Impatiens are a very popular annual, bedding plant that provide a nice burst of color in the landscape. The traditional Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana), or touch-me-not, is the one that most gardeners know as needing part shade, but there are also the New Guinea Impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri) that are able to tolerate more sun. In addition to being able to withstand more sunlight, the New Guinea Impatiens also have larger flowers and leaves. Another highlight of the New Guinea impatiens is their increased resistance to downy mildew, a major concern for growers of touch-me-nots, especially in south Florida.
While native to the Old World, Impatiens are not known to invade Florida natural areas but may reproduce by seed. Touch-me-nots are known to spread easily be seed. An interesting fact about Impatiens is their bursting seed pods that can send seeds several feet from the parent plant. This characteristic is what led to the scientific name Impatiens – for impatient – and one of the common names – touch-me-not.
May is a good time to plant Impatiens in north Florida. They prefer slightly acidic soil and should be planted at a 12-18 inch spacing. Impatiens work well as a border planting or in mass plantings. While New Guinea Impatiens tolerate more sun, they still would prefer some afternoon shade. Those growing in full sun will need extra care to ensure they remain well watered. An all-purpose plant food can be applied at monthly intervals for best performance.
Some common varieties of touch-me-nots include ‘Accent’, ‘Blitz’, ‘Carousel’, ‘Dazzler’, ‘Impact’, ‘Impulse’, and ‘Super Elfins’. Common New Guinea Impatiens varieties include ‘Celebration Candy Pink’, ‘Celebration Light Lavender’, ‘Nebulus’, ‘Equinox’, ‘Sunglow’, and ‘Tango’. The newer ‘Sunpatiens’ variety is quite popular and comes in different forms – compact, spreading, and vigorous.
If you have any questions regarding Impatiens, please contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office or visit our EDIS website at www.edis.ifas.ufl.edu.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to prepare the garden space for the summer bounty of fresh vegetables. The following information will help you get started. Just remember, as the soil preparation goes, so goes the vegetable production.
Figure 1: Planting Vegetables in Prepared Soil.
Credit: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS.
By far the most physical part of vegetable gardening is soil preparation. This is the foundation that your garden is built on, so let’s not cut corners at this stage. Plain and simple, poor soil prep will result in poor garden performance. Before you begin prep, it is a good idea to have a soil sample analyzed. With a soil analysis complete, a more customized fertilizer and application may be recommended for your needs. However, a complete fertilizer like 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 can be used as general purpose. Also, pH can be determined through this test. If the soil is too acidic for vegetables, then a liming requirement may be needed. pH is key information, especially regarding planting time. If one needs lime, it is recommended to wait at least a month before planting to allow the lime to adjust soil pH. Generally, a small amount of lime can be added to a garden space regardless, as lime also contains the vital micronutrients calcium and magnesium. Contact your local extension office for more information on soil testing.
To begin the garden prep, one will first need to remove the weeds from the space. The next step is to turn the soil. This will help aerate the soil and accelerate soil decomposition which leads to higher organic matter. Turing the soil will also eliminate any soil compaction issues that would stifle seed germination. With sandy soils throughout the Panhandle, one will most likely need to amend by spreading a rich organic compost in the space. An application of fertilizer can be mixed in at this stage as well. Always follow the manufacturer’s label regarding application directions. Once complete, the soil should then be turned by digging down six to eight inches. A large garden will require a motorized tiller, but hand-held implements should be fine for smaller spaces.
After the soil is turned, be sure to break up any clods and rake so that the area is level. The soil should be of a fine texture by this point. Again, this makes seed germination much easier and will assist in further root development of transplants.
To have a vegetable garden that all will envy, it begins with soil prep. Remember, not only does a vegetable garden provide nutrition, but it also provides for exercise, a feeling of accomplishment and even could save you a few bucks. Please contact your local county extension office for more information.
Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publication: “Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide” by Sydney Park Brown, Danielle Treadwell, J. M. Stephens and Susan Webb: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/VH/VH02100.pdf
Information on garden plot preparation was also provided by Emeritus Vegetable Specialist Jim Stephens, of The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Science.
UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.
Almost every landscape has a problem area where the sun just doesn’t shine and many plants won’t make it, maybe it’s the north side of your house, under a small tree, or tucked away in an oddly-shaped alcove. We all know the same old boring green choices that work well here (Holly Fern, Cast Iron Plant, etc.) but maybe you want something a little bit different, something that will provide a pop of color and interesting texture! Look no further than a recent introduction, a whole-plant mutation discovered from the little-used Grape Holly (Mahonia spp.), aptly named ‘Soft Caress’.
‘Soft Caress’ Mahonia is a beautiful little evergreen shrub from the Southern Living Plant Collection (one of the best of the collection in my opinion) and really is a game changer for full-shade areas. Some of you may remember the traditional Mahonia, also known as Grape Holly, from your grandmother’s lawn. Those plants were coarse, spiny, produced messy purplish berries and often appeared generally unkempt. ‘Soft Caress’ is a major departure from its parent. Possessing finely-cut, deep green, bamboo-like foliage, this plant’s texture really contrasts well with many traditional shady species. As a bonus, ‘Soft Caress’ sends up brilliant yellow-gold flower spikes in the dead of winter, certainly a welcome respite from the other barren plants in the landscape; although in this unusually warm year, the plants are just now blooming in the Panhandle.
Photo courtesy: Daniel J. Leonard
‘Soft Caress’ is advertised to grow three feet in height and width, a more manageable size than the larger traditional Mahonia species, but I’m not sure I’d take that as gospel, the three-year old plants (hardly mature specimens) in my parent’s landscape are already that size and show no signs of slowing down. However, I’ve found you can easily manage their size with a once a year prune to slow down some of the more rapidly-growing canes. Be sure to time the prune as soon as possible after flowering is finished as ‘Soft Caress’ blooms only once a year and produces its flowers on the previous season’s wood, just like Indica Azaleas and old-fashioned Hydrangeas.
The uses in the landscape for ‘Soft Caress’ Mahonia are nearly endless. It pairs well with almost anything in a shady mixed shrub border. It works nicely as a foundation plant against a porch or under windows on the north or east side of a house where it will be protected from hot afternoon sun; I have employed a grouping of the plants in this way in my own lawn with success. It even thrives in containers! If you want to show off some serious horticultural design skills, mix ‘Soft Caress’ in a large container on the porch with some like-minded perennials for a low-maintenance, high-impact display that you don’t have to replant each season. All this shrub requires is partial to full shade, moist well-drained soil, and an occasional haircut to keep it looking tidy! If you’ve been struggling to find a plant that’s a little more unusual than the standard garden center fare and actually looks good in shady spots, you could do a lot worse than ‘Soft Caress’ Mahonia.
As always, happy gardening and contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension office for more information about this plant and other gardening questions!
This month, recognized by the Senate and Florida’s governor, reminds diggers why calling 811 before all outdoor digging projects is important to your safety. Before installing a mailbox, fence, deck, garden or tree make sure to call Sunshine 811 to have underground lines marked. 811 is the free national number designated by the Federal Communications Commission. It notifies utility companies, who in turn send their professional locators to identify and mark the appropriate location of underground line with paint and flags in colors that identify the utility type. The following colors represent the seven various utilities: red – electric, orange – communications (telephone, cable tv), blue – potable water, green – sewer, yellow – gas, purple – reclaimed water, and white – site of intended excavation. To learn more about color designation and their corresponding utility go to: http://www.call811.com/faqs/default.aspx. Locating marks are good for 30 calendar days. Any work beyond that requires another call to 811. If the marks are destroyed before your project is done, stop digging and call 811.
Hitting an underground utility line while digging can cause injuries. Utility service outages can also impact an entire neighborhood and damage the environment. The depth of utility lines varies, and there may be multiple utility lines in one common area. Even if you think you know where an underground line is, time tends to change things. Erosion or tree roots can shift those utility lines. Failure to call before digging results in one unintentional utility hit every eight minutes nationwide. You could also be financially affected with costly fines and high repair costs.
The Common Ground Alliance (CGA) Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) provides industry stakeholders with a way to anonymously submit data into a comprehensive database for analysis of the factors that lead to events. An event is defined by the CGA DIRT User’s Guide as “the occurrence of downtime, damages, and near misses.” The number of events submitted to DIRT for 2011 totaled 207,779. However, according to CGA DIRT “when a call is made to the one call center (811) prior to excavation, 99% of the time there will be no damage”.
Calling 811 in Florida is the law. At least two full business days before digging, do-it yourselfers and professional excavators must contact 811 by phone to start the process of getting underground utility lines marked. This is a free service. Be sure that all utilities have been marked before grabbing the shovel. If you don’t see locate marks, don’t assume there are no underground utility lines. Verify with the Sunshine 811 Positive Response system. Follow up on your one call ticket by contacting 811 again on the third day. Sunshine State One Call is a not for profit corporation which began with the 1993 adoption of the “Underground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act,” Chapter 556, Florida Statutes. Online you can visit: www.online811.com, or call (800) 852-8057. If you provide a valid e-mail when requesting your locate ticket, positive response updates will automatically be sent to you when all utilities have responded. For more information on Florida’s law, visit www.Sunshine811.com.
Most of you plant a spring vegetable garden with a number of different vegetable types. However, you may not realize that you are improving the health of your soil and your crops by planting a diverse garden. Intercropping is a gardening practice of growing different crops in the same field. When planting a mixture of crops in the same field year after year, it is important to rotate the location of each type of vegetable. This is a practice known as crop rotation. Intercropping and crop rotation will help reduce insect pest populations, increase beneficial insect populations, and reduce weed populations.
Growing plants in your garden that pest insects don’t like to eat makes the pests work harder to find what they do like to eat. Studies have found reduced whitefly numbers on squash plantings mixed with a crop of buckwheat when compared to squash planted alone. Another crop mixture that may be unintentional, but may work in your favor is a row of crapemyrtles along the edge of your garden. Crapemyrtles will attract the crapemyrtle aphid which will attract predatory insects. When the predatory insects run out of crapemyrtle aphids to eat, they will move to your garden and begin to hunt pest insects on your vegetable crop.
Squash with living mulch of buckwheat. Photo Credit: Oscar Liburd, UF/IFAS Extension
A trap crop is a plant that attracts a pest insect away from your food crops. Trap crops work best when planted at the edge of your garden, along a fence row, or in movable containers. A bare space, let’s say 5 feet or so, should be kept between your trap crop and your garden. This will help keep the pests from moving on to your vegetables. When you find a good population of pests on your trap crop then it is time to spray them with insecticide or cut the crop down and remove the debris to a location far from your garden. If your trap crops are planted in containers, then it makes them that much easier to remove from near the garden area.
Cover Crops and Green Manure
Soil organic matter can be increased by the use of green manure and cover crops. Cover crops are generally planted during the off-season, but they can be planted in between vegetable rows and tilled in at a designated time as a green manure. Both cover crops and green manure improve the production of your garden by:
- Suppressing weeds by competing for water, light, and nutrients;
- Holding the soil in place and preventing erosion;
- Scavenging for nutrients that can be utilized in future crops;
- Reducing nematode populations;
- Providing a habitat for beneficial insects.
A mixed plot of cover crops and trap crops. Photo Credit: UF/IFAS Extension
A number of different crops can serve as cover crops or green manure crops. Most are legumes (bean family) or grasses. A few that you might like to give a try are:
- Sunn hemp
- Winter rye
More detailed information on cover crops and green manure can be found at this link: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/aa217.