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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.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – November 2015

Happy autumn gardening!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Roselle calycesFlorida “Cranberries” – Wouldn’t it be great if your Thanksgiving cranberry sauce could come from ingredients grown in your own back yard? Ever heard of Florida cranberries? Well if you haven’t, the first thing you should know is they aren’t really cranberries at all. But don’t let that turn you off roselle, the plant that could provide you with the main ingredient to make your own tangy red, locally sourced holiday dressing.

WendyWendy’s Wanderings — “That plant is invasive,” a gardener friend recently said to me. I asked her to be more specific, because I knew the plant she was referring to was a Florida native. “It just takes over everything!” She was right about the plant growing aggressively, but wrong in her use of the word “invasive.”

Master Gardener logoNew Master Gardener Website — We are happy to announce that the new Master Gardener website went live at the beginning of this month. The new site features beautiful and larger photos, easier navigation, and an updated design that may remind you a bit of the Gardening Solutions website.

SaltbushPlant of the Month: Saltbush — Saltbush, also called groundsel tree or sea myrtle, looks like a cloud of white flowers where you least expect it, hovering about 8 feet off the ground. Currently in bloom, you may have seen these often-overlooked shrubs blooming along roadsides and in ditches. While not commonly used in home landscapes, this native woody shrub is perfectly suited to Florida gardens.

November in Your Garden – With a rainier winter than average predicted this year, be on the lookout for plant disease and fungal problems in your landscape. For fall color, try some cool season annuals. North and Central Florida gardeners should try pansies and violas, while those further south should try strawflower and cape daisies.

Monarch on purple flowerFriend or Foe? Friend: Monarch Butterfly — The Monarch migration is underway! Many gardeners have heard by now that planting milkweed in their landscape is important to helping the Monarch butterflies survive, but many aren’t aware that the particular species you plant matters, as not all are Monarch host plants.

Read the full October issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – June 2014

Happy June, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Soil Solarization – Looking for a way to manage soil pests in your vegetable garden without using chemicals? Try soil solarization. With soil solarization, a sheet of plastic is used to cover the soil surface, trapping the heat and allowing the soil to reach temperatures that are lethal to many pests and weeds. When done effectively, soil solarization can reduce pest populations for three to four months, and in some cases even longer.

Crapemyrtle in church gardenTurning Sand into a Sacred Garden in Polk County — Even before she became a Master Gardener in Polk County, Molly Griner was working on gardens. Her church, Hope Presbyterian in Winter Haven was located on the site of a former orange grove, its “landscape” mostly sandy soil and grass. Through Molly’s efforts, it has been turned into a Florida-Friendly garden for church-goers and community visitors to meditate or pray while surrounded by nature.

pink crinum flowerPlant of the Month: Crinums — Crinum lilies are a hallmark of Southern gardens and have been cherished and cultivated by Florida gardeners for years. They’re known for their easygoing nature, growing for years on old home sites or cemeteries with little or no care. Plant your crinum bulbs up to their necks in partial shade for best results. They are equally at home in dry sandy soils and on moist pond banks.

June in Your Garden – Summer flowering shrubs like hibiscus, oleander, and crapemyrtle bloom on new growth; lightly prune often during warmer months to keep them blooming and looking sharp.

beetleFriend or Foe? Friend: Air Potato Leaf Beetle — While many people know about the invasive air potato vine, few are aware of air potato leaf beetles. Native to Asia, these beetles feed and develop only on air potato plants, posing no risk to other plant species. In 2012, air potato leaf beetles were released in Florida as a potential biological control of the aggressive air potato vine. Within three months of their release, extensive damage to air potato plants was observed at the initial release sites.

Read the full June issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – March 2012

oakleaf hydrangeaThis month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

  • Pest Alert: Downy Mildew on Impatiens — In late 2011, the downy mildew disease of garden impatiens was found in Palm Beach County. The disease has the potential for widespread and rapid destruction of this very popular bedding and potted plant. At this time only New Guinea impatiens and Sunpatiens show resistance.
  • Home Canning and Food Presentation – Ever have extra food from your garden or farmers market? Save it for a later date by canning your extras at home. Just make sure that you do it safely and correctly so that you don’t end up with food safety issues.
  • Plant of the Month: Oakleaf Hydrangea — If you need a shrub that can shine in the shade, this native shrub could be just what you’re looking for. Each spring, oakleaf hydrangea puts up huge cone-shaped clusters of white flowers that will stay on the plant for months, eventually changing to a light pink or purple. Oakleaf hydrangea will perform best if planted in a fertile, well-drained soil, but it will also tolerate other conditions.
  • March in Your Garden – This is a good time to prune many trees and shrubs. Cold damaged shrubs can be pruned back to where new growth appears. Fertilize lawns after all chance of frost is past since fertilizing too early can damage the lawn. Choose one with little or no phosphorus unless a soil test indicates the need for it, and avoid “weed and feed” products. A fertilizer with controlled release nitrogen will give longer lasting results.
  • Friend or Foe? Foe: Mile-a-Minute — Commonly called mile-a-minute, climbing hempweed, Chinese creeper, or bittervine, Mikania micrantha is on both the Federal and Florida state noxious weed lists. As a rapidly growing climbing vine, it has been observed to grow almost two feet per week under optimal conditions, smothering small plants and even large trees. Mile-a-minute was recently found in Miami-Dade County.

Read the full March issue.

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

The Neighborhood Gardener – January 2011

shrubHappy New Year! This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

  • New Tools for Palm Problem Diagnosis – “A Resource for Pests and Diseases of Cultivated Palms” was created by UF/IFAS palm faculty and other partners. It’s actually a group of tools to help with the identification of insects, diseases, and other pests and disorders of palms.
  • Plant of the Month: Japanese Plum Yew – Deep shade can be a challenge for gardeners, but Japanese plum yew is a lush evergreen plant that performs well even in the shadiest spots.
  • Tea Scale on Camellias – Now that camellias are getting ready to bloom, be on the lookout for tea scale. This insect pest can be controlled with pruning, insecticides, and some biological methods.
  • January in Your Garden – Now is a good time to plant cold-hardy woody shrubs and trees. Water frequently to get new plantings off to a good start. Florida observes Arbor Day on January 21. To celebrate, plant a tree in your yard or community.
  • Friend or Foe? Foe: Snowbush Caterpillar – These pests are the larval form of the white-tipped black moth and they feed on snowbush shrubs. Dr. Doug Caldwell, Collier County Horticulture Agent, discusses the harmful effects of snowbush caterpillar in a YouTube video.
  • Get Educated on Using Roundup® at Home – There are many types of weed control products on the market. An EDIS fact sheet breaks down information about one of the most common products and how it should be used.

Read the January issue.

Or subscribe today, and received directly by e-mail.

The Neighborhood Gardener: January 2010

Happy New Year! Start 2010 off right with great information from the January issue of  The Neighborhood Gardener:

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Shrub Establishment: How much water is really needed?

GILMAN SHRUB WATERING

Well, according to Dr. Ed Gilman, UF/IFAS environmental horticulture professor, not as much as you think.

This is good news for your utility bills and the environment. A new University of Florida research study shows that landscape shrubs need much less water to establish healthy roots than you might expect.

North of Orlando, Gilman recommends using as little as 1 gallon of water per shrub applied every eight days. In South Florida, he recommends every four days. In the first year after planting, water 1 to 2 gallons of water when there is less than a quarter inch of rain within a two week period.

Gardeners should maintain their irrigation schedule until shrubs can survive on rainfall alone, once roots have grown to the edge of the plant canopy, which is usually about 28 weeks.

The full study can be seen here or you can read the news story or watch the short news video clip for more information.

Several simple steps can help ensure your plants survive establishment:

  • Consider planting at the start of the rainy season.
  • Irrigate based on location, weather and desired plant vigor.
  • Apply water directly to the rootball.
  • Use low-volume irrigation. Don’t irrigate if a quarter-inch or more rain fell in the last 24 hours.
  • After establishment, irrigate when there are signs of wilting, but before leaves begin to die.