Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Raising Chickens

Local residents are raising chickens in their own backyards!  Read the article from The Ledger HERE.

If you are interested in learning more about urban farming, contact the the Small Farms program at the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service.  Small Farms agent Mary Beth Henry offers information and programs on raising chickens, beekeeping, canning and preserving foods, and much more!

Monday, May 21, 2012

New Issue of Harbor Happenings Now Available

The new issue of Harbor Happenings, the newsletter of the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP), is now available at the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service.

To learn more about the CHNEP or to subscribe to the newsletter go here

Florida-Friendly Garden in Lake Alfred

Volunteers Build Eunice Moore Memorial Garden Behind Lake Alfred Library

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Now All We Need is the Rain!

Rain Barrel Workshop
Saturday, July 7, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon
Campfire USA, 2600 Buckingham Avenue, Lakeland

Want to supplement your water use? Learn how to collect rainwater with a rain barrel. In this workshop you will learn the basics of water harvesting using a rain barrel. This workshop is presented by the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service's Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program. Workshop will last one hour and then there will be time and supplies provided to paint your new rain barrel. Rain barrels are $30 each, but you can receive $10 off your barrel if you register and pay by June 6! To register call Camp Fire USA at 688-5491 or email

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Master Gardener Plant Sale is THIS SATURDAY!

Making plans for Saturday? Remember to come to the Polk County Master Gardener Spring Plant Sale from 8:00 a.m. until noon on Saturday, May 12. It will be held at the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service at 1702 US Hwy 17 in Bartow (drive around back to our potting shed). 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fertilization-- The Florida-Friendly Way

May is really the latest you should be applying spring fertilization to your turf.  If you need to brush up on some of the UF/IFAS recommendations on what, when, and how much to apply, check out the links to EDIS circulars below.  
And as always, make sure your fertilizer spreader is calibrated and has a shield (see the nifty do-it-yourself one below).  Fertilizer spreader shields work to keep fertilizer from going where you don't want it to go, such as your driveway, pond, or sidewalk.  
For more information on Florida-Friendly fertilization go to http://polkfyn.com.  

Homeowner Best Management Practices for the Home Lawn

General Recommendations for Fertilization of Turfgrasses on Florida Soils

How to Calibrate Your Fertilizer Spreader

Figuring Out Fertilizer for the Home Lawn

The Lawn Fertilizer Toolbox

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The New Front Yard

Another great use for Asiatic Jasmine in the front yard!  These two neighbors have just started to establish Asiatic Jasmine for an alternative to turf in their yards.  If you have an area of turf that is hard to maintain (mow, water, keep pest free) you may want to consider trying another type of plant in that place.  As always, know your site conditions before choosing a plant!

Monday, May 7, 2012

A "Heads Up" on Broccoli

Another wonderful vegetable gardening article from Polk County Master Gardener, Carol Leffler.  Enjoy!!

“Broccoli” is the plural of the Italian broccolo, and refers to “the flowering top of a cabbage.” Some sources report that folks of Italian descent brought broccoli to the U.S. around 1920. However, multiple sources credit Thomas Jefferson with bringing broccoli seeds home from travels to Italy between 1767 and the early 1800s. Jefferson was indeed ahead of his time in his dedication to eating salads and vegetables as an important staple at mealtime. At times in American history when self-resilience and invention were requisite to survival, the “melting-pot” of culinary culture offered new foods to American gardens and dinner tables.
Broccoli is highly nutritious. In fact, according to the USDA, broccoli contains more nutrients than any other vegetable, including vitamins A, C, and D, beta-carotene, calcium, fiber, iron and anti-oxidants. USDA further notes that consumption of foods high in antioxidants can help protect against cancer and heart disease.
Early this past winter, I sowed broccoli from seed, which I collected from my crop of the previous year. That year, I planted about six plants purchased from a big box store. Now I’m sorry that I didn’t note the cultivar of those plants. I sowed quite generously. You know what “they” say…”if you sow seeds sparingly, none of them come up, and if you sow them generously, ALL of them will come up.”
Well…almost needless to say, all of them did come up, and I probably had well over 500 sprouts all in a wide row, very crowded. I finally thinned them, retaining about 20% of them, and pitched the rest on the compost heap. Of the 100 saved, I relied on about 80 of them to go to production. About 25 were in one-gallon pots, and the production from them was, as expected, less than those in the ground.
The best thing ever about broccoli—at least in my garden—is that I experienced absolutely no insect problems. That’s one sure way to be on my “to be repeated” list of veggies!
Broccoli invests its energy forming one main stalk that would be a flower stalk, if not harvested as food. While this main stalk is indeed a handsome result, don’t think that the plant is at all “done” at this point. The secondary stalks that appear are worth the wait. Secondary stalks are smaller and plentiful, appearing at leaf axils. The really cool thing about them, from a food production standpoint, is that they are more tender than main stalks. This is useful in terms of extending the harvest as tender shoots for fresh or other use.
Freezing broccoli is fast and easy. It is much less time-consuming than canning. I found myself done with a six-pound freezer project of broccoli “start-to-finish” in about a half-hour, not counting time for trimming up the stalks. All it involves is blanching three minutes, cooling in ice water for three minutes, and then filling freezer bags—I use one-quart size—putting ¾ pound broccoli in each bag.
Broccoli flowers are very pretty. If you’ve never let yours go to flower, you’re missing something. They provide a lot of nectar for insects and bees, and also shade out weed growth. Only after seed is harvested are the plants truly “done” with their growth purposes. They serve their final purpose as an excellent addition to the compost pile.
So you see, growing broccoli is more than about what’s for dinner! From the compost pile until next year, the cycle continues.
I hope your garden “flowers” abundantly!