About Central Florida Gardener

Welcome and thank you for visiting Central Florida Gardener. Florida is a unique state in which to garden. It can be frustrating but also rewarding for gardeners who persevere. This blog was created as a resource for Florida gardeners, both new and experienced, in search of information specifically for Florida gardens.

You are invited to participate by leaving your comments, suggestions, tips and recommendations relevant to Florida gardening - don't be shy! Thank you for dropping by to learn more about gardening in the Sunshine state. I look forward to hearing from you! Susan

Monday, August 27, 2007

"Gimme Green" - Documentary on our Obsession with Lawns
In a recent article published by the Gainesville Sun, two University of Florida Documentary Institute graduates (Isaac Brown and Eric Flagg) have created a documentary on American's obsession with lush lawns. The documentary airs on the Sundance Channel August 28, 29, 31 and September 2.

This documentary is being featured at Paynes Prairie Reserve (just south of Gainesville), which is in the process of "Going Native" to reduce their need for water and maintenance. For a list of suggested native plants visit Florida Wildflower Foundation.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Chinch Bugs - The Kiss of Death for your Turf

During the hot summer months, this is a familiar sight in many yards, including this spot in my front lawn. A southern chinch bug (Blissus insularis) infestation can quickly kill off healthy St. Augustine grass. While a lot of folks opt to have a local service spray chemical on a regular basis, spot treating an area when a problem develops may be a better solution. It is less toxic to the environment, and applying chemicals less often prevents the pest from developing a resistance to the available products.

We've had more difficulty this summer in trying to contain this infested area. We applied the treatment several times, but the grass continued to die off until we finally applied another brand and met with success. Next time, I'll be sure to spread the chemical out around the fringes of the dead grass to stop these bugs in their tracks.

The University of Florida offers some helpful advice on detecting and controlling them, as well as recommended products in their article, Southern Chinch Bug Management on St. Augustine Grass.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Floridata - Plant Encyclopedia
An excellent resource for Florida gardeners is Floridata. It was created by Jack Scheper who lives in the Tallahassee area. The site has many features but its best feature, by far, is its Plant Encyclopedia which contains information on 700 plants. You simply click on “Plant List” and find the plant (common and botanical names) you are interested in, and you will be rewarded with an abundance of information. Each plant page contains: common names, family, plant tags (more on them later), description, photo, location, culture, usage, features, and history. Even my local extension office uses them as a resource.
The Plant tags (click on “plant tag lists”) are graphic icons that categorize plants by type and by feature characteristics. Plant types (10 altogether) include: annuals, perennials, grasses, etc. The plant features (19 altogether) include: birds, butterflies, hummingbirds, shade, drought tolerant, wet areas, edibles, etc. These icons are depicted at the top of each reference page to provide you with additional information.
My second favorite feature on this site is their lists of best performing plants (by category). If you’re short on ideas, this is a quick reference for a list of plants to include in your garden.
I give this site high ratings for its easy usability and valuable content. I dare say it would be difficult to find another reference better than this one for Florida gardeners. In addition to its super plant encyclopedia, it also offers articles, picture gallery, forums, shopping and a place where you can submit your questions.
Well done, Jack. Your site is a wonderful treasure to Florida gardeners.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Vegetables to Grow Through the Winter

One of the highlights for Florida gardeners is being able to grow vegetables through the winter months. Once the daytime temperatures become pleasant it's time to plant a number of vegetables that will perform well during our Florida winters.

Many of the varieties are perfect for making tasty winter soups. Take your pick from these vegetable that thrive in cooler weather: beets broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, collards, kale, kolrabi, leeks, mustard greens, onions, spinach, lettuce, swiss chard, arugula, carrots, chinese cabbage and turnip greens.

We have plenty of herbs to choose from as well: dill, parsley, cilantro, chives, garlic, sage and rosemary.

Garden Tip: It's best to plant peppers and tomatoes in containers so that you can bring them indoors when a freeze is expected.

While you're at it don't forget to plant a few cold-hardy annuals along with your veggies. Some great choices for winter are: petunias, pansie, violas, snapdragons, allysum, foxglove, calendula, dianthus and ornamental kale.

What favorite winter vegetable varieties grow in your garden?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

2nd Handiest Garden Tool
The next item any Florida gardener (new or experienced) needs is access to information. The more information, the better. The most reliable and current information is the publications produced by the University of Florida Extension. They cover all areas of gardening in Florida and can be found online...absolutely free! Learn about creating a water-wise landscape, which plants are best for sun and shade, fruit trees well suited for north, central and south Florida, and much, much more. Taking advantage of this information will prevent you from making costly mistakes, not to mention a ton of back-breaking work.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Handiest Tool for Every Florida Gardener
One of the most important tools for any gardener is the location, telephone number and e-mail address for their local county extension agent. We often forget (or don't realize) that the "real experts" on Florida gardening are right at our fingertips. Most county extension offices have their own Web page with helpful information as well.

I recently spent an hour at my local extension office in Polk county as they worked diligently to identify a tree for me. They were very friendly and eager to help. After searching several reference books, voila' they identified it as a Sugarberry, a native tree. They then went online to provide me with more information. I was thankful for the help and delighted to find out the name of our tree

So, the next time you can't identify an insect that is eating away at your favorite plant or you need some advice on what type of plants to include in your landscape, hop in the car, give them a call or send an e-mail and you will be able to count on receiving the right advice that will save you time and money.