The Neighborhood Gardener – July
Happy summer gardening!
Do you have fun plans this summer? Are you taking a week or so away? Are your plants coming with you? Getting ready for a trip is work enough without stressing about vacation plant care. From houseplants to lawns, we have plenty of ideas that can keep your plants healthy and happy while you're gone.
In Florida, mid-summer is not the peak season for vegetable gardening. The heat, the pests, the seasonal rains — many of our most popular crops do better earlier or later in the year. But if you're a gardener itching for the fall planting season, take heart; there's still plenty of gardening you can do now by starting transplants indoors. Dig out the seed catalogs, draw up your fall garden plan, and get planting! This article walks you through the process.
This summer we're looking at Florida history through the lens of the Sunshine State's most famous crop: oranges! Author Erin Thursby's "Florida Oranges: A Colorful History" is a must-read for natives and newcomers alike. Take a break from weeding, pour yourself a cold drink, and read along with us this summer. From Ponce de Leon's first groves in St. Augustine to the current citrus greening crisis, Erin Thursby covers it all. Learn more about the book and the MGV club.
Gardeners are a creative lot. I have seen raised beds crafted from empty wine bottles, stepping stones made from tree trunk rounds, and rain barrels that could only be described as works of art. But when the end of the growing season hits in the vegetable garden, we often just plain run out of creative ideas on what to do with the 105th zucchini. Sneaking some on to your coworker's desk can take some of the pressure off, but sometimes those spring garden plants keep on producing. Wendy found fresh inspiration on what to do with all this summer produce.
Home-grown tropical fruits are one of the joys unique to Florida gardening. If you're looking for another fruit tree for your landscape, we have a couple suggestions for you! Two unusual but delicious tropical fruits are sweetsop (sugar apple) and its relative, soursop. Cross-pollinating sweetsop and the closely-related cherimoya produces another tasty fruit: the hybrid, atemoya. Learn more about these tropical fruits.
If you're hoping to add a tropical aesthetic and spectacular floral display to your landscape, plumeria may be the plant for you. Plumerias, also called frangipani, are a group of closely related flowering plants that are synonymous with "tropical." Plumerias are best suited to USDA hardiness zones 10B-11. Further north, this tender plant can be grown in containers and brought inside when cold weather strikes. UF/IFAS Extension Orange County Agent John Roberts contributed to this lively introduction to plumeria.
Heat-loving annuals like celosia, torenia, and ornamental peppers, plus bulbs like butterfly lily (pictured; photo by Scott Zona) and gladiolus can be planted. Continue planting palms while the rainy season is in full swing. Use summer heat to solarize the soil for fall vegetable planting. It takes 4–6 weeks to kill weeds, disease, and nematodes, so start now.
For more month-by-month gardening tips, check out the Florida Gardening Calendar. Three different editions of the calendar provide specific tips for each of Florida's gardening regions—North, Central, and South.
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