned,” which burns cleaner and produces more heat than a soft wood like pine. And be sure to check out local codes on backyard burning as well as fire conditions in your area.

 

calendar2015 Master Gardener Wall Calendar — Shopping for a Florida gardener or plant lover? Check out our brand new 2015 Florida Master Gardener Wall Calendar! This beautiful and useful calendar features full color photos, Florida-Friendly gardening tips, and a list of blooming plants each month. The calendar is now available for $12.95 in the IFAS Extension Bookstore.

 

holly fernPlant of the Month: Holly Fern — Holly fern, named for the pointy tips on its leaves, is a great choice for the shady parts of your Florida landscape. Drought-tolerant once established, this low-maintenance plant is also deer resistant. Holly fern can be grown in USDA Zones 6–11. Plant in partial to full shade. The dark green foliage of holly fern will persist year-round when protected from frost, and the sturdy fronds can be used in cut flower arrangements. Winter-damaged fronds can be cut back in February before new spring growth begins in March.

November in Your Garden – Even though temperatures are still warm, begin planting for the cooler months ahead. Alyssum, dianthus, and petunia are good plants for the fall garden. Many vegetables that will produce through the winter can be planted now like beets, carrots, and onions.

dragonflyFriend or Foe? Friend: Dragonflies — In the buggy environment of Florida, dragonflies may be the best friend a human can have. These elegant insects hunt mostly flies and mosquitoes and they can eat their weight in pesky bugs in a half-hour! Couple their hunting prowess with their attractive appearance and it’s obvious why dragonflies are considered beneficial.

Read the full November issue.

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

The Neighborhood Gardener – May

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

TickTicks Suck! — Being gardeners, you’ve probably noticed an increase in ticks this year. According to experts, the increase is due to a mild winter. In Florida, the brown dog tick and the American dog tick are the most common. Learn how to protect yourself from these pests.

Improving Your Lawn’s Drought Tolerance – The goal of improving drought tolerance is to grow a good-quality lawn that will survive dry spells with little or no supplemental irrigation (watering by hose or sprinkler system). A few simple management practices can help improve the drought tolerance of your turfgrass, no matter what species or cultivar you have.

Persian shieldPlant of the Month: Persian Shield — Persian shield is a perennial with irridescent purple leaves that shimmer with a hint of silver. This perennial loves humid climates, making it a perfect choice for summer gardens. Persian shield performs best when planted in rich, well-drained soil that receives regular watering. Here in Florida, it’s best to plant it in partial to full shade. Persian shield is cold tender, so gardeners should cover it when cold weather strikes. The other option is to treat the plant like an annual, replacing it in the spring if it doesn’t grow back from its roots.

May in Your Garden – Prepare your trees for hurricane season by checking for weak or damaged limbs, pruning if necessary. Plants that can take the summer heat like coleus, wax begonia, rosemary, and okra can be planted now.

bluebirdFriend or Foe? Friend: Bluebirds — Eastern bluebirds eat a wide variety of insects, and other invertebrates, as well as berries. They build their nests in the cavities of dead trees and in wooden fence posts. Bluebird populations had been falling, but are making a comeback, thanks to people building nest boxes for the birds. You too can help by building a nest box on your property. Boxes should be ventilated, easy to clean, and watertight with drainage holes.

Read the full May issue.

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

Fresh Friday: Perennials for the Shade

Shade gardens are a wonderful way to utilize the areas under trees, beside fences, and along foundations. But be sure to choose the right plants for your shady spot.

Check your garden’s shade patterns. High tree canopies give partial or dappled shade, while buildings or low trees provide full shade. Some shade-loving plants also love the sun, so if your shade shifts, look for plants like flax lily that adapt.

Many shady areas are also dry, so use drought tolerant shade lovers like devil’s backbone.

Shade-loving perennials include ferns, crossandra, and gingers, but many more are available.

Perennials with white or brightly colored flowers or variegated leaves, such as jewels of opar, will stand out, and turn that shady area into a garden showpiece!

Blue ginger flower and foliage

Blue ginger (Dichorisandra thyrsiflora) thrives in shade

Learn more about plants for shady landscapes at UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions.