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...for discerning weeders March, 2013


The celebratory month of February has now left behind Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day, and President’s Day as fading memories. Amazingly, our new class of Master Gardener trainees has already experienced more than a month’s worth of classroom curricula, and remain focused and committed under the stewardship of Stacey, Andy and their many dedicated mentors.

Inside this issue:






By John B.
















As busy Master Gardeners, March greets us with the additional challenge of educating the public at the BIA Home Show on 3/02 and 3/03, our initial field trip on 3/13, and the critical preparations for our Plant Sale, which is now only six weeks away. I think that you would agree that it is often overwhelming to keep up with the many demands that daily life presents, and as a result, we may not be aware of some of the personal burdens that our fellow MGs are confronted by. Sadly, in the last few weeks, our colleague, Pat C., lost her husband, Michael, and currently, several of our members and/or their spouses are convalescing from serious illnesses and surgeries. Accordingly, please remember to take just a moment to extend your encouragement, support and best wishes to your fellow MGs, whose spirits would surely be buoyed by your care and empathy. I hope that, as March presents the welcomed season of Spring, we may all enjoy its renewing and refreshing warmth in our daily lives.

You never know what interesting and fun projects will be going on at the nursery! Click here to view larger pictures.

DON’T FORGET! You have to log your hours onto the VMS system! 1

TIME FOR TEA! Can you grow camellias? If so, you can grow your own tea. OK, it's not quite as simple as that but tea does come from camellias! These are not the lovely large-flowering camellias we're familiar with (camellia Japonica and camellia sasanqua) but rather the small-leafed type known as camellia sinensis. A second larger-leafed variety is also cultivated for tea, the assamica. There is yet a third variety used to make tea called the cambodiensis but I'll focus here on the camellia sinensis since it yields the types of teas we're most familiar with, as well as being the most accessible to us should we wish to try growing tea in our home gardens. Of course, after researching this article, I've added it to MY ever-expanding list of must-try endeavors! You might wish to get started now if the idea appeals to you because not only does the plant need to be about 5 years old before you can begin harvesting it in meaningful amounts, but you will also be limited to picking only the small, tender leaves that the plant puts out occasionally in 'flushes' during the growing season. Those tender new leaves are the only ones suitable for processing into tea. This photo gives a clear idea of the new flush of leaves you'd be harvesting: I think you can see that if you consume tea in any quantity, you might want to grow more than one plant. And get started soon!!

By Karen H. ject to various insect infestations such as mites, scales, aphids, and caterpillars, most of which can be controlled with non-toxic measures, such as horticultural oil. In the fall, your tea plant will flower with small, white, fragrant blossoms. These plants are often grown as ornamentals. After the plant is about two years old you can harvest small amounts of leaves and when it reaches five years you can harvest tea leaves regularly, picking the two or three newest leaves and the leaf bud on each shoot. Processing:

 For green tea, steam or pan-fry the leaves at 480 to 570 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes while constantly stirring them to keep them from burning. Each cooking method will impart different flavors to the final product so you can experiment to see which method you prefer. Then dry the leaves in a standard oven or toaster oven at 212 to 302 degrees F for another 10 to 15 minutes, and they're ready to brew.

 Oolong tea is a product of partial fermentation. You need to allow the leaves to wilt, first in full sun for 30 to 60 minutes then in the shade for another eight to 10 hours. While they're wilting in the shade, you need to stir them once every hour. Bring the leaves inside, and pan-heat them on low heat, between 121 and 149 degrees F for 15 minutes. Oolong tea doesn't need to be dried, as green tea does.

Types of Tea: A common myth about tea is the belief that different types of tea—black tea, white tea, green tea - are produced from different tea plants. I confess this is what I thought until I started researching this article. In fact, all types of tea are pro Black Tea: Pluck the very youngest leaves and leaf buds. duced from the same plant! The traditional teas are black, green, Roll the leaves between your hands, and crush them until yellow, white, and oolong. The differences in all of these teas are the leaves start to darken and turn red. Spread them out on a due to different methods of harvesting, processing and steeping tray, and leave them in a cool location for 2-3 days. Dry (brewing) the sinensis leaves. Herbal teas are brewed using herbs them in the oven at 250 degrees F for about 20 minutes. or fruit or sinensis leaves plus herbs or fruit. Among the tradiStore in an air-tight container. tional teas, black tea is the most-commonly processed type. This  Herbal teas: There should be no end to the varieties you can is due partly to the fact that it retains freshness during storage create! Mix your teas with jasmine or hibiscus flowers or periods of up to a year. It is also the only one of the teas that dried herbs for a special treat right from your garden. Looklends itself to at least partial mechanization during the proing ahead a few years, I plan to mix mine with dried bluebercessing, the leaves being first wilted, then crushed and shredded, ries since blueberry green tea is my personal favorite. then oxidized and finally rolled and dried. Green, yellow, white and oolong teas are more delicate and require processing entirely by hand, processes that lend themselves well to the home garden, as described below. Cultivation: The camellia sinensis plant should do well for most of us here in the south. In fact the only domestic tea plantation in the country is located near Charleston, SC: http:// The plant is generally kept pruned to a maximum height of 3 – 4 ft. and is adaptable to growing in containers, if you are short on space. The plants aren't fussy about soil and are adaptable to full-sun or partial shade situations. They are somewhat drought tolerant. They are sub-

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By Linda M.

Detailed information on cultivation, harvesting and processing are included in this IFAS publication: hs308 Resources: Growing the camellia sinensis plant from seed is possible but not something I plan to do since I would like to be drinking my home-grown tea before I get old and hang up my trowel for good. Here is one source for seed: camellia_sinensis.html Sinensis seeds and plants also come up for sale on eBay from time to time. These are some current listings: _nkw=camellia+sinensis I think it would be something of a gamble to buy them on eBay. I found this Miami grower that I don't have experience with but I do plan to order my camellia sinensis from them. They also have a variety of mango I want to try growing, so I might as well make it a worthwhile order, right? I also found this quirky little book in the Kindle download section of (I just got my very own Kindle). It has a few odd phrases and sentence fragments but it's a quick read and summarizes some interesting aspects of tea culture and production, and it's free to Amazon Prime members. $.99 to everyone else: So, here's a clink of the tea cup to those who want to try growing their own tea! I view it as another way to expand further into becoming a more self-sufficient gardener on my little halfacre. Next month I'll write about growing your own sweetener for that tea!!

Courtesy of UF/IFAS “Wildlife Happenings” Lots of wildlife throughout our State is “springing into action.” Here’s what we can enjoy... BIRDS Migrating birds from Central and South America visit the state. Mourning doves nest now through November. Carolina wrens are nesting now. Summer tanagers and great-crested flycatchers arrive to breed. Listen for newly-returned chuck-will’s-widows calling after sunset. Plant columbine, coral bean, and other wildflowers to attract hummingbirds. Wild turkey begin breeding in central and north Florida. Quail are breeding in many parts of the state. MAMMALS Look for red foxes emerging from remote beaches. Striped skunks are fighting over mates—watch out! AMPHIBIANS Male frogs and toads move to ponds, streams, and ditches to breed during rainy nights. REPTILES Snakes become active and move to favorite feeding areas. FISH Largemouth bass spawning throughout central and north Florida. PLANTS & TREES Chickasaw plum and crabapples bloom in north Florida.


By Marg S. & Ed S.

We all know that climate change is a fairly ‘hot’ topic. (okay, okay…I just couldn’t resist the pun.) With that being said, it is important to be aware of the information published by UF/IFAS if a client should inquire. First, understand that it can be a very emotionally charged topic for some people. Second, and most important, we as Master Gardeners have the responsibility to provide our clients with the information that is science based and in accordance with UF/IFAS publications. To help you gather the information, take the time to review the publications that are provided at There are five publications listed on this page. None of the publications are extremely longwinded and they provide references.




TURF TUESDAY 2/26, 3/05, 3/12, AND 3/19 6PM TO 8PM





ATTENTION!!!! Do you have ideas for field trips? Let Carol S. know of places that you think would be great day trips!!!!!!! The nursery still needs volunteers! Remember the ‘Gimme Five’ campaign and consider giving the nursery folks a hand!!!!! 4


By Jenny G.

Creeping Charlie, Glechoma hederacea, aka: Creeping Jenny, ground ivy or gill-over-the-ground.

If you have Creeping Charlie, you need to ask what is so appealing about this location, When a plant has this many nicknames, you can be pretty sure of besides the fact that your garden is truly lovely? Chances two things: it's widespread, and people interacted with it in a are, it has the right conditions number of ways over a long period of time! for optimum growth—some Creeping Charlie, or "ground ivy" (Glechoma hederacea) is an shade, good fertility, and plenty of moisture. Life is aromatic, perennial, evergreen creeper of the Mint family that even easier for creeping Charthrives in moist, shady areas, though it will also grow in some sun. Native to Europe, Creeping Charlie has naturalized in North lie if there is no competition from other plants. Realize that this America and is now considered an “invasive Species.” It is widely weed is persistent and may keep returning to the same area as long as conditions are favorable. encountered in most regions of the U.S. except for the Rocky Mountain states. Part of the Maybe you can change the growing conditions. If possible, imreason it spreads so quickly is prove soil drainage or water less frequently. If the area is bare that roots grow from each soil, plant something strong that will compete well with weeds, leaf node and form new maybe natives like Blue-eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium angustifoliplants as the stems creep um, Common Blue Violet, Viola sororia, Blue Phlox, Phlox divaricata, or Wild Ginger, Asarum canadens. http:// along the soil surface. Creeping Charlie has squar- creepingcharlie.html ish stems like all members of Repeated pulling can control small infestations. Careful spraying the mint family. The stems with glyphosate (Roundup) may work but overspray will also vary in length from a few affect other plants. inches to two feet long and tall. The color of leaves also varies, pastpest/200114e.html Follow all label directions carefully. from dark green to purple and are opposite, scalloped, heartshaped, and about 1 inch wide. Erect, tubular, ½ inch, bluishWeb search Creeping Charlie and you will purple flowers grow March to July in clusters of get a plethora of websites that offer suggestwo or more. Seeds form that look like small tions how to kill this "invasive" weed; yet if nutlets. you truly want to get rid of it, eat it! For centuries Creeping Charlie has been praised So creeping Charlie has aggressively crept into as a nutritious edible plant that's loaded your lawn or landscape and is threatening to with vitamin C. This powerful wild edible take over the entire neighborhood? Your plants has a multitude of health benefits and tastes are being crowded and smothered by it? It has great in a salad. http:// gone too far! This means war upon Charlie’s“kingdom”. What do you do? charlie.aspx Well, first of all, you need to be sure that King Charlie is who he says he is because proper weed ID is essential to good weed con- Creeping Charlie is considered a major U.S. Invasive Species. trol. It is a type of mint, and when the plant is crushed, there is a strong mint-like odor. pastpest/200114e.html

Do you have a ‘weed’ that is bugging you? Let us know and we just may feature it here! Did you miss an installment? You can always view the Weed of the Month Archives! For 2012, click here. For 2011, click here.


THE GOPHERS AMONG US Gopher Tortoise The gopher tortoise is a medium sized land tortoise that averages 9 pounds and is usually 9-11 inches long. The top part of the shell is gray or various shades of brown and the bottom part of the shell ranges from yellow to brown. Hatchlings are 11/2 inches long and have a yellow-orange carapace. The gopher tortoise lives as long as 40-60 years under natural conditions and up to 100 years in captivity. It is estimated that gopher tortoise populations in Florida have decreased by 30% in recent years. Gopher tortoise are protected by The United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Both list the gopher tortoise as Threatened.

By Linda M. leaved grasses, forbs, legumes, wire grass, gopher apples, and the pads, flowers, and fruit of prickly pear. Sometimes, however, they eat animal bones, which probably supply calcium or other micronutrients. Gopher tortoise reach sexual maturity at 10 to 20 years of age. Breeding occurs from February to June and results in a single annual clutch averaging 6 eggs. Incubation takes 70 to 100 days depending on the temperature and humidity of the nest. Predators including raccoons, opossums, armadillos, foxes, cats, dogs, and fire ants destroy up to 80% of the nests. Young tortoise are 1 1/2 to 2 inches at hatching and grow less than an inch per year. The biggest threat to the gopher tortoise is loss of habitat due to construction of buildings and roads. Vehicles hit and kill many gopher tortoise. Additionally, fire suppression causes vegetation to become too thick, altering the physical structure of the habitat and screening out the vegetation that the tortoise eat. Other threats to the gopher tortoise include free-ranging or feral cats and dogs which eat many young tortoise and eggs. A disease called upper respiratory tract disease (URTD), is currently affecting gopher tortoise.

Currently, most gopher tortoise are found in Florida and southern Georgia. Gopher tortoise live in pine flatwoods, oak hammocks, scrub, and even on the beach. In urban-suburban areas they can be found in fields, pastures, and roadsides. Their main requirements include well drained, sandy soil, herbaceous ground cover, and open spaces in the tree canopy where sunlight Southeastern Pocket Gopher The Southeastern Pocket Gopher is also known as the sandy-mounder in Florida. The pocket can penetrate through to the ground. gopher is a rodent well adapted for its life underground. It has Gopher tortoise spend the majority of their time in burrows that very small eyes and ears and large claws on its powerful front they dig with their specialized shovel-like forelimbs. The burrows legs. The term pocket refers to the fur-lined cheek pouches that average 15 feet long and 6 feet deep, but have been recorded as the gopher uses to carry food. The lips close behind the protrudlarge as 40 feet long and 10 feet deep. The width of the burrow is ing chisel-like front teeth so the gopher can chew through dense equal to the length of the tortoise. Individual tortoise usually soil or large roots without getting dirt in its mouth. The pocket have multiple burrows, which sometimes are shared among indi- gopher is tan to gray-brown in color. The feet and naked tail are viduals. Burrows are usually situated in sunny spots, yet remain light colored. The total length for an adult gopher is about 9-12 at a fairly constant temperature and humidity. Burrows are also inches. Its tail averages about 3 inches in length. used as an escape from predators and offer protection from fires. The Southeastern Pocket Gopher requires deep, well-drained Over 350 species of animals have been found in gopher tortoise sandy soils. It is most abundant in longleaf pine/turkey oak burrows including protected animals like the Eastern indigo sandhill habitats, but it is also found in coastal strand, sand pine snake, Florida mouse, gopher frog, Florida scrub-jay, and burscrub, and upland hammock habitats. Gophers dig extensive rowing owl as well as more common animals like the raccoon, tunnel systems and are rarely seen on the surface. The average armadillo, and skunk. The tunnel length is 145 feet and at least one tunnel was followed for burrows benefit these ani525 feet. The soil gophers remove while digging their tunnels is mals in much the same pushed to the surface to form the characteristic rows of sand way that they benefit the mounds. The primary tunnels run parallel to the surface and gopher tortoise, offering a most are 2 inches to 2 feet below the surface, but some tunnels relatively constant temmay extend downward as far as 5 feet. Nests and food storage perature and humidity, chambers are located in these deeper tunnels. protection from predators, Continued on page 7 and refuge during fires. The gopher tortoise is an herbivore, eating plants such as broad6



The pocket gopher feeds on the tap roots, crown roots, fleshy rhizomes, bulbs, and tubers of a wide variety of plants in its environment. Bahiagrass tubers appear to be a preferred food. Gophers also have an unfortunate fondness for sweet potatoes, peanuts, sugarcane, alfalfa, and peas. Gophers reach sexual maturity at about 6 months of age. They usually have one or two litters per year. The average number of young per litter is one to three. Although gophers breed year round, breeding is most common in March and in July or August.

cycle is important for the survival of gopher frogs and other species adapted to fire-dependent habitats. Gopher frogs rely on burrows and other underground refuges for shelter. Of the 350 or more species of animals that are known to take shelter in the burrows of gopher tortoises. The gopher frog is one of the most frequent burrow inhabitants. Gopher frogs also use the burrows of crayfish and small mammals, such as the Southeastern Pocket Gopher. Stump holes, spaces left by decaying roots of dead trees, are also important for shelter.

These underground refuges provide many important benefits to gopher frogs. All amphibians have semi-permeable skin that can dry out quickly—if they are unable to find shelter from adverse weather conditions or reabsorb moisture from rain or wetlands, they may die. Desiccation (drying) is a major threat to gopher frogs because they live in hot, dry areas. Gopher tortoise burrows The most common problem associated with pocket gophers is maintain fairly constant temperatures and high humidity the numerous large, sandy mounds they deposit on the surface. throughout the year. The Occasionally, gophers will feed on the roots or tubers of garden, more stable, hospitable enviornamental, or crop plants. In natural settings, gopher tunneling ronment of tortoise burrows activities are beneficial. The soil gophers bring to the surface and other underground refcontains nutrients leached from surface soils. This natural ferti- uges provides protection lizer helps to maintain the sandhill ecosystem. The mounds of from dry conditions and exloose soil provide needed germination sites for some native plant treme warm and cold temseeds. peratures. Burrows also provide shelter from the periodMany amphibians and reptiles use pocket gopher mounds as ic fires that are essential for homes, including Florida's unique mole skinks. The pocket gomaintaining both the terrestrial and wetland habitats gopher pher tunnels themselves serve as habitat for many unique inver- frogs require. Burrows also protect them from many predators, tebrates found nowhere else. such as snakes, raccoons, and owls, who prey on gopher frogs when they leave the protection of the burrow. During the day, Florida Gopher Frog The gopher frog is found in dry habitats when gopher frogs are not active, burrows provide a safe place to throughout the Southeastern Coastal Plain of the United States, rest. On warm nights, gopher frogs may leave the burrow to forparticularly longleaf pine-wiregrass savannas. These large, age for prey, but they remain near the entrance of the burrow plump frogs (2.5-3.5 in.) have wide heads and an obvious ridge and quickly jump into the burrow if they feel threatened. down each side of the back, and their light-colored body is marked with dark brown or black blotches. Juvenile and adult gopher frogs spend most of their lives in upland terrestrial habitats, where they take shelter in burrows. Adults generally only Karen H. spotted this black witch return to wetlands in the late fall, winter, and early spring to moth on her patio. Not sure what breed and lay eggs; tadpoles develop in these wetlands, metacritter would want to eat it (since morphose, and disperse into terrestrial uplands. Gopher frogs it has a wing span of about 4 inchcan move long distances through terrestrial habitat and have es!) been found more than a mile away from breeding ponds. Do you have some photos of critters, plants, shenanigans in your yard? Send them in!

In Florida, habitat loss and degradation have caused gopher frog populations to decline, and this frog is now listed by the state of Florida as a species of special concern. A major threat to the survival of this species is the disruption of natural fire cycles of the Southeastern Coastal Plain that historically maintained the habitat on which this species depends. The aid of natural resource professionals who use prescribed fire to re-create the natural 7


By Marg S.

There are times when potential additions to my gardening library come from totally different venues. The IFAS Bookstore sends out updates when they have new books available.

In "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida", expert botanist Ginny Stibolt Two books have recently been announced, The Florida-Friendly and Master Gardener Landscaping Pattern Book and Organic Methods for Vegetable Melissa Contreras Gardening in Florida. provide simple and accessible advice for Florida-Friendly successful, pesticideLandscaping is a free vegetable gardencommon-sense aping. They offer suggesproach to gardening tions for opportunities that begins with the beyond the home garprinciple, “The Right den, advice on what to Plant for the Right do with overabundant Place.” This pattern harvests, and tips for book is a guide to developing a commufinding the right nity garden. They also address pest management, appropriate plants for your part bed types, irrigation, seed saving, proper harvesting, and food of Florida and the safety. This fully illustrated book is an invaluable guide for everight place in your ryday gardeners as well as small farmers who wish to expand yard for planting their operations to participate in farmers markets or CSAs. Pubthem. Written by lished by University Press of Florida. ISBN: 978-0-8130-4401-9 UF/IFAS horticulturists and profesPrice: $24.95 sional landscape The descriptions are directly from the Bookstore’s web-site. If designers, this lushly illustrated guide offers landscape plans you haven’t visited the site, go to, and comprehensive lists of native and Florida-friendly plants suitable for each of Florida’s USDA hardiness zones, as well as sections on plant groups, irrigation, and helpful landscape design tips. Whether you live in the Panhandle or the Gold Coast, Do you have a ‘must own’ book in your library? Let us know the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Pattern Book will help you about it! find the right plants to make your landscape look beautiful with a minimum of water, fertilizer and maintenance. Color, 71 pp. Price $16.00

NIFTY LINKS Ed S. shared a neat link about bees and electric fields.—http://

Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead! Daylight Savings Time Begins on March 10th!

Judy F. sent a bunch of pictures concerning unique recycling projects. Not sure how many folks would be interested in a barrel drum set but I did find this link for 35 unique ways to reuse pallets—http:// Here’s a page that will have you seriously re-thinking recycling in the garden—

If you have any helpful links, send them in! 8



Marg S.—Editor Shari F., Karen H., and Linda M.—Co-Editors

Have pictures or an idea for an article? Send it in! Articles and pictures are always welcome.

Your member site:

The Foundation for the Gator Nation..... An equal opportunity institution.

LAST WORD The best laid plans.....I had every intention of getting the Compost Pile done well before the due date. Needless to say, I owe the co-editors an apology because I’m late.......again. And to be quite honest I don’t have any deep thoughts this time. Usually there is something that has been bouncing around in my head, but not this time. I blame my cold. Hard to have ideas when the only thing you can think of is how far away from a box of tissues you happen to be. A word of advice, when you have a cold and you work on the computer a lot, make sure that you ALWAYS have a tissue handy...sneezing and computer screens IS NOT a good combination. So, since I don’t have one particular ’thought’ for this month—I’m going to deal with several things that have been bugging me. Okay, when you’re sick, you tend to pay more attention to the news casts and the radio so blame mass media for getting me started. From London, the Lord Mayor had to make a presentation to the assembly about budget cuts (sound familiar?). When all was said and done, none of the assembly members wanted to ask the Mayor any questions. Evidentially, this upset the man and he voiced his displeasure by calling the assembly members, “great, supine, protoplasmic, invertebrate, jellies.” Now THAT is some insult. From Germany, government folks are referring to the recent Italian elections by calling those involved “clowns”. Hmm, there seems to be an on-going trend here. On the home front, we have sequestration coming up (who comes up with these words???) and both sides are blaming each other. Although the rhetoric on this side of ’the pond’ isn’t as entertaining as that from Europe. I’ve come to the conclusion that the biggest problem with societies is that folks aren’t listening. People are talking AT each other and not TO each other. There are two sides to every argument and quite frankly, how can you claim to disagree with the other side if you haven’t even 10

By Marg S. listened? Listening. That’s a skill that we all need to practice...every day...all the time. Let’s go back a bit. I was answering the phones at the office and one of our homeowners called in. Mrs. “X” (names have been changed to protect the guilty) was just fed up with her lawn. She had a weed that had invaded everything. Even though she did a fairly good job of describing the weed, I didn’t want to try to identify it over the phone. Instead, I started asking her questions about what sort of things she had done with regards to eradicating this ’foe’ of hers. By the time she got to the application of gasoline.......yeah, I have to admit that I stopped listening. Yes, folks, I said gasoline. BUT, prior to that, by actively listening to Mrs. “X” I realized that she wasn’t being hard-headed but rather, she was desperate. BINGO! I finally got her to the point of admitting that gasoline isn’t included in the best management practices but also that she could bring a sample of this weed in to be identified. We could then give her the appropriate treatment information. The cue for me was she mentioned in passing that she’s by herself in the house now and wants something to do with her time ...hence her working in the yard more often. If I hadn’t been actively listening, I would have missed that statement. That gave me the clues that #1 she’s going to be really open to saving time and money and #2 she was going to be hungry for information in caring about her lawn. So, we’ll leave the protoplasmic jellies and clowns for the politicians and we’ll start practicing active listening. Who knows, we just might find that we help more people with less hassles because they’re happy to have someone who actually listened. Have a happy March! Stay tuned for a few new additions to future Compost Piles! And don’t forget, your ears can hear....make sure they listen.

NL March 13  
NL March 13  

Growing tea, gopher tortoise, creeping charlie and so much more.