By Master Gardener Volunteer Lesley Arrandale

While the state has been giving some businesses the go-ahead to open, and there are more opportunities for us to participate in outdoor activities, I feel lucky to have gardening to keep me active and safe at the same time. 

Our local Master Gardener volunteers are now available to assist the public on a limited basis. As of June 8, there has been a Master Gardener volunteer in the office answering your phone calls from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. The phone number is (904) 255-7450. If you need to go into the office, be sure to call first as visitors are currently required to make an appointment.

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Even with minimal outdoor space, it is possible to cultivate a few beautiful pots on a porch or patio. A packet of seeds or small transplants can go a long way to brightening a space and lifting spirits. If you are tempted to try, check out  Cosmos, blanket flowers, and marigolds all make a colorful show. As with all plants, give them the soil, light, and water they need: put the Right Plant in the Right Place. 

With plenty of passion flowers (Passiflora incarnata) dotted around my backyard I had wondered why I have never seen any fruit. Just what creatures — or maybe the wind — pollinate this beautiful flower? Well, it didn’t take long to discover that it is bumblebees, so maybe I haven’t been doing a good job at attracting enough of these useful insects. The solution is to plant more flowers for pollinators: It is also possible that after the passion flowers are pollinated the fruits simply need more water to develop. 

After cutting back a flat-leaved parsley plant that was going to seed, I was delighted to see that the one I left to mature is hosting three black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. This illustrates that what is ostensibly past its useful life for us humans has great potential for supporting local wildlife. At the end of summer, birds benefit enormously from flower seeds which they consume to fatten up for the winter. Plants we dead-head during the summer to promote more flowering can be left to produce seed both to feed our birds and maybe supply us with volunteer seedlings to transplant around our yards. A win-win, I think.

As storm Cristobal headed north, we had torrential rain and some localized flooding, and our yards will take time to recover. Lawns may show signs of disease after being inundated, or even just subject to days of heavy rain, so check out this article: It’s a good starting point to help you diagnose potential problems.

During a flood, wildlife will head to higher ground and that includes snakes. Hopefully they will be as wary of us as we are of them, and will head to cover away from residences, but it makes sense for us to be vigilant when venturing outside after heavy rain. This article will help you identify any unwanted visitors: I would stay clear of any snake in my yard and give it time to retreat, but there will be some instances when more detailed advice is needed:

Master Gardener Volunteers receive an online monthly newsletter, The Neighborhood Gardener, from the University of Florida. It’s an enjoyable read. For the latest issue, visit If you wish, you can sign up to get the newsletter delivered to your inbox every month. Happy gardening to all.

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