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Beware the dangers of the string trimmer

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald Tools make our jobs easier, and the ability to make and use tools can distinguish us from other animals. But what if we use a tool the wrong way and actually harm something we are trying to help? That is just what happens when we use string trimmers aggressively near the bases of our trees and shrubs. String trimmers, sometimes called weed-whackers, are powerful little engines that propel a single or dual plastic string at high enough speeds to chop down ...

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Putting the right plant in the right location

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald South Florida can be a difficult place to carve out your tropical paradise, with calcareous soils, a distinct wet and dry season and a bevy of plant pests, but by choosing the right plant and putting it in the right spot, you not only conquer our poor soils and extreme rainfall patterns, you can also often forgo using supplemental irrigation, pesticides and fertilizer. Over my 20 years of writing and teaching about horticulture, that theme has run through it ...

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Garden as if life depends on it!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald Have you ever thought about what happens when a native wooded area is cleared for a building site? After the trees and undergrowth have been removed, what happens to the creatures that were living in or visiting this area? The insects that fed on plants growing in the woods are gone. The birds no longer have a reason to look here for food like caterpillars and other insects because their food plants are gone. When a local habitat is removed, local ...

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The informal hedge

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald A good hedge is a beautiful thing. In a world where we are packed together in zero lot line homes like so many sardines, hedges divide us and give us something we cherish - privacy. They can make our property a place where children can play and adults can frolic by the pool and barbeque without the prying eyes of our neighbors. When you think of a hedge, you probably think of well-manicured hedges cut at just the proper height and perfect angle. These...

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The Florida vanilla vine, ‘a big climbing orchid’

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald The vanilla orchid is a tropical plant that grows in the humid rainforests of Central and South America, Mexico, Tahiti and Madagascar, with a few native species in Florida. The Aztecs discovered the plant in Mexico and used the seed pods in various ways: to aid in digestion, as an aromatic, and to flavor beverages for Emperor Montezuma. The Totonaca people of the Gulf Coast of Mexico were probably the first people to domesticate vanilla. It was originally...

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Make your backyard a wildlife habitat

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald Imagine sitting in your backyard as colorful birds chirp and flit about and bountiful butterflies scout blooms for nectar. With the right plan and the right plants, you can make your backyard into a wildlife habitat that will attract amazing birds and beautiful butterflies. Birds like berries and insects, so choose a variety of plants that will both produce berries and be home to small insects that birds like to eat. Native plants are always a good choice ...

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Attracting beneficial insects to your garden

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald You might ask, "Why would I ever want to attract bugs to my garden?" Many bugs are beneficial to have around your plants, and their presence can actually be a sign of a healthy, thriving plot of land. Although some have a reputation as pests, insects are also pollinators, predators and decomposers - all very important roles in a balanced ecosystem. Aside from their reputation as pests, insects are also pollinators, predators and decomposers....

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Don't Fret Much Over Pests Living Off Your Palm Trees

Thursday, September 20, 2012

As published in the Miami Herald After two consecutive chilly winters, a mild winter was essential this year to the health of our more cold-sensitive palms. But a warm winter coupled with our South Florida summers almost always leads to increased pest populations. Just as palms suffer with a cold winter and flourish with a warmer one, so do insects. Our palm collections are rebounding after the mild winter, but so are the pests. This season is bound to be pest-infested. A few usual ...

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Sooty Mold Takes Hold on South Florida

Thursday, September 20, 2012

As Published in the Miami Herald There is a black plague spreading across South Florida. Plant leaves, automobiles, pool decks, sidewalks and anything else that has the unfortunate lot to be under infected trees are all turning sticky and black. The cause of this black mess is a fungus called sooty mold. Sooty mold can't be controlled through simple fungicide spraying, because its real cause is insects. When insects such as aphids, scale or whitefly feed on plants, they drip a sweet...

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Never Mind the Heat, Summer is the Best Time to Garden

Monday, August 6, 2012

As Published in the Miami Herald It's not the heat, it's the humidity - a common lament of South Floridians who complain that walking from the office to the car may result in an involuntary five-minute sauna. The heat can be brutal this time of year, but when compared with the triple-digit temperatures of many other parts of the United States, I will take our wet, humid summers to their record-setting drought, oven-set-to-broil temperatures every time. While others may find...

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