The Neighborhood Gardener – July

Bright orange bracts of tropical looking bird of paradise plant

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Butterfly Pea

A glass containing a purple pink beverage along with ice and a lemon sliceExpand your summer tea options by planting butterfly pea. This Asian vine is named for its azure blooms that resemble butterflies. As with other legumes, it benefits the garden by fixing nitrogen in the soil. Plant it in a sunny spot with good drainage. Blooms appear year-round, and the flowers can be used to make dye and unique color-changing tea. This new Gardening Solutions article goes through the steps for making dye and tea.


A dangling green luffa squash, resembling a cucumberYour garden isn’t just for producing food; you can also grow sponges! The vining luffa plant grows fruits that can be eaten raw or cooked when young but become large and fibrous once mature. Mature fruits can be peeled, dried, and deseeded to be used as biodegradable sponges for personal care or cleaning. This article explains how to successfully grow luffa plants, harvest the fruit, and even how to dry them to make sponges.

Lawn Diseases

Lawn with spots of black rotted grass from take-all root rot diseaseIt can be alarming to suddenly find yellow patches in your lawn or a strange film covering the foliage. These are just a couple symptoms of lawn diseases. In Florida, most (but not all) turfgrass diseases are caused by fungi. Fortunately, we’ve put together a guide for identifying symptoms, making an educated guess for the culprit, and putting together a treatment and prevention plan. Read this updated article on lawn disease.

Wendy's Wanderings

Wendy WilberNot much brings me more joy than eating a cold mango over a kitchen sink. Sometimes I am fortunate enough to travel to South Florida during the summer when I can get the best mangos in the world (yes, I am biased). I was recently travelling through Homestead on my way to a Monroe County meeting and saw roadside tables sagging with fruit for sale. I made a mental note to buy fruit on my way back north.
Read on for the tasty surprise Wendy received from a Monroe Master Gardener Volunteer.

Plant of the Month: Bird of Paradise

The bright orange bracts of the bird of paradise plantBird of paradise is a striking evergreen plant with orange and blue bracts that resemble a bird in flight. Its drought tolerance and pest resistance make it a favorite low-maintenance tropical plant. While it thrives in USDA Hardiness Zones 10 through 11, bird of paradise can survive further north with frost protection. Once your plant is established, you can easily propagate more plants through division. Learn more about Strelitzia reginae.

Coconut Palm

Green coconut fruitsCoconut palms are the most ubiquitous symbol of the tropics and are distributed throughout the world. Although the UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Natural Areas has determined that coconut palm is predicted to be invasive in South Florida, homeowners can still grow this favorite palm if they follow a few simple conditions. Learn how to plant coconut palm responsibly and why it's best for only the most patient gardeners.

MGV Book Club

A close look at a lime swallowtail caterpillar rearing up and showing off its fake red hornsWe’re halfway through our virtual MGV Book Club, but it’s not too late to join! We have been diving into "Founding Gardeners." Written by design historian Andrea Wulf, this book tells the story of how gardening and farming shaped the thinking of our country's first leaders. Follow along for five more weeks to read and share your thoughts in our Facebook discussion group. Once finished, we'll meet on Zoom for a live wrap up on August 18! Learn more about the MGV Book Club.

July in Your Garden

Golden yellow spikes of celosia bloomsPlant heat-tolerant annuals like celosia (pictured), coleus, torenia, and ornamental pepper. Gardeners in South Florida can continue to plant tropical vegetables, while those in the north and central parts of the state can start their Halloween pumpkins now. Continue planting palms while the rainy season is in full swing.

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.

What's Going On?

If your Master Gardener Volunteer program or Extension office is having an event, be sure to share it with us.