Native Gaillardia. Photo courtesy UF/IFAS.
The hottest days of the summer are here and you might be thinking, “There is no way something could survive this heat!”. You might also be wondering “What can I do in my landscape?” Well, you are correct – it is hot and there are not many plants that thrive in this type of weather, but the good news is we are at the end of the summer season and there are things we can begin to do to get ready for fall. It’s not too late to get the last of the summer vegetables going such as lima beans, cucumbers, eggplants, and peppers. Many cool season crops can also be planted by seed now and tomatoes will thrive going into the fall season. See Vegetable Gardening in Florida
There are some heat-tolerant annuals like vinca, gaillardia, bulbine, and coleus that can be planted now in the landscape. See Annuals. Any time of the year, even late summer, bulbs like Aztec Lily, Butterfly Lily, Walking Iris, and Spider Lily can be planted. See Bulbs for Florida. Not many herbs do well in our Florida sun this time of year, but Bay Laurel, Ginger, Mexican Tarragon, and Rosemary can be planted as transplants now but not as seeds just yet. See Herbs.
August and late summer is the time of year that you may be seeing damage in your lawns. This could be caused by insects, disease, or irrigation failure. It is important to determine the cause, so the proper remedy is used. Some ways to avoid lawn damage are checking your mower blades regularly and making sure they are sharp. Also only cut the top one third of the blade of grass to not stress it in the heat of the day. It is good practice to test your irrigation clock and have a rain sensor. Some municipalities in north Florida prohibit the application of fertilizer during the summer rainy season from June to September so check with your local extension office. See Insect Management in Your Florida Lawn
You can become more self-sufficient by growing your own healthy food in your backyard. Photo by Molly Jameson.
There are some other maintenance measures you can take in August to help your landscape and prepare for the fall season. If older palm fronds are yellowing, this could indicate a deficiency in magnesium or potassium. Talk to your local agent or visit your local store for an appropriate palm fertilizer. See Palm Nutrition and Fertilization. Are you holding on to those beautiful fall mums or decorative Christmas poinsettias? Now is the time to pinch them back to allow time for buds to set for winter blooms. Finally, it is a good time to deadhead (remove old blooms) and fertilize flowering annuals and perennials. We’ve had substantial rain this summer, so keep in mind that the soil could be lacking nutrients. A soil test can give you data that indicates what you need for the up-and-coming growing season.
Information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publication: “North Florida Gardening Calendar” by Sydney Park Brown: ENH1190/EP451: North Florida Gardening Calendar (ufl.edu)
Tatsoi is a low-growing green with spoon-shaped, dark-green leaves. Photo by Molly Jameson.
Sweet to the palate, easy to grow, and a delight to watch take shape, tatsoi is a great choice for your fall and winter veggie garden.
Tatsoi is in the cabbage family, species Brassica rapa, and is closely related to another Asian green, bok choy. It originates in Japan, where it has been grown for over 1,500 years.
Tatsoi is an annual with spoon-like dark-green leaves and cream-colored stems that grows low to the ground. It is easy to start from seed, can handle partial shade, and grows relatively fast. It can be eaten raw, like spinach, or it can be lightly cooked to add a pleasantly distinct flavor to stir-fries and soups. It has a surprisingly mild mustard-like taste. It is full of vitamin C, calcium, potassium, folate, and phytonutrients.
Tatsoi takes about 40 to 50 days to reach maturity. Photo by Molly Jameson.
Although it does well in the spring in cooler climates, it does best in fall and winter in Florida and can handle temperatures down to 15°F. It can be directly seeded into the garden and germinates in about five to 15 days. You can seed tatsoi one to three inches apart, but it should be thinned to about eight to 10 inches to reach full size, which takes about 40 to 50 days. Add the baby tatsoi you thin to your dinner salad.
Once thinned, harvest whole mature plants or individual outer leaves. If you find you just can’t get enough, seed more tatsoi every two weeks until the spring, when longer days and warmer temperatures will cause tatsoi to bolt. Bolting is when a plant diverts its resources away from the edible leaves and into the flowering stem for seed production.
For a truly continuous supply, allow your tatsoi to bolt, and it will produce many tiny, thin seed pods. Wait for the plant to dry completely and harvest the seed pods. Carefully open the pods over a plate to be sure to catch all the small round seeds within. Then, simply store the seeds in a dry, cool location, such as your fridge, in an air-tight container. Stored correctly, the seeds will last four to five years.
If you have yet to give tatsoi a position in your garden, give it a try this winter!
Fall is here and Red roselle hibiscus is responding with flowers and fruit. Learn to grow your own Roselle hibiscus and make a delicious tea with UF IFAS Escambia Extension’s Garden to Table segment.
Veteran Master Gardener, Les Furr shares an idea he and his wife had to hide an ugly debris pile following Hurricane Michael. He planted a temporary sunflower screen to block something ugly with something beautiful. Sunflowers can be planted along a road or fence, and provide a lovely addition to your property. The seed can be saved and frozen to provide beauty to your property year after year.
Flowers can often be fickle in the landscape, so, this year, I decided to add a shot of no-maintenance color to my landscape with foliage plants! The benefits of ornamentals that don’t need flowers to put on a show are many. Their water and fertility needs are often less because they don’t have to support the large energy and irrigation requirements the flowering process demands. They don’t need deadheading to look their best and they lend an awesome texture that is overlooked in many landscapes. My summertime foliage plant of choice provides all those things in a small, bright yellow package; it’s a widely sold selection of Duranta called ‘Gold Mound’.
Mass of ‘Gold Mound’ Duranta in the author’s landscape.
‘Gold Mound’ Duranta is a small shrub known for its chartreuse to bright yellow foliage and generally grows 24” or so tall and wide in the Panhandle, allowing it to fit in nearly any landscape. ‘Gold Mound’ has been around in the horticulture trade a long time and is a popular perennial shrub in the southern parts of Florida. It was recognized as the Florida Nursery, Growers, and Landscape Association’s (FNGLA) plant of the year in 2005 and regularly occupies a spot in the color displays of big box and local nurseries, even in the Panhandle, however, despite these attributes, ‘Gold Mound’ is a rare find in Northwest Florida landscapes. That needs to change!
In our neck of the woods, Duranta ‘Gold Mound’ is incredibly low maintenance. I planted a grouping of thirteen specimens near the end of my driveway to provide a consistent season long splash of color to complement the fleeting blooms of the spring flowering shrubs, the drab greenery of the neighbor’s lawn and the on-again, off-again ‘Drift’ Roses they share the bed with. The result has been awesome! I watered frequently until the small shrubs were established and on their own, with no irrigation since. I fertilized at planting with a slow release, polymer coated fertilizer and have not had to help them along with subsequent applications. Even better, despite our frequent rainfall and heat/humidity, no pests or diseases have come knocking. Just because I enjoy gardening doesn’t mean I need a landscape full of divas and I can count on ‘Gold Mound’ to not need pampering.
Incredible chartreuse foliage of ‘Gold Mound’.
Maybe my favorite part of ‘Gold Mound’ Duranta in the Panhandle is that it isn’t permanent. Duranta is a native of the Caribbean tropics and is not particularly cold hardy, most Northwest Florida winters knock it back hard, if not outright killing it. Therefore, ‘Gold Mound’ is best enjoyed here as an annual, planted when the weather warms in the spring, enjoyed until the first frost, then pulled up and discarded. Easy peasy. No long-term commitments required. My uncle, the chainsaw gardener, doesn’t even have to chop it back! Just compost the plants each winter or toss them in the trash, hit up your local nursery the next spring for some new plants and do it all over again. Though it has to be replanted each year, Duranta ‘Gold Mound’ won’t break the bank. The generic ‘Gold Mound’ is commonly sold in 4” containers for just a few dollars apiece in the annual section of plant nurseries, making it a very affordable option, especially compared to some of the new, designer perennials it competes with.
Though some landscape designers recommend just using a single specimen of ‘Gold Mound’ here and there for small pops of color, I prefer using groupings of the plant. I’ve seen successful plantings of ‘Gold Mound’ massed in large groups to create annual color beds at key points in landscapes and also planted across the front of a bed to complement darker foliaged backdrop or foundation plants, such as Boxwood or Loropetalum. Regardless of how you decide to use them in your yard, I don’t think you can go wrong with adding some color pizazz to your landscape with the inexpensive, low-maintenance, Florida-Friendly plant, ‘Gold Mound’ Duranta. Happy gardening!