Monday, March 16, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day: March 2009

This is my first time participating in Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. I've known about it a long time and follow what others have blooming, but I'm such a terrible gardener that I don't typically have much blooming. But, this month is different!

I planted a Japanese Magnolia two years ago. The student club had a big plant sale and it was a great deal. It was one of the first plants that I planted in our new landscape. It had one or two blooms last year, but this year it just took off!

I know this makes Tom really mad. He is a great gardener (well, he is the Florida Master Gardener Coordinator!) and he has six or eight of these trees. But, the squirrels eat his buds off every year! He never gets any flowers and this makes him very, very mad at the squirrels.

I just LOVE these flowers! I think they're beautiful and I'm always sad to see them stop blooming.

Blueberries! And other garden related news

More than a year ago, a friend of mine gave me small blueberry plants for free! Free being the key word. One of the local ag teachers had been growing them and needed the space and my friend just happened to be his neighbor. So, I was lucky enough to get 10 rabbiteye (I think). I hope I got two different varieties of rabbiteye so that they produce berries, but I'm just not sure. Anyways, the poor blueberry plants sat in pots for the last year occasionally getting watered. Over the winter, they stayed in their pots and it got really cold. I thought for sure that I had killed them. But, lo and behold, they started leafing out! So, since I'm home with a sick kid today with nothing better to do, I FINALLY planted the little plants. Yeah!! I haven't taken any pictures yet, but will do so soon!

Earlier this year, I emailed the UF blueberry expert because Will's kindergarten class is planting blueberry plants as part of their Ag in the Classroom project. He suggested rabbiteye (we're north of Ocala) and the two varieties he recommended are Powderblue and Brightwell. I don't think these are either of my varieties, but I might try to get some of them in the near future. The blueberry expert says they do pretty well in this area. If you're interested in growing blueberries as part of your edible landscape, the Blueberry Gardener's Guide is an excellent resource.

In other gardening news, Sarah and I decided to try vegetable gardening together this year. She's going to come to my house and we're going to do it together. Kind of like a workout buddy. Hopefully, this keeps us both more disciplined. She came over last weekend and we cleaned up the raised beds and planted seeds of zucchini, sunflowers, and okra in the beds and zinnias, basil, heirloom tomatoes, hot peppers, and marigolds in transplant trays. Everything seems to have emerged so far. I took pictures of all of this, but of course, they are on my work computer and I'm home with a sick kid.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Finally returning to gardening

After an unusually cold winter (which probably isn't done yet), we're finally ready to start gardening again. Will has been involved with a great school garden project and he's really taken an interest in it. We're starting this year with our Earth Box. We love them and think they're great - although my last couple crops have been terrible out of them (probably the gardeners fault, not the plants).

This year, I bought two tomato plants to go in it - a Big Boy and an Early Girl. I specifically bought them so it would be a boy for the boy and a girl for the girl.

Here is the empty Earth Box. It has a new PVC pipe because Tebow ate the last one.

The kids with their plants.

Will planting his little tomato. He really just wants to water it every day with the pvc pipe, but I forgot to take a picture of him doing that.

And, the finished project. We put it right on the porch so that we have to walk by it every time we come out the door. That should help the gardener (me) out some.

And, yes, that is a big fertilizer buggy in the background in case you were wondering. It's in the midst of repair for the farm, but should soon be headed back to the barn. I think it's a little big for my garden.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Woo Hoo! Florida Master Gardener Program is 30 Years Old!

Congratulations to the Florida Master Gardener Program! 2009 marks the 30th anniversary for the program. In three decades, Master Gardeners have made a huge difference in Florida. Since 1979, Master Gardeners have donated more than 5.4 million hours, which is worth some $83 million!

Noteworthy statistics:
- more than 80 percent of counties adopted the program within its first two decades
- fifty-eight of Florida's sixty-seven counties have active Master Gardener programs
- the average lifespan of county programs is twelve years
- each county has an average of seventy-three trained volunteers
- more than 82 percent of counties train one new class of Master Gardeners each year

Read more about the program's success here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Could we lose our Avocado industry?

A recently published IFAS story details how Florida's avocado industry could be in danger from a fungus that's transmitted by a beetle.

"Florida’s avocado industry, the nation’s second-largest, could lose millions of dollars if a new disease reaches the state’s southern tip, according to University of Florida experts.

Laurel wilt disease, caused by a fungus transmitted by the invasive redbay ambrosia beetle, kills avocado and several native trees including redbay, said Jonathan Crane, a professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and co-author of a paper estimating the disease’s financial impact. The paper is expected to be published later this year."

I don't eat avocados, but it's sad to see another of Florida's iconic agriculture industries in jeopardy. Hopefully, they find a solution soon. Good luck researchers!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Florida 2009 Plants of the Year

Every year, the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscapers Association names the top 10 plants of the year. This year includes a highlight of some of the best plants from the last decade. Here are the winners:

Acca sellowiana/Pineapple Guava
Arachis glabrata/Perennial Peanut
Bismarckia nobilis (silver form)/Bismarck Palm
Dryopteris erythrosora/Autumn Fern
Hamelia patens/Firebush
Serenoa repens (silver form)/Silver Saw Palmetto
Torenia fournieri ‘Summer Wave ’®/Wishbone Pansy
Ulmus alata/Winged Elm
Viburnum obovatum (compact forms)/Compact Walter’s Viburnum
Zamioculcas zamiifolia/ZZ

More info and pictures on each of these can be found on the FNGLA site.

My favorite from this list is probably the Firebush. I don't have one in my landscape (yet), but we do have several outside the building at work. Unfortunately, they got zapped by the freeze and are currently in a very smelly state.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A New Caladium to Try

Be on the lookout for a great new caladium variety from the University of Florida - 'Cranberry Star'. This new variety is ideal for use as a potted plant or accent or border plant in shady landscapes 'Cranberry Star' has bright white leaves with green veins, similar to the leaves of 'Candidum'. But, it also has numerous bright purple spots on its leaves. I think it's very pretty.

'Cranberry Star' is not available yet, but keep checking with your local nurseries and caladium suppliers. I look forward to trying it soon!

More info available at UF/IFAS.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Happy Florida Arbor Day!

Today is Florida's Arbor Day. So to honor it, here is another one of my favorite trees/shrubs. I took this picture on the farm either summer 2007 or 2008. The crapemyrtle comes in a variety of colors and shapes, but I think this is my favorite color of it. I don't know what variety it is, just a really old one. They've been on the farm for a really long time. Crapemyrtles are also great because they're very, very hardy. Which automatically puts them in my favorite category. So, here's to Arbor Day! Find a favorite tree of yours and plant it today.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I am the Lorax and I speak for the trees

Arbor Day and Kids

My 4-H club celebrated Arbor Day Tuesday night. One of our parents owns a tree farm and had donated a tree for us to plant. Unfortunately, it was raining and very cold, so that will have to wait till next time. I did, however, use my new Project Learning Tree curriculum. We read Dr. Suess' The Lorax and watched a short cartoon on planting trees. My 5-7 year old members soaked up both activities. And, during question and answer time they were able to give the important points back - roots need air, trees shouldn't be pruned to have "lion's tails", and trees should only have one trunk. After reading The Lorax, they also told me that no trees means no air. Good points all around. I made sure to remind them that no trees means no tree climbing either. So, remember, when you cut a tree down, plant another in its place!

PS - Just found a great site to go along with The Lorax! I'll be sending it to my 4-H kids today.

Arbor Day and a few of my favorite trees

Florida celebrates Arbor Day the third Friday of January. In celebration of it, I've got a few posts planned about trees.

Arbor Day is a great way to recognize the importance of trees and the benefits they provide. Planting a tree doesn't just make your landscape more attractive, it also helps reduce air pollution and conserves energy. If you do plant a tree, consider a native, such as the State tree of Florida, the sabal palm.

My Favorite Trees

Eastern Redbud - Eastern Redbuds grow well in some shade in Florida. Best growth occurs in a light, rich, moist soil but Eastern Redbud adapts well to a variety of soil including sandy or alkaline.

Trees look better when they receive some irrigation in summer dry spells. Its native habitat ranges from stream bank to dry ridge, demonstrating its adaptability.

Trees are sold as single or multistemmed. Young trees are easiest to transplant and survive best when planted in the spring or fall. Containerized trees can be planted anytime.

The beans provide food for some birds. Trees are short-lived but provide a wonderful show in the spring and fall.

Redbud buds

Oak Trees (specifically Live Oaks) - Oaks are large trees that provide shade in the summer and fuel for fires in the winter. The nineteen species of oaks native to Florida include many of our most common and attractive trees, like Shumard and live oaks.

These trees provide valuable wildlife habitat and food, and some offer showy autumn foliage. Oaks are typically strong and durable and have a long lifespan.

When pruned properly, many of the different varieties of oaks are fairly hurricane-resistant. Oaks grow relatively quickly and can provide shade for your home.

Many oaks are deciduous, meaning that they drop their leaves during the winter. Live oak is evergreen, as it gets its new leaves about the same time that it drops its old leaves.

Live oak

Magnolia - Magnolias come in all shapes and sizes, but perhaps the most well-known magnolia in Florida is the Southern magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora.

These stately trees can grow up to 90 feet tall, depending on the cultivar, and have lustrous, evergreen foliage that makes a great backdrop for other garden plants. In the spring and summer, Southern magnolias produce creamy white flowers that have a lemony smell and can be as large across as dinner plates.

Southern magnolias are often planted as specimen trees, but a row of magnolias can also make a great screen for blocking unsightly views or establishing a boundary between adjoining properties. Some Southern magnolias can even be trained as an espalier plant if you’re willing to invest the time!

This is a great picture of a Saucer Magnolia flower instead of a Southern Magnolia. But, I think it's really pretty and has great color.

Saucer magnolia

Don’t wait another day--plant a tree today!