The Neighborhood Gardener – March 2015

Happy Gardening!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Close-up of hand using gardening shearsDisinfecting Garden Tools – Get ready for spring and the busy gardening season ahead by taking some time to disinfect your horticultural tools. Regularly disinfecting your tools is a good way to prevent disease from spreading in your landscape. There are multiple products available—regardless of which you choose, it’s always important to read and understand label instructions before using any cleaning product.

Fertilizer Basics — Speaking of labels, the one on your bag of fertilizer is another important label you should be reading and understanding before using the product. Fertilizer labels include a series of numbers that indicate the respective percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium by weight. Remember, you should only apply as much fertilizer as your plants can use and always fertilize responsibly.

award-winning bottle gourdPlant of the Month: Bottle Gourds — Bottle gourds (Lagenaria spp.) are annual vines that can be grown throughout the state. Young, small fruits can be eaten, but it’s the mature fruits that are valued for making useful and durable containers. Grown for centuries, it is the only crop known to have been cultivated in pre-Columbian times in both the Old and New World. Plant your bottle gourd vine like any squash plant. A trellis is advised, but vines may be allowed to run on the ground; be sure to add mulch to avoid fruit rotting.

February in Your Garden – Plant warm season crops now, like beans, cucumbers, sweet corn, and squash. Now is a good time to check your irrigation system for any issues. Refresh and add mulch to your landscape beds; it conserves soil moisture, insulates roots from extreme temperatures, and minimizes weeds.

ladybug larvaFriend or Foe? Friend: Ladybug Larvae — Keep an eye out for ladybug larvae. Gardeners “in the know” welcome these tiny insects, as the larvae feed on garden pests like aphids and psyllids. You might be hard-pressed to recognize them, however. There are many species of ladybugs, and their larvae all look very different. The larvae of one species, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri Mulsant, even resembles its prey, mealybugs! Letting these little critters mature safely can help keep your plants pest-free in the coming spring. See photos of various species of ladybugs at UF/IFAS Featured Creatures.

Read the full March issue.

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Before you cut your grass this spring…

lawn mower care remember to sharpen your mower blade!

It may seem like a dull chore, but sharpening your mower’s bladeis actually one of the best things you can do for your lawn.

No matter what kind of mower you have, it works by cutting the grass with a blade. But when the cutting edge is dull it actually tears instead of slicing the grass.

Dull blades damage grass, making it more vulnerable to disease, sun damage, and insects like chinch bugs.

How often your mower blade needs sharpening depends on the size of your lawn and how often you mow, but a general guideline is at least twice a year.

Rotary mower blades should not only be sharpened, but also balanced. Reel mower blades should be sharpened only by a professional mower repair service.

Plant Identification Learning Module

Have you ever wanted to beef up on your plant ID knowledge?  Well, now you have a quick and easy way to do just that.  The Plant Identification Learning Module is an online tool that you can use to help with your identification skills.

Each year during the Florida Master Gardener conference, teams compete in the plant identification and judging competition. The Plant Identification Learning Module is an online tool that you can use in preparation for the competition, or if you simply want to learn more about identifying ornamental plants, fruits, and vegetables. Also, see the competition rules and glossary.

This is also a great tool to prepare 4-H youth for horticulture judging competitions.  Check it out today and see what it’s all about!

But first, can you identify this plant?  Use the tool if you have to, but the first to answer correctly gets bragging rights!

Take your best guess.