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The Neighborhood Gardener – October 2016

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Jim DavisMaster Gardener Professorship – The Master Gardener Professorship is a faculty-recognition program named in honor of Florida Master Gardeners. The winner has been selected for 2016 and we would like to congratulate Jim Davis! As Horticulture Agent and Master Gardener Coordinator for Sumter County, Jim oversees the residential horticulture program, teaching county residents about the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principles with a particular focus on irrigation. Learn more about the good work Jim’s doing.

Seminole pumpkinSeminole Pumpkins – Pumpkins get top billing this time of year, but did you know there is one particular pumpkin that does quite well in Florida? Seminole pumpkins can hold up through Florida’s relentless summer heat and come out the other side producing delicious fruits for harvest.

Photo courtesy of Miranda Castro, Edible Plant Project

Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings – Is ignorance bliss? Sometimes I think so when it comes to spotting horticultural horrors. When we go through Master Gardener training, we learn so much about good horticultural practices. Sometimes, we learn that things we once thought were just fine are actually terribly wrong.

Yellow crotalaria flowerToxic Plants — The spooky and the sinister come out to play this time of year—even in the garden. Some popular landscape plants and pasture flowers have a dark side, too. UF/IFAS Extension provides an infographic that gives a bit of information on the toxic elements of some common plants like azaleas, lantana, the currently blooming crotalaria (pictured), and other dangerous beauties.

Photo by John D. Byrd, Mississippi State University, Bugwood.org

Bright orange flowers of flame vinePlant of the Month: Flame Vine – Flame vine is quite the show-stopper with its numerous, fiery orange blooms. This fast-growing plant can be a dazzling sight to behold, but take care to control its aggressive growth. Flame vine will climb anything that offers decent support, so while it’s great for fences, trellises, and archways, it’s best to avoid planting near trees that could be strangled. The work is worth the effort; hummingbirds love the tubular flowers for their nectar. Hardy in USDA Zones 9–11, flame vine can sometimes be found flowering as far north as Zone 8b.

strawberriesOctober in Your Garden – October is a great time to prepare and start planting strawberries. If you’re worried you don’t have enough space in the garden, strawberries do quite well when planted in containers. All parts of the state can plant these colorful, tasty berries this month.

Eastern diamondback rattle snakeSnakes — Snakes may send some gardeners running scared, but they’re actually an important part of a Florida-Friendly landscape. Snakes play an important ecological role and will generally keep to themselves. Of the many species found in Florida, only six are venomous. It’s best to never approach any snake, but approaching a venomous snake can be dangerous. If you think a snake may be venomous, call a professional.

Read the full October issue.

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

The Neighborhood Gardener – February 2013

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

rosesFlowers for Valentine’s Day — Fresh flowers are a popular gift on holidays, with good reason—92% of American women can remember the last time they were given flowers, and fresh flowers have an immediate positive impact on happiness. Increase the lifespan of your beautiful flowers, plus that good feeling, by following a few easy steps. Learn how to extend the life of your bouquet.

Saving Water Using Smart Controllers – UF researchers have been investigating irrigation water savings with the use of smart controllers. Smart controllers reduce outdoor water use by monitoring and using information about site conditions and applying the right amount of water based on those factors. You can help save water in your landscape by installing a smart controller.

flowersPlant of the Month: Taiwan Cherry — In late winter, this small Florida-Friendly tree produces one-inch, bright pink flowers on its naked branches. Taiwan cherry’s dark green leaves provide shade all summer, turning a bronze-red in fall. Best suited for North and Central Florida, Taiwan cherry prefers full sun, but will tolerate some shade. A hybrid version, ‘Okame’ cherry is commonly available and has lighter pink flowers.

February in Your Garden – Roses should be pruned this month to reduce and improve the overall form. After pruning, fertilize and apply a fresh layer of mulch. Blooming will begin eight to nine weeks after pruning. Many bulbs can be planted now. Divide large crowded clumps. Provide adequate water to establish. Some to try are Amazon lily, crinum, and agapanthus.

Burmese pythonFriend or Foe? Foe: Burmese Python — Recently, Burmese pythons have become a very big problem in South Florida. Although it’s now illegal to do so, these snakes were commonly sold as pets. Some owners released these giant snakes into the wild (also illegal), and now active breeding populations are found in several areas of South Florida. Burmese pythons can grow up to 20 feet and weigh 200 pounds. They’re known to feed on more than 30 species of native wildlife, including several endangered or threatened species. You can help by learning how to identify and report invasive reptiles.

Read the full February issue.

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

Dealing with Snakes

king snakeFlorida is home to 44 species of native snakes, but only 6 of them are venomous — the chance of being bitten by a venomous snake is very low. Florida’s snakes play important roles in our ecosystem, not only as predators that help to control rodent populations, but also as important prey for other wildlife. Sadly, the survival of many of our snakes is threatened by development, road mortality, and persecution by humans. By learning to safely deal with and even “get along” with snakes, you can reduce your risk of being bitten and can allow Florida’s snakes to play their role in our environment without fearing for your safety.

Check out the UF Wildlife Department’s new guide to dealing with snakes.