Tag Archive: Don’t

Plants Don’t Live Forever

A New Yorker cartoon shows a lady shopping a garden center bench for plants. She has three choices at three price points: annuals, $ 6; perennials, $ 10; eternals, $ 749.95.

No matter what the cost, plants don’t live forever. And if they did, what would they cost? They’d probably cost more than $ 749.95. Even though we know plants don’t live forever, we still don’t want a plant that we purchased, planted and cared for to die an early death.

All too often, I find myself in the position of reminding a person of this fact of life – plants don’t live forever.

Palm in decline.
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS.

There are extremes, though. The bristlecone pine can live thousands of years. There is one that was named Methuselah, which, at one time, was believed to be the oldest living tree on record approaching more than 4,800 years of age in central California. But in the 1970’s, offspring of Methuselah all died because they were sent to low-altitude locations. The parent tree’s location in the White Mountains is two miles above sea level.

Even though the bristlecone pine can live thousands of years, misplacing it (planted at too low an altitude) results in the tree living a fraction of its potential life. The point is to plant the right plant in the right place. Make sure the plant is well suited for Florida and to the site conditions: that wet site, that dry site, that salty site, that high pH site, that shady site, that sunny site, etc.

The second point is to have realistic expectations based on the plant species. Some plants genetically will live longer than others. One of our longest-lived tree species in Florida is the live oak. There are live oak trees in Florida that are hundreds of years old. But don’t expect a silver maple to make it that long. It’s a shorter-lived tree species. In Florida, a thirty-year-old silver maple is probably in a state of decline due to old age.

The third point is to learn how to correctly plant and maintain the plants you have. For example, most woody plants (trees and shrubs), will live a much shorter life simply from being planted too deep. And an over fertilized centipedegrass lawn will go into a state of decline resulting in the lawn living a shorter life.

Plant the right plant in the right place, learn what it likes and provide it. And when the plant reaches the end of its life, replace it.

Many homeowners spend more than $ 749.95 attempting to turn a short-lived plant into an eternal plant.

PG

Author: Larry Williams – llw5479@ufl.edu

Larry Williams is the County Extension Director and Residential Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Okaloosa County.

Larry Williams

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/18/plants-dont-live-forever/

Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.

Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.

Will you be ready if disaster strikes?  Disasters, or devastating events-natural or human-generated, certainly can disrupt daily life. National Preparedness Month, held annually in September and sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is a good reminder that we need to be ready to respond to emergencies.  Adversity can strike at any time.  There is no time like the present to prepare for emergencies.

How?  Focus on making a standing plan for family readiness!  A standing plan is one that you and your family have developed in the event of disasters. For most people, the prime goal is knowing that all family members are safe and as secure as possible against harm.

Need some help?  Ready.gov has information to help you with that critical “what do we do in case of an emergency” conversation with children as well as seniors or any family member with special needs.  The Ready.gov website contains a wealth of information to get you started including downloadable checklists and other publications as well as printable posters.  Anyone can download the materials for free!

For instance, some disasters strike without warning.  Have you thought about supplies you would need the most? Ready.gov supports the use of checklists as a good way to help you make it through an immediate disaster period.

Are you a pet owner?  Ready.Gov has a unique brochure containing information for pet owners and suggestions for proactive pet emergency preparedness.  Have you ever considered evacuating in the car with your animals?

Additionally, inadequate insurance coverage on a family home or properties can lead to major financial losses.  NOW is the time to plan, document, and insure your property as well as prepare digital copies of your important financial information. One thing to keep in mind: FLOOD INSURANCE is a pre-disaster insurance protection program.  Flood damage is not usually covered by typical homeowners insurance.  Check your policy. Do not make assumptions.

Be smart; take part in preparing before an emergency happens!

  1. Implement a standing plan
  2. Prepare in ADVANCE
  3. Stay informed

You can plan ahead for an emergency. Take action now.

 

PG

Author: Heidi Copeland – hbc@ufl.edu

Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent, Leon County Florida Educational Program Focus: •Food, Nutrition and Wellness •Child Development and Parenting
http:leon.ifas.edu

Heidi Copeland

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/09/disasters-dont-plan-ahead-you-can/

Why Don’t My Plants Match?

Why Don’t My Plants Match?

Coontie (Zamia floridana) planted at the same time but growing at different rates. Photo: J_McConnell, UF/IFAS

When designing landscapes, it is popular to create lines and masses of plants for high visual impacts. Plants are carefully selected to be similar in size and shape at the time of installation. They are all grouped together, so they must be getting the same care, but why do they look different years later? There are several factors to consider when we are trying to figure out why a perfectly matched set no longer looks like a uniform planting.

Although plants may be in the same bed, shadows cast at certain times of the day may reduce sunlight to some sections and not others. This can be caused by structures or trees that have grown over time and changed light patterns.

Supplemental irrigation may also be variable even with the best system design. Over time plants grow and may block sprinkler emitters from reaching some sections of landscape beds. Even if the landscape relies on natural rainfall, there can be still be dry/wet spots in the landscape due to drainage off of hard structures, low areas, or wind direction during storms.

It might be possible to adjust some lighting and watering issues, but there is one factor that many gardeners have not considered – genetics. If plants were grown from seed, than variation is not only possible, but likely. This might be displayed as differences in height and width, foliage color, flower color, speed of growth – all may be influenced by parentage despite best efforts to care for each plant similarly.

Many landscape plants are cultivars. This means they are grown from cuttings or divisions which make them identical to the original plant. When a plant is grown from seed, however, there is no guarantee it will have the same specific qualities as the mother plant.

To combat this phenomenon, landscapers should check sunlight and watering for irregular growth patterns and adjust if needed. If a landscape design requires uniform plants, use named cultivars rather than seedling grown plants in lines or masses.

PG

Author: Julie McConnell – juliebmcconnell@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS Bay County Horticulture Extension Agent I

Julie McConnell

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/07/12/why-dont-my-plants-match/

Don’t Be Afraid to Disturb the Rootball

A new tree or shrub is an investment for the future. When we pick an ornamental plant, we have the hope that it will survive for many years and offer seasons of beauty that enhance our landscape.  Time is often spent picking a suitable spot, preparing the planting hole, and watering until establishment.  We give it the best of care to make certain that our new plant becomes a more or less permanent feature.

With all of our tender love and care for new ornamentals, there is one important practice that we may neglect. Most homeowners purchase plants in containers and it is common to find root balls with circling roots.  If any root ball problems are not addressed before installation, the life of your plant may be shorter than you want.

Ten years after installation, this plant was ultimately killed by girdling, circling roots. Photo by Warren Tate, Escambia County Master Gardener.

The best practice for woody ornamentals is to cut any roots that are circling the trunk or container. Homeowners may slice downward through the root ball around the entire plant. For shrubs, it is recommended to shave off “the entire outside periphery of the rootball” to eliminate circling roots. These practices allow the root system to grow outward into new soil and greatly reduce the possibility of girdling roots killing your plants years after establishment.

Circling roots are cut before installation. Photo by Beth Bolles, Escambia County Extension.

For more information on shrub establishment, visit the UF Publication Planting Shrubs in the Florida Landscape.

PG

Author: Beth Bolles – bbolles@ufl.edu

Horticulture Agent, Escambia County

Beth Bolles

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/12/23/dont-be-afraid-to-disturb-the-rootball/

Don’t Rush Wildlife Plot Planting – Wait for the Rain

Don’t Rush Wildlife Plot Planting – Wait for the Rain

A buck chases a doe through plots of wildlife forages being evaluated at the University of Florida's North Florida Research and Education Center. Photo Courtesy of Holly Ober

A buck chases a doe through plots of wildlife forages being evaluated in 2013 at the University of Florida’s North Florida Research and Education Center. Photo Courtesy of Holly Ober

It should be too late in the year for an article about cool season food plots; they should already be up and growing, at the very least planted. It’s November, archery season has begun, the fall food plot ship should have already sailed. However, due to the incredibly dry weather we’ve had for the past several months I hope that ship hasn’t sailed. I hope you have not planted your food plots yet. The tristate area is dry, too dry to plant anything you expect to survive. If you have not already planted, don’t until your area gets substantial rain.

Very dry conditions persist across the Southeast. http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home/RegionalDroughtMonitor.aspx?southeast

Very dry conditions persist across the Southeast.

The saying goes “The best time to go hunting is whenever I have time”. As the classic weekend-warrior sportsman myself, I can easily relate to that saying and I can also understand how/why folks would apply that same logic to planting food plots. Unfortunately, with this fall’s weather that logic does not hold true. Any plantings made before we have adequate moisture run a very high chance of being complete failures.

These likely failures can playout in a variety of ways but they all end the same. Seedlings have tiny roots systems, moisture must be accessible very near the soil surface in order for them to access it. If moisture is unavailable in the tiny root zone the seedlings will wilt. Wilting greatly diminishes the plants ability to carry out photosynthesis; no photosynthesis no energy. Seedlings have virtually no stored energy to fall back on, so the seedlings begin to die rapidly.

Admittedly, I left out one key detail in the plant horror story above; moisture is required for seed germination. If it is dry enough seeds can be planted and nothing will happen – they won’t germinate, they won’t try to grow, they won’t die from lack of moisture. This fact leads some to conclude, “Plant now and it will come up whenever it rains”. While there is some sound logic in that conclusion, it is a very risky plan when you consider the types of plants we typically include in our wildlife plots. “Dusting in” as it is called in the crop world, can work with larger seeded, deeper planted crops. It is not well suited to small seeded, very shallow planted forages like clover. When a seed is right at the soil surface the tiniest amount of rain or even a heavy dew could provide enough moisture for germination which would likely start the process I described earlier.

The safest bet is to wait until your area has received a good soaking rain and there is a favorable chance for additional rains. As dry as we are now, that first ½ inch shower will not provide adequate moisture for establishment if it is followed by an extended period without additional rain.

Many of the commonly planted cool season forages have very small seeds and should be planted very shallow, making them especially susceptible to drought conditions. From 2015 Cool-Season Forage Variety Recommendations for Florida

Many of the commonly planted cool season forages have very small seeds and should be planted very shallow, making them especially susceptible to drought conditions.
From 2015 Cool-Season Forage Variety Recommendations for Florida

Sooner or later it will rain (I think), so you wind up planting your plots later than normal. What does that mean? In the grand scheme of things, not much. As we get later in the year the days get shorter and the air and soil temperatures get lower which can slow the development of the plants. That said, the real growth for most of our cool season forages really occurs in the spring and that will still be that case regardless of if you planted in October, November or December. Remember the goal of food plots should be increasing the quality and quantity of forage available for wildlife throughout the entire year.

The dry weather has messed up food plot establishment as it relates to hunting season but if all you wanted was a game attractant for hunting purposes food plots were probably not your best bet in the first place. It takes considerable time, effort and expense to maintain quality food plots, to the point that they are really not a very practical option if only viewed as an attractant for a few months out of the year.

If attracting deer, not improving habitat, is your primary goal you might consider establishing a feeding station. Be sure to check FWC regulations before you begin feeding game animals.

If attracting deer, not improving habitat, is your primary goal you might consider establishing a feeding station. Be sure to check FWC regulations before you begin feeding game animals.

Be patient, wait for the weather conditions to improve before planting. There is no point in wasting your time and money on plantings that have a very low chance of being successful. Contact your county’s agriculture or natural resources agent for more details relating to the establishment of wildlife plots.

PG

Author: Mark Mauldin – mdm83@ufl.edu

I am the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent in Washington County. My program areas include livestock and forage, row crops, and pond management.
http://washington.ifas.ufl.edu

Mark Mauldin

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/11/07/dont-rush-wildlife-plot-planting-wait-for-the-rain/

Don’t Rush Wildlife Plot Plantings – Wait on Rain

Don’t Rush Wildlife Plot Plantings – Wait on Rain

A buck chases a doe through plots of wildlife forages being evaluated at the University of Florida's North Florida Research and Education Center. Photo Courtesy of Holly Ober

A buck chases a doe through plots of wildlife forages being evaluated at the University of Florida’s North Florida Research and Education Center. Photo:  Holly Ober

It should be too late in the year for an article about cool season food plots; they should already be up and growing, at the very least planted. It’s November, archery season has begun, the fall food plot ship should have already sailed. However, due to the incredibly dry weather we’ve had for the past several months I hope that ship hasn’t sailed. I hope you have not planted your food plots yet. The tristate area is really dry, too dry to plant anything you expect to survive. If you have not already planted, don’t, until your area gets substantial rain.

Very dry conditions persist across the Southeast

Very dry conditions persist across the Southeast

The saying goes “The best time to go hunting is whenever I have time.”  As the classic weekend-warrior sportsman myself, I can easily relate to that saying and I can also understand how/why folks would apply that same logic to planting food plots. Unfortunately, with this fall’s weather, that logic does not hold true. Any plantings made, before we have adequate moisture, run a very high chance of being complete failures.

These likely failures can play-out in a variety of ways, but they all end the same. Seedlings have tiny roots systems; moisture must be accessible very near the soil surface in order for them to access it. If moisture is unavailable in the tiny root zone the seedlings will wilt. Wilting greatly diminishes the plants ability to carry out photosynthesis; no photosynthesis no energy. Seedlings have virtually no stored energy to fall back on, so the seedlings begin to die rapidly.

Admittedly, I left out one key detail in the plant horror story above; moisture is required for seed germination. If it is completely dry, seeds can be planted and nothing will happen – they won’t germinate, they won’t try to grow, they won’t die from lack of moisture. This fact leads some to conclude, “Plant now and it will come up whenever it rains.” While there is some sound logic in that conclusion, it is a very risky plan when you consider the types of plants we typically include in our wildlife plots. “Dusting in” as it is called in the crop world, can work with larger seeded, deeper planted crops. It is not well suited to small seeded, very shallow planted forages like clover. When a seed is right at the soil surface the tiniest amount of rain or even a heavy dew could provide enough moisture for germination, which would likely start the process I described earlier.

Many of the commonly planted cool season forages have very small seeds and should be planted very shallow, making them especially susceptible to drought conditions. From 2015 Cool-Season Forage Variety Recommendations for Florida

Many of the commonly planted cool season forages have very small seeds and should be planted very shallow, making them especially susceptible to drought conditions.
From 2015 Cool-Season Forage Variety Recommendations for Florida

The safest bet is to wait until your area has received a good soaking rain, and there is a favorable chance for additional rains. As dry as we are now, that first ½ inch shower will not provide adequate moisture for establishment, if it is followed by an extended period without additional rain.

Sooner or later it will rain (I think), so you wind up planting your plots later than normal. What does that mean? In the grand scheme of things, not much. As we get later in the year the days get shorter and the air and soil temperatures get lower which can slow the development of the plants. That said, the real growth for most of our cool season forages really occurs in the spring, and that will still be that case regardless of if you planted in October, November, or December. Remember the goal of food plots should be increasing the quality and quantity of forage available for wildlife throughout the entire year.

The dry weather has messed up food plot establishment as it relates to hunting season, but if all you wanted was a game attractant for hunting purposes, food plots were probably not your best bet in the first place. It takes considerable time, effort and expense to maintain quality food plots, to the point that they are really not a very practical option if only viewed as an attractant for a few months out of the year. If attracting deer, not improving habitat, is your primary goal you might consider establishing a feeding station. Be sure to check FWC regulations before you begin feeding game animals.

If attracting deer, not improving habitat, is your primary goal you might consider establishing a feeding station. Be sure to check FWC regulations before you begin feeding game animals.

If attracting deer, not improving habitat, is your primary goal you might consider establishing a feeding station. Photo: Mark Mauldin

Be patient, wait for the weather conditions to improve before planting. There is no point in wasting your time and money on plantings that have a very low chance of being successful. Contact your county’s agriculture or natural resources agent for more details relating to the establishment of wildlife plots.

 

PG

Author: Mark Mauldin – mdm83@ufl.edu

I am the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent in Washington County. My program areas include livestock and forage, row crops, and pond management.
http://washington.ifas.ufl.edu

Mark Mauldin

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/11/05/dont-rush-wildlife-plot-plantings-wait-on-rain/

Friday Funny: Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Marriage Right

Friday Funny:  Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Marriage Right

Harold and Jenny live on a farm in the Florida Panhandle.  Though they have been married for many years, and raised three children to adulthood together, their marriage has been challenging for Jenny.  Harold has worked hard his whole adult life to provide for his family, and take care of the family farm that had been passed to him from his father.  While Harold takes care of every detail on the farm, he has not always been as attentive as he needed to be when it came to Jenny.  Jenny knew Harold was not the romantic type when she married him, but did expect him to take care of the important things like birthdays and anniversaries.

Their 30th anniversary was coming up in the second week of June, so Jenny decided not to say anything to see if Harold remembered this milestone for their marriage.  Poor Harold was so busy getting his peanuts and cotton planted and the pre-emergence herbicides sprayed, that he never even thought about the important anniversary that occurred that year.

When their anniversary day arrived, Jenny fixed Harold an extra special breakfast, but said nothing when he commented, “Now this is really nice, thank you.”  At lunch he noticed she kept looking at him funny, but he gobbled up the meal and headed back out to the fields.  Dinner too, was something very special, all the things he liked.  He said, “Wow, I guess this is my lucky day.”  But his mind was still going over all the tasks that remained undone: the irrigation unit that needed repairing, the sprayer that needing new nozzles, and the fence with a tree limb on it that had allowed two herds to mix.  Not one time during that special day did Harold even glance at a calendar.  As the day drew to an end, Harold turned on the late news to watch the weather.  He noticed Jenny was fidgeting and piddling with different things, and was not at all relaxed.  She just seemed anxious and distracted.  Finally he said, “Honey you need to sit down and relax, its almost bedtime and you need to stop all of that or you’re going to have a hard time going to sleep.”  Harold was right, she tossed and turned, he knew something was not quite right, but figured it could wait until morning.   He was exhausted and fell fast asleep.

The next morning he noticed that Jenny was already up.  That was unusual.  He got dressed and headed for the kitchen hoping to find a deluxe breakfast like the day before.  This time there was nothing waiting for him but black coffee and burnt toast.  Jenny was very upset, and he could see it in her face.  He said, “Honey what is wrong with you?”  She snapped back and said, “As of yesterday Harold, we have been married for 30 years.  Yet you just seem to take me for granted.  If you want to stay married to me you had better get to town and come back with something really special.  When I come back from Mamma’s house at 5:00 I expect something sitting in the driveway that goes from zero to 200 in 2 seconds flat!”

Jenny stormed out the door and headed to her mother’s house.  She cried and vented to her mother who calmed her down and reminded her of Harold’s positive attributes.  “He has been a very loyal husband for 30 years,” she told her.  “Go back home and see what Harold has come up with to make amends for his forgetfulness.”

bathroom-scaleSo Jenny headed home, and when she arrived she found a small square wrapped package in the driveway.  Jenny was really ticked off now and growled out to herself, “What is this?  I thought I made this very clear!”  Even so she bent down and picked up the small flat package, and was somewhat surprised by the weight of it.

She opened the package and to her surprise, it was a brand new bathroom scale!

Jenny was arrested for assault and battery with a bathroom scale.  Harold was transported to City Memorial Hospital and is the Intensive Care Unit with an unknown recovery date awaiting a brain transplant.

 

*************************************************************************************************************

If you enjoyed this week’s joke, you might also enjoy others from previous weeks: Friday Funnies

Farm folks always enjoy sharing good jokes, photos and stories.  If you have a good, clean joke, particularly one that pertains to agriculture, or a funny photo that you took on the farm, send it in and we will share it with our readers.

Email to:  Panhandle Ag Friday Funny

 

 

PG

Author: Doug Mayo – demayo@ufl.edu

Lead Editor for Panhandle Ag e-news – Jackson County Extension Director – Livestock & Forages Agent. My true expertise is with beef cattle and pasture management, but I can assist with information on other livestock species, as well as recreational fish ponds.
http://jackson.ifas.ufl.edu

Doug Mayo

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/10/21/friday-funny-two-wrongs-dont-make-a-marriage-right/

Don’t be a Sap! Knowing the difference between Florida pines

The longleaf forest display at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center shows typical vegetation and wildlife in the forest. Photo credit: UF IFAS Extension

The longleaf forest display at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center shows typical vegetation and wildlife in the forest. Photo credit: UF IFAS Extension

Pine trees are so common in the southeastern United States that they are often taken for granted. They are usually the first to be cut down when homeowners are nervous about storms, and unless you’re in the tree-growing business, they are not considered all that valuable. However, the history and development of northwest Florida is intrinsically tied to the stately pine. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the “naval stores” industry employed thousands of people collecting resin from pine trees. This industry produced turpentine and rosin used most famously to waterproof wooden ships, but also for soap, paint, inks, varnish, and medications.

Our area is home to seven native species, and each fulfills a specific role in the environment. In fact, during Florida Master Naturalist Program classes, we teach about pines living in all three of the broad Florida habitat types—uplands, freshwater wetlands, and coastal areas. These species can be difficult to tell apart, but a few tricks can help keep them straight.

The best way to keep track of pines is to recall that species starting with “S” (sand, shortleaf, spruce) have needles in bunches of twos (the letter S has two endpoints), and pines starting with “L” (a letter with 3 endpoints) have bunches of three (loblolly, longleaf). Finally, slash pine, starting with “SL” has bundles of 2-3 needles. Pond pine is an anomaly in that its shorter needles are in bunches of 3-5 needles.

Longleaf pine sapling Photo credit: UF IFAS Extension

Longleaf pine sapling Photo credit: UF IFAS Extension

A few interesting facts on some of our native pine species:

  • The Southeast was once covered in over 60 million acres of longleaf pine forests, the namesake of an ecological habitat that encompasses many valuable and endangered species, including bobwhite quail, red-cockaded woodpeckers, gopher tortoises, and indigo snakes. Wind resistant and adapted to frequent fires, the trees can grow 80-100 feet tall. One of the largest stands of longleaf pine in Florida is at Eglin Air Force Base.
  • Pond pine often grows along the edges of wetlands and ponds. Its cones may stay closed on the tree for up to eight years, but if a fire comes through they will immediately open and release their seeds. This adaptation allows the species to take advantage of open soil in full sun after a fire to germinate new trees.
  • Sand pine can grow in extremely sandy, low-nutrient soils, including beach dunes on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. They have very short needles (2-3 inches long), and the “Choctawhatchee” variety of sand pine works well as a Christmas tree.

For detailed information on identifying all seven species along with several introduced pines, please see the new UF publication, “Common Pines of Florida.”

PG

Author: Carrie Stevenson – ctsteven@ufl.edu

Coastal Sustainability Agent, Escambia County Extension

Carrie Stevenson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/06/01/dont-be-a-sap-knowing-the-difference-between-florida-pines/

Don’t Think You Have a Green Thumb? Try Container Gardening!

Don’t Think You Have a Green Thumb? Try Container Gardening!

Banana pepper in container. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Banana pepper in container. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Interested in having a garden, but have limited space? Maybe you live in an apartment, have poor soil quality, or you just don’t have many areas that get enough sunlight. Maybe you’ve tried gardening, but given up, labeling yourself as one of those who “just doesn’t have a green thumb.” Well, I’m here to tell you, don’t give up! Try container gardening. Growing your own vegetables in containers is easy and can be a very rewarding experience. Container gardens also tend to have fewer weed, pest, and disease problems then regular in-ground gardens. Following just a few guidelines, you can have a bountiful harvest of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs right by your front (or back) door-step!

Grow vegetables easily in a large planter. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Grow vegetables easily in a large planter. Photo by Molly Jameson.

So, what are these guidelines, you ask? Well, you first want to choose the right container. This could be a large flowerpot, window box, planter, 5-gallon bucket, half-barrel, recycled material…the list can be endless. Just as long as your container is big enough and has proper drainage. Generally, the container should be at least 10 inches wide and 10 inches deep. The bigger the better, as it will give the roots more space to grow, and the soil will not dry out as fast. Tomatoes, for instance, do best in larger pots, preferably the size of a five-gallon bucket. For many herbs, you can get away with planting two or three different types in the same container. It is also important that your container has drainage holes, so water can escape and air can circulate. Use a one-fourth inch drill bit to create holes in the bottom or along the sides near the bottom of the container if it does not have holes.

Most of us know plants need both sunlight and soil. But just how much sunlight and what type of soil? If you are growing vegetables, it is best to have full sun – which means at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. An advantage of growing in containers is that you can easily place a container in an area of your yard or on a balcony that receives adequate sunlight, when it would be much more difficult to build a garden in these same areas.

Buy potting soil in bulk to cut down on costs. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Buy potting soil in bulk to cut down on costs. Photo by Molly Jameson.

So what about soil? When growing in containers, you want to make sure you get potting soil that is made for containers. These mixes will contain materials such as peat, perlite, and vermiculite for both good drainage and moisture-holding capacity, and materials such as compost and nutrient amendments that will keep your plants healthy. You can simply ask your nursery specialist for a mix formulated to grow vegetables in large outdoor containers. If you are growing a lot of vegetables, you can cut down on costs by making your own mix. Just make sure you have a good balance of the aforementioned materials, and mix in a slow-release vegetable fertilizer, following directions on the label.

Now that you have your container, your soil, and a sunny location, it is time to get the plants. Some plants are best bought as transplants or grown from seed started indoors. Vegetables such as broccoli, collards, kale, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and strawberries fall into this category. Other plants, such as root crops, arugula, lettuce, spinach, mustards, beans, peas, cucumbers, squash, okra, cilantro, and basil can be started from seed directly into containers.

For some vegetables, buy transplants from your local nursery. Photo by Molly Jameson.

For some vegetables, buy transplants from your local nursery. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Okay, so you have all the materials. Now what? If you are growing from transplants, first thoroughly moisten the potting mix and the plant’s soil. “Transplant shock” is reduced when there is proper moisture. Set plants at about the same level they were growing in their original pot. For tomatoes, remove lower leaves and plant deeper in the container. If you are growing from seed, simply plant the seeds according to their label. A good rule of thumb is to plant the seed to a depth of about two to three times the seed’s diameter. If you are worried about your seeds not germinating, go ahead and plant more seeds than you need. But remember to thin to appropriate spacing if they do, indeed, all come up. Spacing will be specific to the type of vegetable.

After planting, water gently but thoroughly. Monitor your container garden, making sure the potting mix does not dry out. You can reduce evaporation by mulching with leaf litter, straw, or a similar material. Plants that grow tall or produce vines, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, will need support. A wire cage or pole, inserted into the container at planting time, will support the plant as it grows.

Last step is to call over all your friends and family and show off your beautiful vegetable plants! They will surely be impressed by your “green thumb” and will be eager to learn your gardening secrets.

 

PG

Author: Molly Jameson – mjameson@ufl.edu

Molly Jameson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/04/28/dont-think-you-have-a-green-thumb-try-container-gardening/

Don’t Be Duped By Plant Tags!

Don’t Be Duped By Plant Tags!

People are, by nature, skeptical. Humans are and have always been questioners of the world around them and that’s a good thing! For instance, when one reads a sensational article on Facebook or watches an infomercial selling a too-good-to-be-true product he/she is immediately dubious of the veracity of the claim. Given this innate sense, why do consumers take plant tags displayed on retail plants and the information listed there as infallible fact when in reality they are often full of hyperbole and misleading?

I do not mean to insinuate that nurseries and landscape professionals are intentionally leading consumers astray. They are not. However, there is much incorrect information disseminated to consumers by the green industry on plant fact sheets. Take my titular example, ‘Little Gem’ magnolia is widely advertised and sold as a “dwarf” magnolia, only growing 15’-25’ tall. If given proper care, it will grow to that height…in seven to ten years. Given enough time, ‘Little Gem’ has will grow in excess of forty feet. People plant this cultivar under the eaves of single story houses on a regular basis! I promise that cute little magnolia you were told would grow 15’ tall will look rather silly when it is four times the height of your house. Take another example, how many times have you seen or heard of ‘Acoma’ crapemyrtle being sold as a “semi-dwarf” cultivar that grows to 10’ in height for use in a tight spot of the landscape in lieu of the much larger ‘Natchez’? It will fill that tight spot and fill it rather quickly. ‘Acoma’ can easily reach 20’ in height and width at maturity, engulfing its intended area.

Typical plant tag. Notice the "Average Size" section. This is where consumers should use discretion.

Typical plant tag. Notice the “Average Size” section. This is where consumers should use discretion.

So why does this happen? Why are plant tags so often mistaken? There are two primary reasons that correct mature sizes are not given. First, in the competitive world of plant breeding and introduction where there can be hundreds or thousands of cultivars of a single species, it is of utmost importance to introduce plants as quickly. Quick introduction is necessary because others are probably working to find similar traits; therefore, if one notices that a plant possesses a drastically different flower, flowering pattern, leaf shape, leaf size, or growth habit, the plant is often rushed to market. This leaves little time for complete trials of the plant to see what it would look like at maturity.

Secondly, most well-adapted or native trees/shrubs have relatively long life spans. A crapemyrtle or magnolia can easily grow and thrive in a landscape for thirty years or more before reaching maximum size. Nurseries simply do not have time to evaluate plants that long. Many nurseries, due to vagaries of economic cycles and length of career spans, don’t even exist for thirty years much less trial a single plant for that length of time!

In conclusion, nurseries are not likely to change their plant tag practices, but there are a couple of checks consumers can use to make sure they buy an appropriate plant for the scale of their site. First, it is a good rule of thumb to double the advertised plant height to arrive at a better idea of the plant’s mature size. Second, drive through established neighborhoods and observe what certain plants look like in a mature landscape. This will give one an idea of what the plant is capable of. The third and best option is to consult your local County Extension Office. They will be able to offer research-based information to help you make the right decision in your plant choices. Keep this in mind the next time you are thinking of buying the latest, greatest plant at your local nursery!

Happy Gardening!

PG

Author: dleonard – d.leonard@ufl.edu

dleonard

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/04/27/dont-be-duped-by-plant-tags/

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