Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dirt to Dinner - Winter Series

Interested in vegetable gardening and nutrition the the new six weeks series called "Dirt to Dinner" may be for you.  The series will be taught on Thursdays, from 9am - noon at the Orange County Extension Education Center.  The dates are January 5, 12, 19 and February 2, 9, 16. 

The cost for the six week series is $50 per household.  Class size is limited to 25 families. 

Come learn about growing and eating your own vegetables from your Florida backyard. 

To register and prepay for the class, visit our offices at 6021 Conway Rd., Orlando, FL 32812.  For questions, please call 407 254 9200 and ask to speak to someone about the "Dirt to Dinner" program series.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Dirt to Dinner Series

Interested in vegetable gardening and nutrition the the new six weeks series called "Dirt to Dinner" may be for you.  The series will be taught on Fridays, from 9am - noon at the Orange County Extension Education Center.  The dates are July 15, 22, 29 and August 5, 12, 19.  The cost for the six week series is $50 per household.  Class size is limited to 25 families.  Come learn about growing you own vegetables in your Florida backyard.  To register and prepay for the class, download this pdf file:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Master Gardener Dena Wild to be Community Garden Advisor

The College Park Community Garden is in the planning stages.  The next organizational meeting will be on Monday June 20 at 7 p.m. at College Park Baptist Church in the Fellowship Hall.
Heather Tribou is leading the program and if you are interested in getting in on the ground floor, be at the meeting or contact Heather at Heather Tribou 407-843-0496.
Orange County Master Gardener Dena Wild will be the Community Garden Advisor to the College Park Community Garden.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Laurel Wilt Disease Update

The latest update from Dr. Jonathan H. Crane, Tropical Fruit Crop Specialist and Jason A. Smith, Forest Pathologist/Forest Health Extension Specialist regarding Detection and Recommendations for Mitigation of Laurel Wilt Disease on Native Trees in Urban Landscapes and Avocado Trees in the Home Landscape

Tentative recommended control measures for urban and rural residents with host trees (e.g., redbay, swampbay and avocado) in the home landscape
Rural and urban residents should be on the look-out for redbay, swampbay and other host trees including avocado) showing signs of rapid wilting, dieback, and insect boring, and should report this to the Division of Plant Industry (1-888-397-1517) and/or your local forester through the Division of Forestry ( ). This will help regulatory agencies and scientists track the movement of this pest. Preliminarily, redbay ambrosia beetle attacks of redbay appear to be highest from June through October. We can expect attacks on other Laurel Family species (e.g., swampbay and avocado) to increase during the summer as well.

Control options for urban landscapes with redbay trees.
Certain high-value redbay trees can be treated for prevention of laurel wilt by use of systemic fungicides. Propiconazole (trade name Alamo®) is currently being used with some success to protect high-value redbay landscape trees. In general, the process involves mass diffusion of diluted fungicide using passive uptake. In some cases, microinjectors are being used. Research has shown that protection lasts for up to 2 years at most. For more information on propiconazole use see:

There are some landscape companies and arborists that offer a fungicide service (treatment) for redbay trees. Please be sure they are using the correct product and are certified and licensed and have insurance prior to hiring them. At present Alamo® is not registered for use on swampbay trees.  Although Merit® (imidacloprid) is registered for use on landscape and forest trees to control insects its use in areas with highly permeable soils or where surface water is present is not recommended. Furthermore, the material is highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates and bees. Unless trees are protected by a fungicide the use of an insecticide to control the redbay ambrosia beetle will not stop the progression of the disease (i.e., it is too late).

Control options for urban landscapes with avocado treesPeriodically monitor avocado trees for signs of wilting, leaf drying and browning (death), stem and limb dieback. Contact DPI if you suspect the trees to be infested with laurel wilt.

Which pest and disease control substances that are available, safe, efficacious and economic for home owners to use to either protect their avocado tree from the beetle or disease? Currently, there is no insecticide recommendation to control the redbay beetle since by the time trees show signs of laurel wilt the beetles have already infested the tree. Research is ongoing to determine which products and methods of insecticide application would be most suitable for control of the beetle in urban landscapes.  At present there is an emergency exemption for the use of the fungicide Tilt® (propiconazole) fungicide for use as a bark directed spray mixed with 2% Pentra-Bark for control of laurel wilt in avocado trees. However we do not recommend its use at this time because not enough is known about its efficacy, potential toxicity to the tree, and how long the treatment lasts. However, if Tilt® plus PentraBark is used, the mixture must be applied before the tree is infested with the disease and it has been shown to only work on trees 6-7 years old or less. This material is expensive and not readily available to home owners. People interested in treating their trees should contact a certified and licensed (including pesticide licensed) landscape or arborist company for details on applications and costs of applying this material. Read and follow the label instructions for details and safe handling.

Tree disposal of dying or dead trees
What should residents do if their tree tests positive for laurel wilt? Contact your local waste disposal service. The wood (i.e., limbs, trunk, and stems) of host landscape trees that are confirmed to be positive for the laurel wilt disease may be placed into the urban debris stream, that is, taken to the local landfill and destroyed or buried. An option is composting the tree. Current recommendations for urban and rural residents with infested avocado or native trees include: notifying DPI immediately, removing the infested tree and having it picked up by local waste management agency for disposal, or composting the tree by cutting the tree to ground, placing all wood (or chips) on top of the stump, and covering with a tarp all the way to the ground. Perhaps the composting process can be accelerated with ingredients such as topsoil, manure, fertilizer and water. For more information on how to build compost piles visit http://edis.ifas.ufl/  or go to  and . Burning is not recommended because of the necessity to obtain state, county, and/or municipal burn permits and the danger of uncontrolled burning by residents.

Known hosts of laurel wilt in Florida.
Common name Scientific name
Native Redbay (Persea borbonia)
Swampbay (P. palustris)
Silkbay (P. humilis)
Pondberry (Lindera melissifolia)
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
Pondspice (Litsea aestivalis)
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
Non-native Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora)
Avocado (Persea americana)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Problems with Citrus Trees; Suspicion of Citrus Greening

SITUATION:  Having problems with 30 to 40 years old citrus trees.  Have lived in the area for 12 years and the tree has done very well.  However, this year something is wrong.   The citrus trees are full with hundreds of very small fruit. Normally, the fruit is sweet and eaten by the birds and squirrels.  The fruit is usually picked much earlier than this.  This year, the fruit is small and sour. The birds and squirrels have not touched it and the leaves are yellowing and beginning to curl.   Is this the citrus greening disease we have heard about?  I did not see other diseases like this when I tried to look it up.
RESPONSE:  Wow, citrus can be tough to work with sometimes.  In this case, the trees are very old and it may not take too much to cause them to decline.  You should have continued watering on a regular basis during the winter by providing at least 1" of water per week.  You should be applying a "citrus fertilizer" four times a year.  If you notice any unusual cracking of the bark on the trunk near the soil line suspect foot rot an contact a Certified Arborist for assistance.  If you control weeds and grass growing under your citrus trees with Round-Up make no overspray is landing on the trunk of the citrus trees.  Because all the citrus trees are  having the same problems at the same time, my first suspicion is that they were not being watered with a sufficient amount of water over the past 4-6 months.  Secondly, water and fertilizer are closely tied together.  Incorrect watering practices can lead to nutrient deficiencies although you are providing fertilizer often enough and in sufficient quantities.
If you suspect Citrus Greening, please call the Department of Plant Industry (1-800-282-5153) for an inspection of your trees.  Please do not bring possible greening samples to the Extension Office as you will be transporting potentially infectuous material into areas of the County where Citrus Greening may not be found.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Starting a Raised Bed Garden in the Backyard

QUESTION(S):  I’m starting a raised garden bed in my backyard. I live in Orlando Florida. It’s my 1st garden experience. I’m building it out of cement blocks. It is 10 blocks in length and 4-5 blocks in width. Could you please help me with the following issues?
1.  What would be the best way to kill the grass under the bed?
2.  Should I put down a layer of weed block? 
3. On top of the weed block should I put a layer of gravel down for water drainage? 
4.  What kind of soil mixture should I use?
And finally, what would be the best vegetables and herbs to plant for this time of year? I’m going to transplant them with starter plants raised at a nursery. Thank you so much for your time and help. Any sites or tips you may have would be greatly appreciated!
Congratulations to taking the plunge into growing the best tasting vegetables you will ever enjoy --- your own.

Why don't you stop by our office at 6021 S. Conway Rd. sometime and talk with a Master Gardener Volunteer.  Additionally, there is some information or our website at:, look toward the bottom of the page for some UF Publication specific to vegetable gardens.

In the meantime,

1.  Your raised bed is about 12' x 4' on the inside.  An ideal location in the yard is an area where you get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.  More would be better.  The best way to ensure the weeds are gone is to open one end of your raised bed and dig them out with a shovel.  You only need to remove about 2" of soil with the grass and weeds.  You will only have to do this once.   We have a 4' x 16' concrete raised bed garden in our Demonstration Vegetable Garden at the County Extension Education Center.

2.   A weed block will slow the weeds up a little but corrugated cardboard (recycled cardboard boxes) may be better.  A combination of both weed block and corrugated cardboard is a little overkill but gives one some comfort.  Just a single layer and over lap the joints between pieces of cardboard will work for quite a while.  Weeds will show up in your garden eventually but most of them will be from wind blown sources close by.

3.  There is no need to add gravel for drainage.  Our typically sandy soils usually drain better than we like for our vegetable gardens.  If you have no standing water in the area of your raised bed garden after a rain storm, you are ready to put your growing media in the raised bed.

4.  Ideally a quality potting mix would be fine for growing your vegetables in the raised bed garden but can be expensive in that volume.  You do not want to use soil from the surrounding area because of the potential for harmful organisms.  If you wish to make your own growing media, a good recipe is 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 compost.  The peat moss can be purchased at the big box stores in "compressed bales".  Coarse horticulture grade vermiculite can be purchased in 4 cubic foot bags from a company just north of Apopka called BWI (3700 W Orange Blossom Trl., Apopka, FL 32712-5843 (407) 884-0242).   The compost can be a commercial product such as Black Kow composted cow manure.  You may also get quality compost from the Orange County landfill.  It is available at three locations in the county (Porter Transfer Station in Ocoee, LB McLeod Rd, and the main landfill on Young Pine Road --- call our office for more details if needed (407) 254-9200).  You did not indicate if your raised bed is one block high or two so I will try to give you what you will need for both situations (and I will try to keep it in one bag units): if it is only one block high you will need 32 cubic feet of material:  8 cubic feet of Peat Moss (one "compressed bale"), 12 cubic feet of vermiculite (two 4-cubic foot bags) and 12 cubic feet of compost, and if it is two blocks double the recipe.  (For future gardening seasons you will only need to add compost --- no more peat or vermiculite)

The vegetable gardening season for the warm season crops started about three weeks ago.  Quality transplants will be helpful to get an excellent harvest by June.  Start small, grow what you like to eat, and use varieties known to do well in Florida.  See the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide (see link on the right side of this blog page) with a planting chart for use in Orange County.  Pay particular attention to pages 10-12 that list varieties that grow well in Florida to help you choose what you will grow.  Additionally, look at the WARM SEASON planting chart to grow the right vegetables for this time of year.  (example:  Spinach and Onions are not listed because they grow better in the cool season)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Master Gardener Volunteer Program --- New Class August 2011

Thank you for your interest in the Orange County Master Gardener Volunteer Program. This is a program for training volunteers to answer homeowner garden and landscape questions and provide other volunteer services to the Orange County Extension Education Center.

The next Master Gardener Volunteer Program will start in August 2011. This program is taught on Tuesdays from 8:30am - 4:30pm with two breaks that requires all agents to be out of their offices. The program will finish up the week before Thanksgiving. You must attend 12 of the 13 weekly class days to complete the training program. Class days will alternate between the Orange County Extension Education Center in Southeast Orange County and the Osceola County Extension Service Center in Kissimmee. One day of training may be at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center.

You will be expected to make one 10-minute presentation to your classmates during the program about a topic we will agree upon. You will be required to complete a 10-hours internship in the Clinic at the Orange County Extension Education Center on Conway Rd. during the training period on days other than class days. This is usually a two-hour shift with five different MGs as mentors. Upon completion of the training program, you will be required to return 75 hours of volunteer service and earn 10 hours of continuing education during the next calendar year.

Registration fee for this class is approximately $175 and must be paid with your application. You will be interviewed and if unsuccessful, your registration fee will be returned. This fee is not refundable once you are accepted to the training program.  Please return your local address and email address and you will placed on our waiting list. You will be contacted by e-mail in June and the syllabus should be completed and ready for distribution in July.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Elevated Raised Beds for Vegetable Garden

A recent question from "the audience" centered on providing links and information/specifications for building elevated beds for the backyard vegetable garden.   The person also mentioned that he would like to plant beans, greens,  and other vegetables for personal use in beds that are mounted on 4 X 4 posts buried in the ground.  He also wanted suggestions for depth of the bed and materials to build the bed (treated versus cedar, etc.).

Here was my response:  Elevated raised beds can be difficult because of the weight of wet soil  but they are not impossible.  An example can be found at :,39-388,default,cp.html

Beans and greens may not grow at the same time of year in Florida.  Beans are warm season vegetables (March - June) and greens are typically cool season Vegetables (October - January).  The Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide (see Resources in the right hand column) that should help you understand the gardening seasons in Central Florida.
Cedar is expensive and somewhat rot resistant.  Treated pine is economical and since 2002, the lumber industry no longer uses arsenic to treat pine so I do recommend you consider it.  Do not use old treated lumber or railroad ties. 
If you decide to build you own, at least 8" of soil is necessary to grow quality vegetables in Florida.  The bottom should be 3/4 treated plywood.  The bed should not be wider that 4' if you intend to walk around it or no wider that 2' if you intend to garden from one side.  2x6 treated pine for legs to elevate the bed will be necessary.  Use deck screws for securing the sides and bottom.  Ensure you have at least one 1/4" drainage hole every square foot and cover the drainage holes with fiber glass screening material to prevent the soil from clogging the holes. 
Place your raised bed garden in an area that will receive at least six hours of sun.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Weed Control in Established Turf - Preemergence Weed Control

Mid-February is a good time to start controlling crabgrass in your lawn

In established turfgrass, members of the dinitroaniline herbicide family ( e.g., oryzalin [Surflan], benefin [Balan], prodiamine [Barricade], or pendimethalin [Pendulum, Pre-M]) provide control of annual grass and some broadleaf weed species when applied prior to weed seed germination.

Oxadiazon (Ronstar), bunsulide (Betasan, Pre-San) and dithiopyr (Dimension) also provide preemergence annual grass and broadleaf control.

Atrazine and isoxaben (Gallery) provide preemergence control of primarily broadleaf weeds.  More more details refer to EDIS Publications EP141 (

Caution:  Some so called "Southern Lawn Weed Control" products cannot be used on Floratam St. Augustine lawns without causing harm.  Read and follow all label directions for your safety and the safety of your enviornment.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Winter is Still Here

The National Weather Service predicts a possible freeze the south Florida vegetable farms next week.  The local news broadcasts indicated mid-30's early next week.  Some of the tropical plants should be looked over to see if there is anything worth saving from the previous freeze days we have experienced this year.  If there is still hope, then get the covers out.  Remember to cover the plants all the way to the ground to trap heat leaving the soil.  Wrapping the tops only will not protect the plant (looks like a lollipop before the wrapper is removed).

The real-time, local weather can be observed by going to the Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN) at .  This is the Apopka site at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center.  It is not a predictive tool, but a real-time view that is updated every 15 minutes.

Stay warm; spring is not too far off.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Protecting Plants from Freeze Damage - Understanding Irrigation for Freeze Protection

What the Public Needs to know about Protecting Strawberries from Freeze Damage by Craig Chandler and Vance Whitaker (Gulf Coast Research and Education Center -

(Although this article speaks about strawberry freeze protection specifically, the information is appropriate for any fruit, vegetable or ornamental plant in the garden or landscape.)

As you talk to people about strawberry freeze protection, here are some facts you may want to keep in mind:

Understanding that this was an extremely rare January (2010) can be of great help to the public. Typically, there are no more than a few freezes each winter in the Plant City/Dover area (Hillsborough County – Central Florida – USDA Hardiness Zone 9b), and these are often of short duration (3-4 hours or less). A period of 9 days in which the minimum daily air temperature is below 32 ° F and the maximum air temperature is ≤ 60 °F, as was the case during the first half of January this year, is a once in a lifetime occurrence. According to FAWN (Florida Automated Weather Network – ), the weather station at Dover typically experiences a total of 96 hours below 45 °F in January. This year (2010) it was 264 hours.

When a freeze is the result of clear skies and calm conditions, sprinkler irrigation is an efficient and cost effective method to protect strawberry flowers and fruit (in a commercial setting). Eighty calories of energy (in the form of heat) are generated for each gram of water that freezes. This heat can keep plants at 32 °F, but water has to be applied continuously and in sufficient quantities.

Newspaper and TV reporters often state that a coating or blanket of ice insulates flowers and fruit, protecting them from air temperatures below 32 °F.  To the casual viewer or reader this sounds like a logical explanation, but if it were true, sprinkler systems could just be run until the plants were covered with ice and then turned off. What protects strawberry flowers and fruit is the heat of the liquid water (which comes out of the ground at about 72 °F) and the heat that is generated as the irrigation water changes from liquid to solid (a chemical property known as the heat of fusion).

Damage to strawberry flowers and fruit can start to occur when tissue temperature reaches 30 °F. A period of very warm weather preceding the freeze may result in tissue being damaged at a higher temperature. Conversely, a period of cold weather preceding the freeze may condition tissue such that it can withstand temperatures below 30 °F before damage occurs.

When there is little or no wind, sprinkler systems will generally not be turned on until the air temperature is 31 °F. However, when an advective (windy) freeze is expected, it is common to turn the sprinkler system on when the air temperature is 34 °F. This is because the temperature of wet plant tissue exposed to wind will initially drop due to evaporative cooling. Then as water begins to freeze, the heat of fusion will counteract the heat loss due to evaporation and the temperature will stabilize at about 32 °F.

Wind can result in evaporative cooling that lowers tissue temperatures 5-6 °F below the air temperature. This is why, if it’s windy, the air temperature may need to be 36 °F or higher before it is safe to turn off the sprinklers.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Vegetable Gardening Question - 2011

I want to start my spring vegetables from seed however, I just don't know when to start. I want to plant all of the regular spring/summer vegetables (Tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, peppers, squash, eggplant, watermelon etc.) When do I start these seeds indoors to get a head start?  What vegetables are worth growing from seed and which are best to just buy seedlings (transplants)?

If it will fit into your schedule, I recommend you attend the upcoming Vegetable Gardening class on January 15th at 9:00AM.  Call our Master Gardener Clinic to register for the class at (407) 254-9200.

Next week is a good time to start your seedlings for the Warm Season garden.  They will need 4-6 weeks before you plant them out in the garden in late February or early March.  Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplants are ideally started as seedlings for use as transplants in the garden.  Squash, Melons, Beans and Cucumbers should be planted in the ground during the first week of March.  These vegetables planted in March will reach maturity by June.  Summer vegetables include sweet potatoes, okra, cherry tomatoes, and southern peas.  Otherwise, summer is not a good time of year to grow your vegetables in Central Florida.

Read a copy of the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide with Orange County planting tables:   Pages 10-12 of the guide lists varieties that grow well in Florida.  Use fresh seeds from the local garden center (or purchase on-line).  Look over the planting table and you can see which vegetables can be grown as transplants and those that should be directly sown in the ground.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Resource for Pests and Diseases of Cultivated Palms - Symptoms of Diseases and Disorders

Dr. Monica Elliott has a new tool to help us evaluate Pests and Diseases of Cultivated Palms. She says it is "another set of tools to help with palm problem diagnosis". There are several hyperlinks on the webpage. The first link is for palm symptoms, including insect damage (the insect is gone, but the damage is left behind). The second link is a basic identification tool for arthropod pests of palms. The third link is for the entire resource. She also says "more tools in the resource are forthcoming by UF-IFAS and DPI staff that will deal with precise insect and mite identification and palm species identification". Visit this link: