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, January 09, 2023

Creating Habitat for Wildlife


Habitat for wildlife is being eliminated daily from the State of Florida with the increasing clearing and development of land for housing. To help offset this impact to wildlife it will be necessary for homeowners to recreate habitat and food sources in their yards. Creating an inviting habitat is the easy part. The more difficult part is providing the necessary food sources that birds, butterflies and other pollinators need to prosper. Many wildlife species require certain plants that provide seeds, berries or specific host plants for caterpillars. Birds require thousands of caterpillars in spring to feed their offspring until they're ready to fledge. 

The majority of yards in Florida today are planted with ornamentals that originated in other countries. If we are to sustain our wildlife populations which are necessary for our own survival we will need to plant the native food sources they eat. The good news is that it's possible to have a beautiful landscape and to provide for wildlife at the same time. You can start small by adding keystone native plants and trees in small areas of your garden. If you live in an apartment or condominium, you can provide food sources in beautiful pottery.

Doug Tallamy is the leading authority who is educating and paving the way for Americans across the country to join together and provide habitat and food to sustain our bird, butterflies and other pollinating species. Please join me in watching Tallamy's video Bringing Nature Home and taking on this challenge to help repair and replace some of the lost habitat in Florida by creating connecting areas for wildlife to find nourishment and provide for their young. I look forward to hearing your thoughts about the video in the comment section.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The 5 R's of Sustainable Gardening

As gardeners we already have an appreciation of the earth. We know the joy of growing beautiful flowers and picking fresh fruit right outside our back doors. We've seen the miracle of a tiny seed sprouting and producing a bounty of vegetables to feed our families. We love watching the butterflies and birds that visit our gardens.

Many times people feel like they can't make a difference in the world, but every choice you make, everything you do makes a difference ~ no matter how big or small. Even small steps make a huge difference over time.

The 5 R's - reduce, reuse, recycle, reconsider, rethink - put the power back into your hands. So, get started now and don't forget to share your knowledge and experience with others - - especially young children!

REDUCE your use of pesticides and fertilizer. This one step makes a tremendous difference especially for wildlife and for storm water runoff into our springs, lakes and rivers.

 We need beneficial insects to help keep garden pests at bay. 
When you spray, you kill the good and the bad!

REUSE household items in the garden. Use cardboard & newspaper as a weed mat,  styrofoam for drainage in containers, branches for yard art. The list is endless! Before tossing items into the trash . . . think about how you can reuse them in the garden or home.

Here is a great idea that I found in a state park. 
They used a large tree branch to attach bromeliads and tillandsias to. It adds a nice natural feature to any garden.

RECYLCE your grass clippings, plant trimmings and vegetable scraps by turning them into compost. Many household items can also be included. Read more about composting here.

RECONSIDER your choices before making purchases. Choose earth-friendly solutions by using leaves & pine needles as mulch or get it free from your local city, use your compost for fertilizer and as potting soil, start plants from seeds or cuttings, attend plant swaps.

Do we really want unnecessary plastic bags in the landfill?

RETHINK your view of the "perfect looking landscape" and reduce your maintenance as well. Do I need a large weed-free turf? Do I need to fertilize it 3 times a year and have it sprayed for insects? Do I need to water 3 times a week? Do I need to trim hedges every month?  By letting go of some of our old school of thoughts where landscaping is concerned, it allows us to choose a new path that makes our garden more sustainable.

How about this for a gorgeous yard!
You'll enjoy reading how Nanette O'Hara (Bay Friendly blog) eliminated all turf grass in her Tampa area garden. 
Photo source: http://bayfriendly.blogspot.com/

By practicing the 5 R's of sustainable gardening we establish a relationship with the earth. We nourish the soil and the soil provides nourishment for us.

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Pollinator Garden

It's spring and the new gardening season begins. If you've got plans to create a new garden bed or to revamp an old one, why not create a 'pollinator garden.'

 It's no secret that pollinators, especially honey bees have been declining in recent years. Pollinators are essential in order for successful harvests of food crops.

You can help by adding pollinator-loving plants to your garden. It's super easy and you'll be able to enjoy the beautiful blooms, as well as attract more butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden.

Flowering plants that are recommended for the central Florida area are:

Annuals & Perennials:  Cannas,  Impatiens, Marigolds, Nasturtians, Pentas, Purple coneflowers, Salvia, Shrimp plant, Sunflowers (especially Mexican), Lantana, Cosmos, Zinnias, Powder Puff, Portulaca, Blue Daze, many varieties of Jasmine, Milkweed.

Natives - Spotted Bee Balm, Blue Curl, Gaillardia (Indian Blanket Flower), Canna Flaccida, Black-eyed Susan, Coreopsis (Tickseed), Stoke's Aster, Pickerelweed, Adam's Needle. 

Herbs: Thyme, Mint, Basil.

Vines: Coral honeysuckle, Passionflower, Carolina Jessamine, Cross Vine, Trumpet Creeper.  All of these vines are native to Florida. Note: The native passionflower vines are Passiflora Incarnata and Corky Stem 'Passiflora Suberosa.

Other: Saw Palmetto, Walter's Viburnum, Chaste Tree, Sea Grape, Bottlebrush trees, Spanish Bayonet, Ligustrum, Southern Magnolia. Liriope.

These are just some of the plants that pollinators will love that are easy to find in nursery centers.

~ ~ Gardener's Beware ~ ~
Many "Bee-Friendly" plants sold at nursery centers have had "Bee-Toxic Pesticides" applied to them.  These plants will KILL the pollinators when they visit the plants.

The Good News - Plant growers are now required to include a label on the plant which indicates that it's been treated with  Neonicotinoids which are systemic pesticides. The pesticide is taken up through the roots and leaves and is distributed throughout the entire plant - including the pollen and nectar.

Please look for this label (which may not always be easy to find), and AVOID purchasing any plant treated with Neonicotinoids.

Everyone Can Have a Pollinator Garden

If you have a mostly shady garden, a small garden, or live in a condo or apartment - you CAN have a pollinator garden. Consider planting a container garden filled and overflowing with pollinator plants. You don't need a large space to have an impact.

Photo credit: Google Images

Get those 'pollinator gardens' growing and send me a photo on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Central-Florida-Gardener-197232317050577/) and I will gladly share them through the summer to help inspire other Florida gardeners. 

Also, leave a comment below and let us know what your favorite pollinator plants are. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Mulch is Essential

You've been working hard on creating a low-maintenance, Florida-friendly landscape that you can enjoy year round. Your soil has been amended with lots of rich compost, you've planted the right plants in the right places, the right trees in the right places to help conserve energy. What's next?

Mulch, Mulch and more Mulch!!!

Pine Bark
The last step in creating that low-maintenance, sustainable landscape is mulch! There are many wonderful benefits of mulch:

1) Reduced weed growth. For extended protection place 2 to 3 layers of newspaper around plants prior to mulching. The newspaper will breakdown slowly reducing the amount of weed seeds that are able to germinate.

2) Reduced amount of water needed to sustain plants. A 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch will protect soil from the sun's drying rays, thereby retaining moisture in the soil for a longer period of time, which equates to a savings in water useage.

3) Cools the roots of plants in the heat of summer. Plants will be less stressed if their root system can remain cool especially those who are planted in full sun.

4) Provides nutrition to the plant as it breaks down - depending on what type of mulch you use.

Oak Leaves
Mulch Options

1) Bark or wood chips - provide good coverage and last the longest. Pine bark (a renewable resource), melaleuca and eucalyptus varieties are easily found in Florida. Cypress is also readily available but is NOT a wise choice. It is an important wetlands tree that is slow growing. Currently, very old stands of cypress are being cut down to provide mulch and the growth rate of new cypress cannot keep up with the demand. Click here to read more about Cypress mulch. It is better to use a mulch such as melaleuca which is an invasive tree in the state.

2) Pine needles are another great option especially if you have pine trees growing in your yard. Many local nurseries currently offer pine needle mulch.

3) Oak leaves are another great option for mulch and for adding nutrients to the soil. Plant oaks in flower beds and those beds will self-mulch when the trees drop their leaves. Free mulch and very little work to get the beds mulched.

4) Grass clippings make for a good mulch if they do not contain a lot of chemicals. They do breakdown quickly and need to be replenished often.

5) Gravel is an option but does not provide much of a block to weeds, nor any plant nutrition.

6) Rubber mulches are not the best as they do not provide any nutritional benefit to the soil and may even leach chemicals.

Mulching takes time and is an added expense, but applying a nice thick layer of it to your garden beds is essential, and well worth the extra effort in the long run.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

A Miami Gardener's Transition to Native Plants

If you garden with "natives" or for "wildlife" or are just thinking about making some changes in this direction in your own garden, then you will definitely enjoy reading Mary Ann Gibbs article 'Our Beautiful Subtropical Garden' on the Florida Native Plant Society blog.

Her garden looks like a beautiful oasis in the midst of a large city, and it is full of inspiration and the names of the many native plants they have included in their garden. Some of these plants may not be the best choices for those of us who garden here in the central part of the state but there are plenty that will survive and thrive here. She will inspire us to make the transition to more natives that benefit our local wildlife.

Source: Florida Native Plant Society blog (www.fnps.blogspot.com)

Click here to read: Our Beautiful Subtropical Garden

If you garden for wildlife or have included native plants in your garden, please contact me with your story. I would love to share it with others here.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Will California's Problem Some Day Become our Problem, too?

Native Gaillardia and Rosemary -
 Two extremely drought tolerant plants
Last week I was talking on the telephone with a friend from California. One of the things we talked about was the drought problem and their new water restrictions which allow them to water two days each week for a maximum of 5 minutes each time. (Yikes! 5 minutes of water twice a week!) She then said, "needless to say, we are tearing out our yard and replacing it with desertscape." Sounds like a smart move on their part.

Even though our sub-tropical climate receives more rainfall than California, there most likely will come a day when we are no longer able to water our yards either. With continuing population growth, poor water management by authorities and less rainfall than in the past, we are already restricted to a maximum of 2 days a week or less in most parts of Florida. Many counties also have restrictions against fertilizing turf grass in the summer months.

When that day comes will your yard be self-sustaining? Or will we, like Californians today, be tearing out our lawns and replacing it with drought resistant plants and groundcover? That's a good question and one that we all should start to ponder. Even if that day never comes - - who wants to spend their hard -earned money on a large water bill every month?

Instead of having to make a big conversion someday, we can begin to make small changes today by enlarging flower beds to reduce turf area and replacing plants that die with native or drought tolerant plants. Another, easy move to make now is to plant a tree or two to provide a bit more shade. A partly shaded garden or lawn will require less water than one in full sunlight all day, especially in summer,

Don't know where to start? Check out the following resources by the University of Florida extension and others for plenty of ideas for drought tolerant plants best suited for our central Florida area:

Ten Plants that Beat the Heat

Top 5 Drought Resistant Trees

Top 5 Drought Resistant Perennials

Native Plants for your Area

10 Drought Tolerant Native Plants for the South

Plant Real Florida

So, next time you go to the nursery - think ahead - and begin the transition of your yard to one that can sustain itself on the normal rainfall we receive. Your wallet will thank you, and you'll be amazed at how easy your garden will be to take care of.

Leave a comment and share the solutions you have incorporated into your yard to reduce water usage.

Monday, April 06, 2015

A Florida-Friendly Yard

A very nice Florida-Friendly landscaped yard
Most people envision an expansive yard of lush green grass with a few neatly trimmed shrubs placed around the house. While it can be a pretty vision, it's not very practical anymore.

A large expanse of turf requires a lot of water, chemicals and mowing. Along with that comes a huge impact on our ever-dwindling water supply, and steady stream of chemical pollutants into our Florida waterways, which are already affecting our beautiful springs. And, I haven't even mentioned the hours of mowing and spraying the grass in an effort to eliminate chinch bugs.

It's time for Florida gardeners to put their 1/4 acre of a yard to better use and create a more diverse and productive landscape. Where do we begin?

The University of Florida extension has already done the work for us. They have developed these 9 Florida-Friendly Landscaping Principles:

1) Right plant, right place
2) Water efficiently
3) Fertilize appropriately
4) Mulch
5) Attract Wildlife
6) Control Yard Pests Responsibly
7) Recylce
8) Reduce Stormwater Runoff
9)Protect the Waterfront

Click here to visit their site for more detailed information on these 9 principles.

Find the right plants by clicking here to visit the Florida-Friendly Plant Database.

Need some inspiration? Click here to take a look at these Florida-Friendly gardens on our Pinterest page.

Now get busy and create your own Florida-Friendly garden!