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The Neighborhood Gardener – September 2016

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Head of broccoli growing in gardenBroccoli – Broccoli is a great cool-season vegetable for Florida gardeners, and hopefully, cool weather is just around the corner. Did you know that it also has an interesting history of cultivation? Read on for more information on how to grow this crunchy cruciferous vegetable and a look at the history of it and its closest relatives.

Toilet paper, flour paste, and seedsSeed Tape DIY – Ready to get a head start on your fall garden, but not quite ready to plant seeds in the ground? Why not make your own seed tape? Pre-purchased seed tape can be expensive, but making your own is inexpensive, quick, and easy—seriously, we were surprised at how quick and easy it was! Our picture tutorial shows just how simple it is.

preserved specimen of Maling bambooInternet Resources for Plant Names – This month, Marc Frank, Extension Botanist with the UF/IFAS Plant Identification and Information Service, writes a guest column on Internet resources for checking plant names. “Unfortunately, there is no single website that is good for checking all plant names,” he writes. But there are a few that he can recommend.

WendyPlant of the Month: Turk’s Cap Mallow — A wonderful Florida shrub that provides a pop of color, Turk’s cap mallow is a Florida-Friendly shrub related to hibiscus. Well, actually “Turk’s cap mallow” is the common name used for two different hibiscus relatives. Both Malvaviscus penduliflorus and Malvaviscus arboreus are sometimes referred to as Turk’s cap mallow and are both in bloom this time of year.

Wax begonia flowerSeptember in Your Garden – September is a good time to plant and divide bulbs in your garden. Refresh summer beds with annuals like celosia and wax begonia. Prepare the fall vegetable garden if not done in August. Using transplants from your local garden center will get the garden off to a fast start, but seeds provide a wider variety from which to choose.

pond feature set in patioDragonflies — Dragonflies may have a fierce namesake, but these insects are wonderful predators of annoying garden pests like mosquitoes and flies. Florida is home to over 100 species; some are found throughout the state while others are limited to a few regions. And did you know dragonflies are migratory? There is so much to learn about these exciting flying sensations.

Read the full September issue.

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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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The Neighborhood Gardener – August 2014

Happy August, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

seedlingsPlanning Your Fall Garden – The oppressive heat of August can make getting out in the garden difficult. All that extra time indoors gives you a great chance to plan your fall garden. If you’re planting an autumn vegetable garden, think about what you like to eat when you are planning. A soil test is always a good idea too. Willing to brave the heat? There are some vegetables you can plant in August—see the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide for planting dates.

Mosquito Control – We’re seeing a number of cases of mosquito-borne diseases throughout Florida this summer. With wet weather and warm temperatures these sucking bugs flourish. Vigilance in your landscape can help cut down on the places mosquitoes breed. And remember, an FDA approved insect repellant containing DEET is the best way to keep mosquitoes off your body. Get more tips from this UF/IFAS infographic, “Essential Mosquito Control Tips for Homeowners.”

IrisPlant of the Month: Walking Iris — Walking iris (Neomarica sp.) is a clumping perennial with long, glossy leaves and small, iris-like flowers. The flower color will vary depending on the species; they can be white, yellow, or blue-purple. The plant is suited to Zones 9 through 11. It can be grown in the northern parts of the state; just note that it will likely freeze to the ground, returning in the spring. Walking iris can be grown in full or partial shade, can tolerate a range of soil types, and will thrive in moist locations.

August in Your Garden – Check older fronds of palms for yellowing as this may indicate a magnesium or potassium deficiency. If your palm has a deficiency, apply an appropriate palm fertilizer.

kudzuFriend or Foe? Foe: Kudzu — While kudzu may seem as Southern as Georgia peaches or Florida oranges, this invasive vine was actually introduced to the United States from Asia. Today kudzu covers about two million acres in the South and has been found throughout Florida. Removal can take time for full eradication, but it is possible to remove this choking vine and take back your landscape.

Read the full August issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – September 2013

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

kitchen gardenIncorporating an Edible Garden into the Landscape — Edible landscaping combines fruit and vegetable plants with ornamentals for a landscape that is both flavorful and attractive. Just as with traditional landscapes, an important element in designing your edible yard is appearance. After all, you won’t just be eating these plants–you’ll want them to accent your landscape’s appearance with texture, color, and variety.

Garden Sheds – A garden shed is a simple and valuable asset when extra storage is needed to store outdoor equipment. It needn’t be a plain box—a garden shed can serve as a focal point in your yard, around which you can design the rest of your landscape. In addition to hiding tools, recycling bins, and the lawn mower, design it to be used as a sitting area or greenhouse as well.

EspalierEspaliers — The ancient practice of training a plant or tree to grow in a flat, two-dimensional form is known as espalier. Espaliers are decorative and provide unique variation in your garden or yard. They are commonly grown against such surfaces as walls, fences, and trellises. This technique restricts growth of branches in only the desired direction.

Bamboo cycadPlant of the Month: Bamboo Cycad — While most cycads are often mistaken for palms, Ceratozamia hildae more closely resembles bamboo, giving the plant its common name. Easy to grow, bamboo cycad tolerates a wide range of climate and light conditions. Cycads are adapted to Florida’s sandy soil, so bamboo cycad should always be planted in a well-drained media. Another advantage is that this plant is virtually pest free and unaffected by the Asian Cycad Scale. Bamboo cycad grows best in partial shade, but can also be grown in moderate sun or deep shade.

September in Your Garden – Most vegetables in Central and North Florida already should have been planted last month. In South Florida, you can still plant tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and beans in September. This month is also the time to plant cool-season annuals. Apply a complete fertilizer to your lawn this month and continue mowing regularly. It is also time to do fall pruning on your shrubs.

Friend or Foe? Foe: White Grubs — Irregular brown patches in your lawn may indicate a presence of white grubs. White grubs are the larval stage of many different beetles. Lawns that are heavily infested with grubs have grass that pulls up easily. These grubs feed on the roots of grass in lawns and cause grass to yellow, thin, and die. One method for managing an infestation is introducing parasitic nematodes, which can be used with insecticides to control grubs more efficiently. Talk with your local county Extension agent or landscape professional for a correct diagnosis before applying pesticides.

Read the full September issue.

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FAQs for Florida Vegetable Gardening

Vegetable gardening can be a fun and enriching experience, but it’s not completely intuitive, especially if you’re new to gardening (or new to Florida). Here is one question we hear over and over again—with solutions and suggestions.

I planted onions this year. The tops grew, but the plants never produced bulbs. Why?

Your onions may not have produced bulbs for several reasons:

  1. They were not bulbing onions; rather they were shallots, green, or multiplier types that do not form large bulbs.
  2. They were the wrong type of bulbing onion; in Florida “short-day” types are recommended. See the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide for recommended varieties.
  3. They were planted too late. Bulbing onion seeds or transplants must be planted in the fall. They need a long growing period under short days to stimulate them to produce bulbs.

Garlic, like onion, is a long-season crop which is planted in the fall and harvested in the spring.

Want more answers to your gardening questions? See Vegetable Gardening: Most Asked Questions.